Mandelic Acid: The Must-Have Ingredient In Your Skin Care Routine

Medically reviewed by Dr. Kendall R. Roehl, MD, FACS
by Ramona Sinha
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If you are a skin care junkie, you need no introduction to skin acids. Salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid – each one serves a specific purpose in your skin care routine. Here’s the newest kid on the block – mandelic acid. Keep scrolling to find out what it does to your skin.

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What Is Mandelic Acid?

Mandelic acid is a type of Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA). It is extracted from bitter almonds and is aromatic. Also known as amygdalic acid, mandelic acid is extremely gentle on your skin. It doesn’t penetrate deep into your skin and doesn’t irritate it much. That’s the reason mandelic acid is mostly used in chemical peels.

Just like glycolic acid, mandelic acid is an excellent exfoliant. However, it is not as effective as glycolic acid because of its larger molecular structure – and that’s why it takes longer to penetrate your skin. But these reasons also make it tolerable for sensitive skin. Mandelic acid can improve your skin texture, help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, and a lot of other things (1). Keep scrolling to find out.

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Mandelic Acid: Why Your Skin Needs It


Mandelic acid helps in the following ways:

1. Improves Fine Lines And Wrinkles

Mandelic acid helps to improve the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. It is especially beneficial in reducing the effects of photoaging or sun-induced aging. It rejuvenates your photoaged skin and improves your skin texture within days (1).

2. Improves Hyperpigmentation

Excessive exposure to sun rays often causes hyperpigmentation. Melasma is a very common condition in which your skin develops brown or gray spots. Mandelic acid can dramatically reduce hyperpigmentation. Many patients showed up to 50% improvement in their skin condition after using a formula containing 10% mandelic acid for about a month (1).

Another study found that a combination of 20% salicylic acid and 10% mandelic acid was more effective in reducing hyperpigmentation compared to 35% glycolic acid peel (3).

3. Reduce Acne

Mandelic acid has exfoliation properties, which is why it is very effective in treating acne. In a study, 60 patients (between the ages 12 and 60 years) were given two formulas containing 5% and 10% mandelic acid. Group A used the formula with 5% mandelic acid, and Group B used the formula with 10% mandelic acid.

After two months, Group A showed 60% improvement in the symptoms while Group B had 61% reduced severity of acne. Only mild skin irritation was noticed in both groups during the two months of study. Researchers concluded that a topical cream with 5% mandelic acid could be recommended for patients with moderately severe acne and sensitive skin, and a cream with 10% mandelic acid can be used by people with oily and combination skin (2).

These improvements automatically brighten up your skin tone and even out your complexion. As mandelic acid is a mild AHA, it is a safer option for those who have a darker skin tone. However, nothing is completely risk-free, and mandelic acid too has some side effects.

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Side Effects Of Mandelic Acid


Mandelic acid doesn’t cause any serious side effects. However, after using it, you may notice minor side effects such as:

  • Irritation
  • Mild itching
  • Peeling
  • Flaky skin
  • Mild stinging sensation
  • Skin redness

You might observe these side effects right after you start applying mandelic acid as the exfoliation action of the acid makes your skin a bit sensitive. However, these issues heal within a few days. This is the time when you should particularly avoid excessive sun exposure and using strong cleansers and scrubs on your skin.

The guidelines regarding the use of topical AHA (including mandelic acid) released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say that AHAs increase the skin’s sensitivity to sun rays. Excessive exposure might increase the risk of sunburn. Hence, the FDA suggests to use sunscreen, limit sun exposure, and wear protective clothing to avoid the sun (4).

If you are using mandelic acid for the first time, it might also cause skin purging. Don’t discontinue use if you see that your skin is breaking out. These issues go away once your skin gets used to the acid. This is common for any topical AHA.

If you want to try mandelic acid, here are some popular products that you can check out.

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Popular Mandelic Acid Products You May Try

1. Philosophy Microdelivery Triple-Acid Brightening Peel Pads

This product contains mandelic, glycolic, and malic acids. This triple-acid formula removes dead skin cells and impurities from your face and brightens it up. With regular use, you may notice clarity in your skin tone and reduction in fine lines.

2. MUAC Mandelic Acid Serum

This product exfoliates dead skin cells and is best suited for those who have acne-prone skin. It is also suited for those with darker skin tone as the product claims not to cause unwanted skin lightening. It reduces fine lines and improves skin texture.

3. Dr. Wu Intensive Renewal Serum With Mandelic Acid 18%

This is a home spa facial treatment that improves your skin elasticity, refines your skin texture, and has anti-aging effects on your skin.

4. Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel

This peel targets dark spots on your skin, improves your skin tone, prevents breakouts, and reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

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A Final Word Of Caution

Understanding the percentage of acid required for your skin and skin care issue is crucial. If you go wrong with the percentage, you will not see any results or your skin will react negatively to the acid. The percentages mentioned in the over-the-counter products can be confusing. So, before you pick any product, it is better to consult a dermatologist to understand the percentage of acid your skin needs.

Or you can start with the lowest concentration of acid available in the market and then slowly increase the percentage depending on the way your skin reacts. There is no doubt that mandelic acid can work wonders for your skin, but you need to be extremely careful about it.

Hope this article has helped you get an idea of how mandelic acid can help you achieve clear and healthy skin. In case you have any doubts, post your questions below, and we will get back to you.


  1. Summary of Mandelic Acid for the…” Cosmetic Dermatology.
  2. Evaluation of the efficacy…” ResearchGate.
  3. Glycolic acid peels versus salicylic-mandelic acid peels…” Dermatologic Surgery, US National Library of Medicine.
  4. Alpha Hydroxy Acids” FDA.

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Ramona Sinha

Ramona is a journalist-turned-content writer. She holds a Master’s degree in English Literature and has been writing for the digital world for over five years. She specializes in writing for Skin Care. She has done a certificate course titled ‘Dermatology: Trip To The Skin’, offered by Novosibirsk State University. She believes that beauty begins with a good skin care regimen and is on a mission to eliminate all toxins from her routine. She helps and guides readers in selecting products and ingredients specific to their skin type/issue. When Ramona is not working, her books and passion for music, good food, and traveling keep her busy.