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Polyhydroxy acid, Exuviance and the banana skin test

March 10, 2013 Reviewed by Marta 15 Comments

I’ve told this story before: when I met the head scientist at Avon last year and asked her what had been the most important skincare breakthrough in the last 15 years or so, she said glycolic acid. Now I have just come across something that claims to be the next generation of alpha hydroxy acids (the family in which glycolic belongs), polyhydroxy acid (PHA).

Next generation implies that PHAs would be superior to AHAs and that is supposed to be the case. What excites me is the claim that, unlike AHAs, PHAs do not increase sensitivity to the sun (you know how I feel about sunscreen). And what’s more, PHAs do a lot more than the exfoliating effects of glycolic; they are an antioxidant. In fact, the maker of PHA, a company called Neostrata suggest that you test this out at home using a banana skin – PHAs will inhibit the oxidation of browning skin. So I did....

In the interests of science, I have just sacrificed a perfectly good (if slightly under-ripe) banana. I smeared two strips of banana skin  (one inside and one outside) with a cream called Exuviance Age Reverse Night Lift, one of four new products that Neostrata has launched and which feature PHAs. Of course, I have an au natural strip of skin as the control.

While we leave them to go brown (or not), I’ll tell you more about PHAs, Neostrata and Exuviance Age Reverse. Neostrata was founded by Dr Drs. Eugene Van Scott and Ruey Yu. They claim to have discovered the role of AHAs in skincare in the first place.  I suppose we should expect the founding father’s of the lunchtime peel to come up with ‘a new and improved’, but I’d like to see some claims made for PHAs that are independent of Neostrata. Nonetheless, those claims are definitely intriguing and this could be one acid worth dropping.

PHAs include lactobionic acid, galactose and gluconic acid. (and another variation called bionic acids) apparently “chelate or trap oxidation-promoting metals in skin”. Not only do they not increase sensitivity to the sun, they also help protect cell lipids and membranes from UV damage. Furthermore,  they may also help to preserve the skin's elasticity by preventing an increase in the enzyme elastase. And we aren't done yet. PHAs/bionic acids inhibit MMP enzymes in skin, which are responsible for all the things we are trying to prevent such as wrinkles, sagging and broken veins.

And you get all of this without any irritation. Nary a tingle. This, too, is a notable improvement on glycolic acid, which must be used in a lowish concentration (around 5%) by those of us with sensitive skins. This is because PHAs have a larger molecule size than AHAs.

Exuviance Age Reverse Night Lift ($68) has the PHA gluconolactone and maltobionic acid. In addition, it has Matrixyl 3000, the collagen-boosting peptides, vitamins A, E and C, and the antioxidant botanicals, grape, acai, billberry and pomegranate. As well as shea, there are gentle emollients such as hydrogenated polydecene and fragrances deemed to be harmless such as methyldihydrojasmonate. Slightly undermining the appeal of Night Lift are some silicones and other fillers plus a few possible irritants such as ammonium hydroxide and ethylene brassylate, chlorphenesin and phenoxyethanol.

As for the banana skin test, well Exuviance Night Lift didn't do that great. Granted that it is not a pure PHA, but gluconolactone is the second ingredient. After a couple of hours, the untreated banana skin shows deeper oxidation in patches and overall looks drier, slightly shriveled. The  (inner) skin smeared with night cream looks MUCH more hydrated, but is showing signs of oxidation – less deeply than the control - but almost uniformly. The outer skin smeared with cream looks as fresh as a daisy. (Adendum: the next day, the control skin looked much the same, while the cream smeared skin was brown all over).

See our Five Best with polyhydroxy acid

See all our FIVE BEST recommendationsincluding Five Best for sagging skin, Five Best with vitamin C and Five Best eye creams.

