What is LHA in Skin Care?

Personal/Inspirational, Skin Care

From one of our readers, Claire:

Dear Nicki,
What is LHA in skin care, and what does it do?
– Claire

Dear Claire,

If someone could invent a universal cure for acne, s/he would surely top the Forbes 500 list next year. In the meantime, companies have been trying to crack the acne code with the development of LHA, or β-lipohydroxy acid, in numerous skin care products.

According to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, LHA works in a similar fashion to salicylic acid. Specifically, LHA decreases the concentration of bacteria found within the pore. LHA has a lipophilic (fat-loving) nature and relatively slow penetration in the skin, which together make it an effective exfoliant, even at low concentrations. The LHA molecule has been found to separate transmembrane glycoproteins at the corneosome/corneocyte interface, cleanly detaching individual corneosomes from one another (European Journal of Dermatology, 2002). Studies have also shown that LHA appears to have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anticomedogenic properties, combating acne and even dandruff.

I think we will be hearing a lot more about LHA because it has been shown to stimulate the skin in a manner similar to retinoids, that is, by renewal of epidermal cells and the extracellular matrix (Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2009). Although LHA is undoubtedly weaker in this effect than, say, 1.0% retinol or prescription retinoids, its exfoliating action is potent enough to nonetheless make it appealing to many a skin care fanatic.

In contrast to many other peeling chemicals, LHA also has a pH that is similar to that of normal skin (5.5) and does not require neutralization. FutureDerm readers will probably be happy to know that LHA can therefore be used with everything from acidic vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) to retinoids (for which esterification, i.e., activation occurs at pH 5.5-6.0).

What products contain LHA?

A number of relatively new products contain LHA, including:

Bottom Line

Of the ingredients premiering on the skin care market in the past few years, I feel that LHA is one of the most exciting. With its high rate of exfoliation at low concentrations and neutral pH, it has a lot of potential in both anti-aging and acne-fighting skin care regimens.

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  • jj

    HI there Nicki.

    I’m just wondering, even though this is an old article. What is the point of Salicylic acid, and Glycolic acid in some of these products when it already has LHA? Surely that’s overkill right? Especially if you’re someone who is looking for a gentler alternative. Never understood that with some companies, not to mention the insistence putting in ‘fragrance’ or parfum. Most unfortunate.

    • manu

      Salicylic acid is oil-soluble, so it helps the LHA penetrate better when used on oily and combination skin.

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