6 Best Mandelic Acid Benefits And How To Use It For Glowing Skin

Medically Reviewed By Dr. Kendall R. Roehl , MD, FACS, Plastic Surgeon, Plastic Surgeon
Written by Ramona Sinha

Exfoliation is a crucial step in any skin care routine. Chemical exfoliants are quite popular for their fast action and skin-rejuvenation properties. However, they can be a little harsh on the skin. This is where mandelic acid – a gentler version of a chemical exfoliant – can help. It is a type of Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) extracted from bitter almonds. Mandelic acid effectively reduces dark spots, uneven skin complexion, blackheads, and whiteheads and brightens and smoothens the skin.

Keep all your skin problems at bay without irritating your skin with this mild acid. Read on to find out how to use mandelic acid, its benefits, and safety precautions. Swipe up!

How Does Mandelic Acid Benefit Your Skin?

There are many benefits of using mandelic acid for your skin. Here’s a list:

1. Reduces Hyperpigmentation

Melasma and post-acne hyperpigmentation can both be effectively reduced by using mandelic acid. A study showed that mandelic acid and salicylic acid can help reduce acne marks (1). Another study found that applying 10% mandelic acid for 12 weeks resulted in a 69% reduction in hyperpigmentation (2).

2. Gentle On The Skin

Chemical peels that contain glycolic acid are very effective. But if you have sensitive skin, glycolic acid can irritate your skin and cause post-peel redness, swelling, and hyperpigmentation. Mandelic acid, on the other hand, is gentler on the skin and is the absolute best for sensitive skin types.

A study conducted on Indian patients confirmed that mandelic acid is as effective as glycolic acid as an exfoliant, but the former is better tolerated (3). Another study confirmed that a 45% mandelic acid peel is equally effective as a salicylic acid peel, but mandelic acid is safer and has fewer adverse effects (4).

3. Helps Reduce Acne

If you have acne-prone sensitive skin, mandelic acid could be the best option for you to reduce acne without irritating your skin as well as reducing post-acne dark spots. A study confirmed that a topical cream with 5% mandelic acid can be recommended to 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 (5).

4. Makes The Skin Firm

As you age, your skin starts losing its elasticity and firmness. The production of collagen, a skin protein that is responsible for your skin’s firmness and elasticity, decreases. This results in loose skin. A study conducted on people aged 42-68 for 4 weeks who applied mandelic acid twice a day showed an improvement in skin firmness by 23.8% and lower eyelid skin elasticity by 25.4% (6).

5. Improves Skin Texture

Wrinkles and fine lines – caused by decreased collagen or a poor lifestyle – can make your skin texture uneven. Decreased sebum production also accelerates skin aging. Using mandelic acid can help even out the skin texture, increases cell turnover, and make it look glowing and plump. A study confirmed that chemical peels with 20% azelaic acid and 40% mandelic acid can help improve sebum secretion in aging skin (7).

6. Clears Up The Skin

As mentioned earlier, mandelic acid can help clear up acne (5). It is also claimed to even out the skin tone and remove the upper dead skin layers. This ultimately makes your skin look clearer, brighter, and lit-from-within. Since it is gentle on the skin, you also do not need to worry about redness or hyperpigmentation from applying mandelic acid.

These are the ways mandelic acid helps your skin look fresh, clean, spotless, and firm. But, what is the science behind mandelic acid? How does it really work? Scroll down to find out in the next section.

How Does Mandelic Acid Work?

Mandelic acid has a larger molecular structure compared to other AHAs (glycolic acid and lactic acid). This is the reason why mandelic acid takes longer to penetrate your skin. This property makes it a good exfoliant for all skin types, including dry skin, acne-prone skin, and sensitive skin.

Studies show that mandelic acid is as effective as glycolic acid, lactic acid, or salicylic acid at exfoliating the skin (3), (4). Thus, mandelic acid is effective and gentle.

With that, let’s move on to find out how to apply mandelic acid to get glowing skin. Scroll down!

How To Apply Mandelic Acid

Step 1: Wash your face with a gentle cleanser. Use a soft towel to pat your face dry.

Step 2: Apply a skin toner and wait for 2-3 minutes.

Step 3: Take 2-3 drops of mandelic acid on your fingertips and massage it into your skin for about 5 minutes.

Step 4: Wait for 20 minutes to allow the mandelic acid to sink into your skin. Then apply a moisturizer.

