The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA review

Haven you given up on exfoliating acids because they ALWAYS irritate your skin? Would you like to jump on the glycolic acid bandwagon but are scared it’ll make your skin peel? Do you have sensitive, acne-prone skin and don’t know what the heck to use to exfoliate it without inflaming it even more?

If you’ve answered yes to even just one of these questions, meet the new exfoliating acid on the block: mandelic acid. Already popular in Asia, The Ordinary brought it on our Western shores. Needless to say, I had to put it to the test and see what all the fuss is about. Without further ado, here are my thoughts on The Ordinary Madelic Acid 10% + HA (and why it’s particularly good for sensitive skin):

Key Ingredients In The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA: What Makes It Work?


Mandelic acid is a member of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) family. Yep, the same family as glycolic acid. The main difference between mandelic and glycolic acids is their size: mandelic is twice as big as glycolic! As a rule, the smaller the size, the faster it penetrates into the skin. That makes it more effective but also more irritating.

Because it’s a giant, mandelic acid mostly stays on the surface of the skin, where it dissolves the “glue” that holds skin cells together without irritations. Seriously, if even this bothers your skin, use a washcloth. Once those dead cells are off your face, your skin is smoother, softer and brighter. It’s just that mandelic takes a little longer than glycolic to work so don’t be surprised if you don’t see results immediately. This is a case where slow and steady wins the race.

Mandelic acid isn’t good just for sensitive skin. This acid also has antibacterial properties that help you get rid of P. Acnes, the bacteria that’s making you life so miserable. Imo, salicylic acid is better than mandelic for acne because it also exfoliates deep within the pores. But, if for some reason your skin isn’t reacting well to that, mandelic is a great alternative to try.

Related: AHAs VS BHA: Which One Should You Choose?

the ordinary mandelic acid 10 + HA


Hyaluronic acid is a moisture magnet (in science lingo, that’s a humectant). Put simply, hyaluronic acid attracts water from the air and drops it into your skin. It’s so powerful, it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water. All that water makes your skin very happy: it softens it up, plumps it up so your fine lines and wrinkles look smaller and gives it a lovely, as if lit-from-within glow. Hyaluronic acid is a great way to hydrate oily skin without adding more oil and to quench dry skin’s thirst without irritations.

Related: Why You Should Add Hyaluronic Acid To Your Skincare Routine

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The Ordinary Skincare Routine - Where to start with The Ordinary skincare

The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!
  • Propanediol: An alcohol that dissolves other ingredients in the formula while engaging the absorption of key actives. At this high concentration, it may be irritating to people who can’t tolerate alcohol.
  • Aqua (Water): It dissolves other ingredients in the formula and hydrates skin.
  • Glycerin: A humectant that attracts and binds water to the skin, increasing its moisture level. The result is a softer and plumper complexion.
  • Dimethyl Isosorbide: Another solvent that dissolves other ingredients in the formula. It has a slight oily feeling. 
  • Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract: This plant extract is loaded with antioxidants (including quercetinand α-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E), that have wrinkle-preventing and soothing properties.
  • Pentylene Glycol: A humectant that binds water to the skin, keeping it hydrated for longer.
  • Polysorbate 20: An emulsifier that helps bind water and oil together, so the formula doesn’t separate into two gooey layers.
  • Sodium Hydroxide: It balances the pH of skincare products.
  • Ethylhexylglycerin: It makes skin softer and smoother. It also has mild preservative properties that help skincare products last longer.
  • 1,2-Hexanediol: A synthetic preservative that helps skincare products last longer.
  • Caprylyl Glycol: A humectant that deeply hydrates skin, making it softer and smoother.


The texture feels like an oily water, if that even makes sense. It’s slightly oily but very lightweight, sinks in quickly and, well.. it looks just like water.


It’s fragrance-free. I like that. Fragrance may make skincare products smell good, but it’s highly irritating.

How To Use It

I recommend you use it two nights a week, after cleansing. If you’re using a retinoid in your skincare routine, don’t use it on nights you exfoliate with mandelic acid (or any other exfoliant, for that matter).


This exfoliant comes in a see-through bottle with a practical dropper applicator. It’s simple and doesn’t waste product. It’s just a bit tricky to travel with, though.

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Performance & Personal Opinion

I have resistant, combination skin that’s dry on my cheeks and oily on my t-zone. My nose is prone to blackheads too. I use glycolic acid every other night and dab a few drops of salicylic acid on my nose whenever I see a hint of blackheads. So, I was really curios to find out how The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA would compare to my usual exfoliating routine.

