The skincare world never sleeps. Just as you get comfortable, finally learning your way through all the other acids (glycolic, hyaluronic acid, and salicylic acid), another trend is already rising - mandelic acid.
Is it here to stay? How effective is it, and how does it differ from the other well-known acids? What should you use it for? If these are some of the questions swirling around your head, we're here to set the record straight. From its exfoliating properties to its acne-busting benefits, we've got the lowdown.
Let us introduce you to the new kid on the block and the skin benefits associated with adding mandelic acid to your skincare regimen.
We're sure you're already familiar with the alpha hydroxy acid group - a powerful tool in battling many skin conditions. You'll also find it in many skincare products. But, just in case you need extra details, here's our guide on the benefits and uses of AHAs for the skin.
We're mentioning AHAs because ordinary mandelic acid is another member of this potent acid group. Think of it as the gentlest kid in the family but still holding onto all the trademarks of other alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs).
Mandelic acid is derived from bitter almonds. It's used in over-the-counter skincare products and in professional chemical peels to exfoliate and improve skin texture.
Don't rush to any judgments - just because this substance has made a reputation as one of the most gentle acids in the world of skincare, that doesn't mean it's any less effective. The mandelic acid benefits are many.
It's actually a powerful exfoliator, so using it in your skincare regimen is definitely worth your while.
The gentle nature of this substance comes from mandelic acid's molecular structure, which is nearly twice the size of other alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid having the smallest molecular size). This means it has a lot less bioavailability, penetrating the skin slowly and enabling the gradual delivery of skin's altering compounds.
In other words, it works slowly and patiently, letting your face adjust and absorb all the active ingredients without irritating it or causing redness.
Mandelic acid is most often used as a starter for everyone new to the world of acid treatments for acne and aging skin. This is because of its gentle nature.
Topical mandelic acid treatment is also used as an alternative for people with sensitive skin type, or people who've overused stronger acids.
So, why are you hearing about it only now?
Well, the never-ending battle against acne-prone skin and acne scars demanded stronger and more powerful solutions, turning the industry towards substances such as benzoyl peroxide, glycolic, or salicylic acid.
But, soon after, people realized the despair and constant rush for more have contributed to even greater problems on their inflamed, wrinkled, or discolored skin. That caused a shift in the beauty industry - a need for finding and developing effective but gentler products.
If you understand that healing is a long-term process and it takes time, then you already understand the use of mandelic acid in skincare routines.
To be fair, there isn't an absolute objective comparison between the most famous AHAs - glycolic, lactic, and mandelic acid.
All three of the acids share the same benefits, with slight differences. That means you only have to do the leg work and find the best fit for your skin type.
In any case, here are some general guidelines:
Glycolic acid has the smallest molecular size, which means it has the greatest bioavailability, penetrating the skin fast and deeply. It's considered the strongest of AHAs, and some might argue that it's also the most effective.
If you can tolerate glycolic acid, you might see fast and long-lasting results. But, for many people, glycolic acid is too drying and can frequently cause redness and a burning sensation.
Lactic acid is closer to mandelic when it comes to the effect they have on the skin. Mandelic is still gentler than lactic, which can make it an even better starter option.
There's really no rule here.
The two acids are great alternatives to stronger acids that complement each other, with mandelic being ideal for people who suffer from a nut allergy or are lactose intolerant (lactic acid is derived from milk).
Many people refer to mandelic acid as a godsend and an absolute life changer at the beginning of their skincare journey, enabling them to adjust to the use of acids in general.
Another difference between the acids is seen in their frequency of use. Mandelic acids are safe for long-term use, but we can't say the same for glycolic acid (although that also depends on the concentration).
So, depending on your habits and skin needs, you can choose the acid that will suit you best.
This substance is a potent exfoliator that works by dissolving the intercellular glue that holds skin cells together. This helps to remove dead skin cells on the surface and ensures an increased cell turnover, preventing a dull complexion. Additionally, it provides antiseptic and antibacterial support, which helps reduce inflammation and redness.
All this can even out your skin tone and make the skin appear smoother and younger.
This substance can help soften lines, and with long-term use, it may help with firmness and elasticity. That will make your skin more resilient to the development of wrinkles.
By exfoliating the skin and removing dead skin cells, mandelic acid paves the way to the deeper live cells in the skin, where it acts by strengthening collagen production. Collagen is one of the skin's building blocks and the protein that gives it its firmness and facial skin viscoelasticity.
Some findings provide new insights into the way mandelic acid works on the skin, supporting the fact that it can also stimulate the skin to balance its natural oil production. This means it'll stay moisturized and hydrated without being oily.
When your skin is elastic and well moisturized, it can heal better after exposure to everyday trauma - from facial expressions and touching to environmental conditions.
Using mandelic regularly for a longer period can reduce the appearance of already-formed superficial wrinkles and also protect the skin from the development of new wrinkles.
