Mandelic Acid: Uses, Benefits, Best Products and More

Do you know that some acids can be used even during the summer? Surprisingly, it is not something new, and I bet you’ve heard it before. Mandelic acid is what we are going to talk about. Compared to other exfoliants, it has a larger molecular weight and acts less irritative. In addition, mandelic acid doesn’t increase sun sensitivity and perfectly suits even the moodiest skin. Scroll down to learn more about the benefits and uses of this ingredient.

What is Mandelic Acid?

Mandelic acid is part of the family of alpha-hydroxy acids found in bitter almonds and seeds of other fruits. It consists of big molecules, which can’t easily penetrate the deeper layers of the skin. Instead, they stay on the top and gently exfoliate dead cells, impurities, and sebum plugs. In terms of indications, this ingredient is much more versatile than its hydroxyl “siblings”. Unlike lactic acid, which may exacerbate the inflammatory response, mandelic acid can be used for inflamed acne. Moreover, compared to glycolic acid, it suits rosacea-prone and sensitive skin. This exfoliant is gentle and doesn’t cause irritation.

What are the Benefits of Mandelic Acid?

Fights acne. Mandelic acid effectively regulates sebum production, unclogs pores, and reduces inflammation. According to a recent study, a chemical peel with 45 % mandelic acid is equally as powerful as a peel with 30% salicylic acid in treating acne. Another new study found that this ingredient has antibacterial properties, which help kill acne-causing bacteria.

Reduces wrinkle appearance. When applied to the skin, it activates both chemical and biochemical mechanisms. It creates an injury of a specific skin depth to stimulate hyaluronic acid and collagen production.

Brightens the skin. Hyperpigmentation is an extremely common skin issue, and people with darker tones are more prone to it. In particular, they suffer from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Alpha-hydroxy acids seem to be an excellent choice, but not all work equally well with hyperpigmentation. For example, overuse of glycolic acid can trigger more PIH in melanin-rich skin. Thankfully, we have mandelic acid, which can gently inhibit melanin production and doesn’t cause irritation.

Refreshes. Mandelic acid sheds dead layers of skin and promotes cell turnover, helping baby skin cells up to the surface—which can make your face looks glowy and fresh.

How to Use it?

You can use mandelic acid all year round because it less likely makes your skin sensitive to the sun. But you still need to make sunscreen a part of your daily routine to avoid any risks. The most popular products come in the form of toners, serums, or peels. If you are a novice to this ingredient, start with the toner to check how your skin may react. Pick the product in a concentration of up to 10%. Apply an adequate amount of the toner to the clean skin and pat it lightly to absorb. With the first 5 to 6 applications, you may experience a little tingling, which is fine because your skin needs to adapt to the exfoliator. In case (rare case), your face starts stinging or burning, flush it off the face with cool running water, and never use it again.

Chemical peel with mandelic acid is even more popular and actively used in most medical spa offices. It is an ideal exfoliant for sensitive skin with acne or hyperpigmentation. Aesthetics love it because this ingredient doesn’t cause redness, crusts, blisters, or flakiness. The concentration of the peel is determined in accordance with the type and skin needs. Usually, it varies between 10% and more. Once the skin peel is applied, it is left on the skin for 5 to 10 minutes. After 5 minutes, you may experience warmth with mild tingling. The skin may turn slightly pink but not crimson red. Read our previous article – “A Complete Guide to Chemical Peel Types” – to gain more insights into different exfoliants.

Top Product Picks by Our Editors

Toner with mandelic acid is what you should start with! Paraben-free and vegan friendly. This product consists of 5% mandelic acid which is an absolute match for super sensitive and rosacea-prone skin. It also has vitamin B5 which improves the skin’s ability to regenerate and maintain hydration. Use it on a clean face to boost the effectiveness of any other following products.

Youth To The People is one of the most trustworthy cosmetic brands available in the market. So, we do love any product that comes under its name. What makes this toner special? First, it combines three types of acids that ideally complement each other. Mandelic acid (AHA) reduces inflammation and kills bacteria. Salicylic Acid (BHA) cleans up the pores and removes blemishes. Gluconolactone (PHA) enhances cell turnover and improves the moisture barrier.

This serum is a good workhorse with a clean formula. 10% of mandelic acid mixed with hyaluronic acid can gently exfoliate and give your skin a powerful boost of hydration. In texture, the formula is somewhere between oil and light gel, and when applied to the skin, it refreshes and even slightly chills. Even after the first application, you will get an even skin tone, less noticeable hyperpigmentation, and a smooth texture.

This product is an excellent choice if you want to have a spa facial-like result. Compared to other professional peels, the formula is not too harsh and contains only 20% mandelic acid. It perfectly suits skin with pronounced pigmentation, visible pores, and acne. You can use the peel in combination with microneedling or alone.

How to Combine it With Other Ingredients?

Mandelic acid is non-conflict and can be mixed particularly with any skincare product; even retinoids would be a perfect match for it. The keratolytic effect of the acid enhances the penetration of vitamin A, speeding up the result of the treatment. Besides that, this ingredient works well with vitamin C and hydrating ingredients, such as hyaluronic and polyglutamic acids. It also combines with other AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs. One of the studies found that combination peels of 20% salicylic and 10% mandelic acids achieve a higher and earlier therapeutic effect that is kept for a longer time than a single peel.

Mandelic acid gets along with many ingredients, but there is still room for exceptions. You shouldn’t combine it with niacinamide, as it works at higher pH than any alpha-hydroxy acid. When applied together, they simply neutralize each other. So, space them out. Use niacinamide in the morning and leave mandelic acid for the night routine. Also, we don’t recommend applying any serum with active ingredients right after the chemical peel. It may irritate the skin. Instead, you should use a light moisturizer and give your skin some rest.

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