The first time I used it, I didn’t see any improvement. It didn’t make my skin tingle. It didn’t irritate it. It didn’t peel it. That’s good but… it also makes it hard to see if it’s doing something. Well, it’s been a month now and my skin is looking softer and smoother. It also has a healthy glow. The best part? I haven’t been plagued with blackheads in a while.

It works slowly than other acids so you won’t see results as quickly, but if you have sensitive skin, you’ll be find with that. As for me, I think I’ll go back to my old exfoliating routine. I like what mandelic acid did for my skin and I’m glad I got a chance to try it, but salicylic is what works best for my skin type.

FYI, if you’re struggling to choose the best exfoliating acid for your skin type or you’re not 100% sure if you should give mandelic acid a go yet, check out my Complete Guide To The Ordinary Exfoliating Products.

How Does The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA Compare To The Other The Ordinary Exfoliants?

There’s a reason The Ordinary has so many exfoliants. Each one of them cater to a different skin type. Mandelic Acid is great for sensitive, acne-prone skin that can’t tolerate other exfoliants. But if you have a different skin types, once of the options below may work better for you:

  • The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution (£6.30): This exfoliant contains a very high concentration of exfoliating acids, including Glycolic and Salicylic, that’s great at fading away dark spots and cleansing pores. But, at this high concentration, exfoliation IS irritating. This is only for experienced acid users who have built tolerance to high doses. Available at Beauty BayBootsCult BeautySelfridgesThe Ordinary, and Ulta.
  • The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution (£8.00): Glycolic Acid is the best exfoliant for fading away dark spots and it hydrates skin to boot. It’s the best option for dry and sun-damaged skin. Available at Beauty BayBootsCult BeautySephoraThe Ordinary, and Ulta.
  • The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA (£6.00): It has the same formula as The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA but with a lower concentration of Lactic Acid for people with very, very sensitive skin. There is a 10% version too. Available at Beauty BayBootsCult BeautySelfridgesSephoraThe Ordinary, and Ulta.
  • The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Anhydrous Solution (£5.60): Anhydrous means water-free. Instead of a water-base, it has an oily, moisturising Squalane base that makes the exfoliant gentler to use. Salicylic acid is a great option for oily skin because it unclogs pores to prevent and treat blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. Available at Beauty BayBootsCult BeautySelfridgesSephoraThe Ordinary, and Ulta.
  • The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (£5.10): Salicylic acid is the best exfoliant for oily skin. It penetrates your pores, unclogging them from within to prevent and remove blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. It has a water-base, for those who prefer a more lightweight texture. Available at Beauty BayCult BeautySephoraThe Ordinary, and Ulta.

What I Like About The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

  • Lightweight, fast-absorbing texture
  • Fragrance-free
  • Exfoliates skin, leaving it softer and brighter
  • Helps prevent blackheads
  • Practical packaging
  • Affordable

What I DON’T Like About The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

  • Works more slowly than other exfoliants.

Who Should Use This?

Sensitive, acne-prone skin that can’t tolerate other acids. If your skin can tolerate glycolic acid (dry skin) or salicylic acid (oily, acne-prone), go with those.

Does The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA Live Up To Its Claims?

Mandelic Acid 10% + HA offers superficial dermal peeling that is gentler than other alpha hydroxy acids. True.
This larger size allows mandelic acid to penetrate the skin more slowly which in turn makes it very gentle and suitable for all skin types.  True.

Price & Availability

£7.80 at Beauty Bay, Look Fantastic, Sephora, SpaceNK, The Ordinary and Ulta

The Verdict: Should You Buy It?

If you have sensitive, acne-prone skin that can’t tolerate other acids, this is a good option to consider.

Dupes & Alternatives

  • Allies Of Skin Mandelic Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum ($105.00): This serum has mandelic, lactic, and salicylic acid to exfoliate skin and unclog pores, plus plenty of antioxidants to prevent premature wrinkles. If you can afford the splurge, it’s a more complete and multi-tasking formula than other options here. Available at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty, and Dermstore.
  • FaceTheory Mandelibright Serum S7 (£18.99): A hydrating formula with mandelic acid, soothing antioxidants and niacinamide to brighten and soothe sensitive, acne-prone skin. Available at FaceTheory.


Propanediol, Aqua (Water), Mandelic Acid, Glycerin, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Pentylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.