If you exfoliate regularly, you probably know that there are two types of exfoliators: physical and chemical. Popular chemical exfoliants contain AHA like glycolic and lactic acid or BHA (salicylic acid).

Mandelic acid is not widely known or used as a skincare ingredient – yet. But increasingly, more skincare companies add this acid to their products. It promises to be a powerhouse targeting many skin concerns all in one: Acne, wrinkles, scars, even dark spots.

About Mandelic Acid

Mandelic Acid is extracted from bitter almonds. Its name comes from the German word for almond, “Mandel”. It is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) but has a slightly different structure and performance. Its molecular structure is larger than glycolic acid. This means that it doesn’t penetrate the skin as deeply or as quickly as glycolic acid or other AHAs. This slow absorption means it’s more gentle and less likely to initiate an inflammatory response. Which in turn means that it is particularly well suited for those with sensitive skin.

Photo by Leticia Maciel

This acid is naturally antibacterial and used since the 1930s in medicine for treating infections.

On the face, mandolin acid loosens the bonds that hold dead cells on the surface of the skin. The loosened bonds allow the skin to shed the dead skin cells more readily revealing brighter, clearer skin. It also helps to clear pores and create a more even tone.

As with all acids, mandelic tends to increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Always wear broad-spectrum sun cream when you are using any kind of acids as an exfoliant. In general, it is advisable to wear sunscreen regardless of the season or weather.

Mandelic Acid Benefits

Mandelic acid has shown remarkable results in three major skin concerns: signs of ageing, acne and enlarged pores, excessive pigmentation from post-inflammatory pigmentation (PIH). As for almost all skincare ingredients, the effects you get from mandolin acid are cumulative. The longer you use it, the better the effect.


Mandelic acid is oil-soluble, similar to salicylic acid, a BHA that is widely used to clear acne. As it is oil-soluble, it can penetrate the skin’s surface and regulate sebum production. The result is fewer acne due to unclogged pores and reduced inflammation.


As mentioned above, mandolin acid is an exfoliant and resurfaces your skin. It will improve skin texture, making it feel smoother, softer, and brighter.

Fine Lines And Wrinkles

As an exfoliant, it removes dead skin cells, and even fine lines. Then, it stimulates the generation of collagen and elastin. Both ingredients are key to having firm, youthful skin.

As an oil-soluble acid, mandelic balances the sebum level in the skin. If your skin is dry, mandelic acid can help your dry skin generate more of its natural oil. This helps protect your skin barrier.

Hyperpigmentation And Melasma

Although it is not yet understood how mandolin acid works, it has shown remarkable properties for targeting pigmentation. It can help fade hyperpigmentation of all types such as sun or age spots, freckles, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and melasma.

As an exfoliant, mandelic dissolves the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. With each dissolved layer, the appearance of the mark gets lighter until it is completely replaced by new unmarked skin. The exfoliating process lifts excess pigment from the surface of the skin. But mandolin acid goes further than the normal exfoliating process: It works in the deeper layers of the skin and curbs melanin creation.

How To Choose a Mandelic Acid?

We are only looking at over-the-counter products. If you only want to have a gentle exfoliator over-the-counter products are a safe choice.

Mandelic acid is added to cleansers, toners, serums, and at-home peels. The most widely found products with mandelic are serums and peels.

Serums are meant to be used daily after cleansing and toning but before you moisturise. All serums, also the ones with mandelic acid are meant to be left on and not washed off.

At-home peels have a higher mandelic concentration and are stronger than serums. They are therefore more likely to be irritating. Follow the product instructions so as not to get any side effects.

How To Start Using Mandelic Acid?

It’s best to start with small amounts at a low concentration. After a few applications, the skin normally starts to build up a tolerance.

Active ingredients like AHAs and therefore mandelic acid should be used in the evening. Add small amounts to your skin and pat it in. Wait for the product to absorb completely before you apply moisturiser.

Always follow the product usage instructions. Some mandelic acid products may be formulated gentle enough to be used daily. But keep in mind that you don’t want to you don’t want to over-exfoliate or get side effects.

Possible Side Effects

As mandolin acid is an AHA, it has the potential to irritate your skin. But as its molecular structure is larger, it’s unlikely. The most common side effects of AHA products are

  • dry and flaky skin
  • peeling
  • irritation and redness

To be on the safe side, always do a patch test before you start using it.

Can You Combine Mandelic Acid With Other Ingredients?

You can use mandelic acid with humectants like glycerin or hyaluronic acid.

Don’t use mandelic acid with other AHAs, BHAs, other peels, and retinoids.

Let us know in the comments what your experiences are with mandelic acid in your skincare.

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