Have you tried every exfoliating acid under the sun but your skin can’t tolerate any of them?
Glycolic acid turns your skin red and flaky.
Salicylic acid is a little too drying.
Heck, even lactic acid is a little too harsh.
Scrubs are not even an option. They’re more irritating than all of the above combined. *sighs*
How do you exfoliate skin that doesn’t want to be exfoliated?!
Enter Mandelic Acid. The newest exfoliant on the block, Mandelic Acid is just what the doctor ordered for sensitive skin.
Here’s the complete guide to Mandelic Acid: find out what it is, how it benefits skin, and how to use it:
- What Is Mandelic Acid?
- Mandelic Acid Benefits: What Does It Do For Skin?
- When And How Do You Use Mandelic Acid?
- Mandelic Acid VS Glycolic Acid: Which One Is Better?
- Mandelic Acid Vs Lactic Acid: Which One Is Better?
- Is Mandelic Acid Safe For Use On Your Skin?
- Can Mandelic Acid Cause Breakouts/Purging?
- What Are The Best Mandelic Acid Products?
- The Bottom Line
What Is Mandelic Acid?
Mandelic Acid is a member of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) family. Yep, the same family as Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid.
Mandelic Acid is also known as Amygdalic Acid. Guess why? Yep, it’s made from the extract of bitter almonds.
P.S. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad Mandelic stuck over Amygdalic. It’s much easier to remember, isn’t it?
Related: AHAs VS BHA: Which One Is Right For You?
Mandelic Acid Benefits: What Does It Do For Skin?
I’m sure you’ve figured this out by now. As all members of the AHAs family, Mandelic Acid exfoliates skin… and more. Here’s all the way Mandelic Acid benefits your skin:
1. Mandelic Acid Exfoliates Sensitive Skin
Did you know your skin exfoliates on its own?
When you’re young, that is. As it gets older, damaged dead skin cells stubbornly stick to the surface of your skin, roughening up your complexion and robbing it of its glow.
Enter Mandelic Acid. The biggest member of the AHAs family, Mandelic Acid dissolves the glue that holds skin cells together, so they can finally get off your skin.
Once that happens, and the newer cells underneath can finally come to the surface, your skin looks smoother. Softer. Brighter.
FYI, this is something ALL exfoliants do. So what’s so special about Mandelic Acid?
Its big size. It penetrates skin more slowly than other acids (think Glycolic), making it a gentler alternative for sensitive skin.
Related: 10 Reasons Why You Should Start Exfoliating Now
2. Mandelic Acid Has Antibacterial Properties That Help Treat Acne
Mandelic Acid helps acne-prone skin in two ways:
- It exfoliates skin: If dead cells are off your skin, they can’t fall into your pores and cause breakouts.
- It has antibacterial properties: It kills the bacteria that are making your life miserable and contribute to acne.
While we’re on the subject, Salicylic Acid has similar properties. I personally prefer it to Mandelic because it penetrates more deeply into your pores, unclogging them from within.
But if your skin can’t tolerate Salicylic Acid, Mandelic is a good second option.
Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is Key To Spot-Free Skin
3. Mandelic Acid Helps Fade Hyperpigmentation
In case your wondering, hyperpigmentation is a fancy way of saying brown spots. Any dark patch of skin, be it the result of pimples, sun exposure, or natural aging, falls under this umbrella.
As you already know, exfoliation helps fade away dark spots. The uppermost layer of skin is the darkest and most damaged. As it gives way to the lighter layer underneath, the discolouration starts to slowly fade away.
But all exfoliants can do this. Mandelic Acid is a little different. On top of exfoliating skin, it also inhibits tyrosinase, the enzyme that triggers the production of melanin.
Melanin is the pigment that gives its beautiful colour to your skin. When the cells that make it get damaged, and tyrosinase gets out of control, your skin gets dark patches here and there.
By inhibiting tyrosinase, you stop the overproduction of melanin in its tracks, allowing your skin to go back to its natural colour.
While we’re on the subject, studies show that a peel with both Mandelic Acid and Salicylic Acid works better to reduce discolourations on darker skintones.
In other words, Mandelic Acid peels (especially when they include Salicylic Acid) are a safer alternatives to hydroquinone for dark skin (unlike hydroquinone, it won’t turn your skin blue!).
Related: What’s The Best Treatment For Hyperpigmentation?
