Mandelic Acid

< Back to Ingredient Library

If you have sensitive skin, you’ve probably avoided skincare ingredients that sound like they could melt metal—but not all acids are as sinister as they seem. The latest darling of the beauty world is the gently-exfoliating mandelic acid, a gift from the skincare gods that has done amazing things for evening out skin tones, reducing hyperpigmentation, and even minimizing fine lines.

What Is Mandelic Acid?

Mandelic acid, which is derived from bitter almonds, belongs to a group of acids called alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs for short. This group of gently exfoliating acids, often derived from plants and fruits, replaces the harsh facial scrubs of yesteryear that damaged skin cells and were breeding grounds for bacteria. Though AHAs are amazing at retexturizing, the problem is that they can also be irritating, which is why mandelic acid is such an amazing discovery for those with more sensitive skin.

Like all AHAs, mandelic acid works by penetrating the uppermost layers of the skin and dissolving any dead skin cells it finds along the way, revealing a brighter complexion and encouraging collagen production. But unlike most AHAs, mandelic acid is gentle enough for sensitive skin. Because it has a bigger molecular size, mandelic acid takes longer to penetrate the skin and doesn’t reach as far down, lessening the chance of causing skin chaos in the form of irritation and redness.

The Skin Benefits of Mandelic Acid

Apart from revealing glowing skin, mandelic acid has racked up a few other accolades for its ability to treat several different skin conditions. Here’s how:

  • Mandelic acid has been especially effective in treating hyperpigmentation and fading dark spots caused by too much sun exposure.
  • Mandelic acid can minimize wrinkles and fine lines.
  • Mandelic acid is useful in treating acne, which is great news for anyone with breakouts and sensitive skin (often a difficult combination).
  • Mandelic acid has been shown to increase skin elasticity, even when applied to eyelids, a notoriously tricky area to treat.
  • Mandelic acid can increase sebum (oil) production, (though luckily not in the T-zone), helping dry and aging skin recover its dewyness. 

How Long Does It Take For Mandelic Acid to Work?

You should start seeing a brighter, more even reflection in the mirror within just a few days of first using mandelic acid. The other benefits, like increased skin elasticity, fewer breakouts, and reduced hyperpigmentation can take about a month to kick in—not a bad deal if you’ve been suffering from acne and dark spots for years.

How To Use Mandelic Acid

One way to use mandelic acid is with an acid peel, done either at home or at a dermatologist’s office. A mandelic acid peel is as intense as it sounds, and can cause irritation and redness in some people. If you have sensitive skin prone to irritation, there are gentler ways to incorporate this AHA into your skin care regiment, including as a serum a daily cleanser.

Next Up: Meadowfoam Seed Oil