Ingredients in Exuviance Age Reverse Night Lift:

Aqua (Water), Gluconolactone, Glyceryl Stearate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Isononyl Isononanoate, Maltobionic Acid, Glycerin, Cyclopentasiloxane, Butylene Glycol, Glycolic Acid, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Stearyl Alcohol, Ammonium Hydroxide, Dimethicone, PEG-100 Stearate, Propylene Glycol, Cetyl Alcohol, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Tocopheryl (Vitamin E) Acetate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C Ester), Retinyl (Vitamin A) Palmitate, Rosa Damascena Flower Oil, Euterpe Oleracea (Acai) Fruit Extract, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract, Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Juice, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, PEG-75 Stearate, Ceteth-20, Steareth-20, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Xanthan Gum, Triethyl Citrate, Methyldihydrojasmonate, Ethylene Brassylate, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Bisulfite, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-di-t-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol, Capryl Glycol, CI 17200 (Red 33), CI 61570 (Green 5)

  • January 8, 2012

    by Martha Culbertson


  • November 20, 2010

    by Mary

    I bought a little trial sample of the Exuviance Night Lift, Eye Contour, and Day Repair about a month ago and I am about out of these products now. To be fair, I did not conduct any particular test, (bananas or 1/2 of face) but just based on how I feel things look when I examine my skin in the mirror, I would still like to keep looking for another product.

  • November 18, 2010

    by Lynne Markiewicz

    I'd be more than willing to try the line and post a review. And I won't even begrudge Marta the squirt of product she used for the banana test. While I've used any number of products - I do like to keep everything I use from the same line. This new group sounds interesting!

  • November 18, 2010

    by Gloria

    Right now I am using the TNS line from Skin Medica and I am having wonderful results, so I will stick with this for a bit but good luck with the review. I love the fact that we can come to your website Marta and find out so much information from other users of products. It is the best way to make a decision sometimes!

  • November 17, 2010

    by Jan

    If it can do all that for a banana, then I sure want to try it on my skin !

  • November 17, 2010

    by Laura

    I stand corrected. Although CanDerm owns Neostrata, the division of NeoStrata that distributes Exuviance is out of NJ and is not sold in Canada....although I can still try the gluconolactone ingredient in some of their other products.

  • November 17, 2010

    by Noel

    Would love to give it a go with the Exuviance line and give a review. I'm still searching for serious help for my aging, drying, yet acne prone skin.

  • November 17, 2010

    by Laura

    NeoStrata, being a Canadian product has been here for almost 20 years and the first one made available to us with AHAs. I recall the hype about it when it came out but always feared the use of AHAs until a couple of years ago after earning its sound reputation(although some websites still warn about its use due to increasing skin sensitivity to UVAs). Recently I had a consultation with a skin care expert (with a science background) who recommended NeoStrata as a product. I am looking for a new night cream so this is going to be my next purchase. Finally a possibly worthwhile product I can buy at home instead of having to order online. I will also follow up with readers with my two cents once I've given it a fair try. Once again Marta, I'm always discovering great things on your website!

    On another note Marta, I am currently using La Vie Celeste cleanser, toner and glycolic acid mask which seem very mild, and they got the lowest rating (a stamp of approval) on the Skin Deep website for having no harmful ingredients. The mask is great!

  • November 17, 2010

    by Catherine

    I certainly could use a lift! The Exuviance website touts smaller pores, increased elasticity and firmness, and increased skin clarity after 6 weeks using the Age Repair products. How perfect, if I start next week I'll have a spanking new look to go with the new year! Happy 2011 :>

  • November 17, 2010

    by adrian

    Interesting! Enjoyed reading how you used the banana skin test! Would be great to review these products! Thanks for the chance!

  • November 17, 2010

    by JUDE DUNN

    Hi Marta,

    I had a glycolic acid peel a few years back and was quite impressed after just one treatment. I have since tried products containing glycolic acid and have always been disappointed with their performance. I would be really interested to try Exuviance with PHA and if it has the same effect on the skin as it does on the banana then us more mature ladies could end our search for the fountain of youth. I will happily give an honest and unbiased review.

  • November 17, 2010

    by Kelly Owens

    I have read positive reviews of the Exuvience line over the years but have not yet had a chance to try more than a small sample. Would love to test on my 46-year old, sun damaged skin to see if it lives up to its promise.

  • November 17, 2010

    by Jennifer

    I am currently testing a serum for 30 days, but would love to try a new skincare regime with PHAs. It's interesting that the company would encourage you to do the banana test without being confident that the results would be positive! If selected as a tester, I promise to give an honest review, with weekly observations.

  • November 11, 2010

    by marta

    I haven't used it yet L. We will review it soon though.

  • November 11, 2010

    by L

    Do you like it as a face cream, Marta?
    Do you recommend it?
    Thank you,

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