4. Mandelic Acid Helps Dry Skin Produce More Oil (Sebum)
The reason dry skin is so… well, dry? Its sebaceous glands slack on the job, never producing as much oil as your skin needs to stay naturally moisturised.
Yep, this oil – sebum, in sciencey terms – is your skin’s natural moisturiser. When you have enough, all’s well. When you don’t, your skin feels tighter than Spanx and shrivels like an old prune.
Studies show that mandelic acid skincare helps dry areas of skin produce more sebum. More sebum = healthy, moisturised skin.
The best part? Oilier areas (like the t-zone) aren’t affected. If you have oily skin, you don’t have to worry about this turning your face into a greasy pan.
Related: The Best Skincare Routine For Dry Skin
When And How Do You Use Mandelic Acid?
Mandelic Acid may be the gentlest of the exfoliating acids, but I still don’t recommend you use it daily (especially if you have sensitive skin).
Start with a couple of times a week and see how your skin tolerates it. If all’s well, slowly increase frequency. If you experience any kind of irritation or dryness, cut back.
But where does Mandelic Acid fit into your skincare routine? Use it at night, straight after cleansing. If you’re using a retinoid, too, alternate them. One night, exfoliation. The next, retinol/tretinoin.
Related: How Often Should You Use AHAs/BHA?
Mandelic Acid VS Glycolic Acid: Which One Is Better?
Mandelic Acid and Glycolic Acid may both be members of the same exfoliating family, BUT they’re not the same.
Here’s the difference: Mandelic Acid is twice as large as Glycolic Acid.
In the skincare world, this means that Mandelic Acid is gentler on the skin that Glycolic Acid and less likely to cause irritations, even on sensitive skin.
On the other hand, its gentleness means it’s not as effective. It can exfoliate your skin indeed, but you’ll see results more slowly.
One more thing: Mandelic Acid is more light-sensitive, so it needs to be housed in an opaque bottle or tube to remain effective.
The verdict: Mandelic Acid is a good alternative to Glycolic Acid for sensitive skin. If your skin can take Glycolic, stay with that.
Related: The Complete Guide To Glycolic Acid: What It Is, What It Does, And How To Use It
Mandelic Acid Vs Lactic Acid: Which One Is Better?
Lactic Acid is another member of the AHAs family. Like Mandelic, it’s bigger and gentler than Glycolic Acid, making it a safer choice for sensitive skin.
But how does it hold up against Mandelic?
Mandelic is even bigger than Lactic Acid. You know what this means by now. It’s even gentler but less effective.
If you can’t tolerate Glycolic Acid, try Lactic Acid first. If even that is too harsh for you, go with Mandelic.
Related: Glycolic Acid VS Lactic Acid: Which One Is Right For You?
Is Mandelic Acid Safe For Use On Your Skin?
Yes. Mandelic Acid is the gentlest exfoliant out there. If even this irritates your skin, use a washcloth.
P.S. Topical application of Mandelic Acid is safe during pregnancy, too. Peels, especially when they include other acids, are NOT.
Related: Which Ingredients Should You Avoid During Pregnancy?
Can Mandelic Acid Cause Breakouts/Purging?
First thing first: a breakout and a purge aren’t the same thing.
A breakout happens when your pores are clogged. They get infected with bacteria that inflame it. Next thing you know, the follicle ruptures. Hello, pimples!
A purge happens when you speed up cellular turnover (in plain English, when you start exfoliating more). As you shed dead layers of skin cells, the breakouts that were forming underneath come to the surface sooner.
Any exfoliant, including Mandelic Acid, can cause a purge. I know it sucks, but it’s just getting rid of all the crap hidden deep down in your skin. Once that’s done, no more breakouts.
Related: Is It A Breakout Or A Purge? How To Tell The Difference
What Are The Best Mandelic Acid Products?
- Allies Of Skin Mandelic Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum ($92.00): Available at Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Revolve, and SpaceNK
- Facetheory Mandelibright Serum (£18.99): Available at Facetheory
- NeoStrata Mandelic Mattifying Serum ($44.00): Available at Dermstore
- The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA ($6.80): Available at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty, Escentual, and Ulta
The Bottom Line
Mandelic Acid is the biggest member of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids family. This makes it the gentlest, but also the least effective. Use it only if you can’t tolerate other acids.
Have you tried Mandelic Acid? Share your experience in the comments below.