Note: The best time to apply mandelic acid at night.

Easy, isn’t it? However, if you do not follow the proper method to use mandelic acid, you may not see the desired results. Here’s a quick rundown of how to use mandelic acid properly. Take a look!

How To Properly Use Mandelic Acid

Mandelic acid is usually found in serum form. It is also included in face creams. Here is a safe way to use mandelic acid on your skin:

  • Start With The Lowest Concentration: Using a higher concentration of mandelic acid, especially if you have active cystic acne or sensitive skin, you can experience skin irritation, redness, and more breakouts. If you have dry skin, a higher concentration of mandelic acid can further dry out the skin. So, start off with 5% or 10% mandelic acid.
  • Gradually Increase The Frequency: Use mandelic acid once a day to see how your skin reacts to the particular concentration. You can then gradually increase it to twice a day with the same concentration of mandelic acid. If your skin tolerates it well, you can increase the concentration and keep using it twice a day.
  • Use It All Over Your Face: To see a more evened-out result, experts suggest using mandelic acid all over your face instead of just using it as a spot treatment.
  • Massage It Well Into Your Skin: Mandelic acid takes longer to penetrate into your skin. That is why, to make it work, massage it into your skin until it gets absorbed completely. Just pushing it into your skin for a minute and then slathering on the next product will not allow mandelic acid to work its way into your skin. Take your time and massage your face with your fingertips, a face massager, or a good derma roller for 5-10 minutes to get the best results.

Now that you know how to properly use and apply mandelic acid, here’s the last bit you should be aware of – mandelic acid’s safety precautions.

Safety Precautions

  • Do A Patch Test: Even if you start off with the lowest concentration of mandelic acid, you must always do a patch test. Apply some mandelic acid on your jaw and see if there is any adverse reaction over the next 24-48 hours. If you experience redness, itching, swelling, etc., either lower the mandelic acid concentration or avoid using it.
  • Protect Your Skin From The Sun: All types of chemical exfoliants are acids. Acids tend to make your skin sensitive to UV rays. Stepping out without applying sunscreen may burn your skin and cause hyperpigmentation. So, if you are using mandelic acid, follow it up with a sunscreen with good SPF to keep your skin protected.

Take these safety measures, and your skin will not act out when you first introduce it to mandelic acid. There are many types of mandelic acid available on the market. Here are the top 5 mandelic acids that you can check out.

Top 5 Mandelic Acid Products

The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10%
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MUAC Mandelic Acid Serum
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Dr. Wu Intensive Renewal Serum With Mandelic Acid 18%
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Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel
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Frilliance 2 in 1 Clear Skin Perfecting Primer & Serum for Acne
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Final Thoughts

A gentle chemical exfoliant like mandelic acid helps brighten and tighten your skin and reduce acne. It is suitable for all skin types, especially sensitive skin that may not react well to stronger exfoliants like glycolic acid. Go ahead and get your hands on mandelic acid and unveil the flawless, glowing skin that is hidden underneath!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for mandelic acid to work?

Mandelic acid is gentler than glycolic acid. This means it will take longer to not only penetrate your skin but also show results. Use it for at least 4 weeks before you start to notice a difference. However, this also means, you will not irritate your skin or deal with post-chemical peel redness or hyperpigmentation.

Can mandelic acid be used in combination with other ingredients?

You can use benzoyl peroxide and mandelic acid together to treat acne. Or if you have dry skin, you can combine mandelic acid with olive oil. It is best to use mandelic acid first. Wait for 20 minutes to let it sink into the skin and then go ahead and use other skin care products.

Can mandelic acid be used on all skin types?

Yes, mandelic acid can be used on all skin types. It is gentler than glycolic acid due to its large molecular size. This means it takes longer to penetrate the skin. This prevents skin irritation. It is good for tightening and plumping up mature skin and reducing acne spots.

How to use mandelic acid in your beauty regimen?

Wash your face with a cleanser and apply a toner. Next, take 2-3 drops of the lowest concentration mandelic acid and massage it into your skin for 5 minutes. Wait for 15 minutes before applying a moisturizer.

Note: Do this only at night. Also, apply an SPF 50 sunscreen before stepping out into the sun.


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Dr. Kendall R. Roehl

(MD, FACS, Plastic Surgeon)
Dr. Kendall Roehl is a board-certified plastic surgeon at Memorial Plastic Surgery in Houston, Texas. She offers cosmetic surgery procedures... more