Melasma is a common skin condition where dark brown or greyish pigmentation develops on the face, creating an uneven skin tone. According to this study, patients showed up to 50% improvement in their skin condition after using a formula containing 10% mandelic for about a month.
Another study comparing the effects of glycolic and salicylic-mandelic acid peels in patients with active acne and post-acne hyperpigmentation found that 20% salicylic and 10% mandelic acid peels were more effective and caused fewer side effects. You can also get other superficial peels, such as glycolic acid peels.
With the continued use of mandelic acid products, you can reverse damage from aging and sun exposure and reduce the appearance of dark spots.
And best of all, unlike stronger acids, mandelic is a great choice for people with a darker skin tone. Sometimes people with highly pigmented skin have problems using alpha hydroxy acids because of the irritation they cause, which can stimulate pigment-producing cells to produce more melanin, making the skin even darker. This is not a problem when it comes to mandelic.
The antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties of this substance make it an ideal acne treatment ingredient. The study in the above paragraph showed 10% mandelic acid is extremely beneficial for lightening acne scarring and preventing future breakouts.
This is mostly because, above all, mandelic also helps regulate sebum production without causing irritation. Being as gentle as it is, mandelic acid reduces cystic acne.
Those with acne-prone skin can also get great results by using products that combine mandelic acid and salicylic acid at lower concentrations.
Just be careful. Mixing the two acids makes the product stronger, which can cause problems or skin irritation, especially for sensitive skin types. You can start with low concentrations of mandelic, then slowly build up to a higher concentration and see how your skin will react in the process. If you feel that your skin reacts well, try products that mix salicylic and mandelic acid for better results.
Due to its gentle nature, mandelic doesn't cause any serious side effects. Still, you might notice some irritation, mild itching or stinging sensations, peeling, or redness. All these symptoms are normal, especially if it's your first time applying acids or this one in particular.
All these symptoms will pass as you continue to use the product. However, if they last longer than a few days or if you experience some more severe or persistent symptoms, consult with your doctor or dermatologist.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the use of topical AHA (including mandelic) increases the skin's sensitivity to sun rays which increases the risk of sunburn and dark spots. This is why the FDA recommends using a sunscreen every day and limiting your sun exposure after using acids topically.
Mandelic acid is safe to use on all skin types. As already mentioned, it's gentler than glycolic and lactic acid, and it's suitable for even the most sensitive skin types, making it a great addition to your morning or nighttime skincare routine.
Additionally, mandelic acid is great for people with a darker skin tone because it's really unlikely to cause hyperpigmentation, a rare side-effect of other AHAs. AHAs can cause skin with a darker tone to react and develop post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
This is something you don't have to worry about with mandelic acid because it's so gentle. You can't really overuse it. (This doesn't mean you can or you should use it more than once a day).
Mixing and using more than one acid on your face simultaneously can worsen your problems - there's no doubt about that in the beauty industry. If you're using more than one at a time, you significantly increase your risk of irritation or burns.
But be careful, as all of these products together can be too much for some skin types and can cause irritation. The combination can work well for oily skin but can be overly drying for normal to dry skin.
This depends on the mandelic acid product you are using. Whether you're using a mandelic peel to exfoliate the skin, a cleansing gel, or you're fond of facial serums, follow the instructions on the product and keep your attention on how your face feels after using it.
Some products use low concentrations and are safe for long-term everyday use. On the other hand, stronger products like mandelic acid peel can be used only once, twice, or three times a week.
Before using a product with mandelic or a chemical peel (or a chemical exfoliant), you need to prepare your face. Whether in the morning or evening, always wash your face with lukewarm water and cleanse well. You must clean it completely, removing any makeup or skincare product residue. You might find having professional peels a lot easier.
After using the acid, your now exfoliated skin will be more sensitive and vulnerable (especially if you have sensitive skin), so you must protect it. Always use a moisturizer at the end of the routine and apply sunscreen before going out and exposing yourself to the sun. This will reduce sun sensitivity and skin damage.
You can expect to see results such as smoother skin right after you have used mandelic acid. But, for more drastic changes, like the reduction of pimples and blemishes, you will need to wait at least two weeks.
After using it regularly for a month or two, you can expect to see your brown spots, wrinkles, and acne scars fading and becoming less noticeable.
Isn't it wonderful when something powerful and effective comes along to get you the results you've always wanted in a gentle way and without making you irritated?
This is exactly how you can describe mandelic acid.
It's a powerful exfoliator that's the go-to anti-aging and anti-scarring ingredient. It removes older skin cells and promotes cell turnover. This alpha hydroxy acid is gentler than other acids and other chemical exfoliants (such as glycolic or lactic acid), making it a better fit for people with sensitive skin.
Mandelic acid is used to improve skin texture and help you achieve a brighter complexion. It helps with these key problems: wrinkles and fine lines, hyperpigmentation, discoloration, dark marks, acne, and acne scars.
You can use it as a cleanser, scrub, or toner in your everyday routine. Or why not use it as a high-strength peel in a professional setting?
Start with lower concentrations and make your way up as you adjust.