An Expert Guide On Using Mandelic Acid For Skin

Mandelic Acid cream

The skincare community’s fascination with acids seems to have no limits. Beauty brands and formulators are constantly pushing innovation when it comes to ingredients. There seems to be a brand new ingredient trending every two months, and the most recent one is mandelic acid. Derived from bitter almonds, this AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) is known as one of the gentlest exfoliators in skincare. As compared to its AHA counterparts like glycolic acid and lactic acid, mandelic acid has a larger molecular structure, almost twice the size when compared to glycolic acid. As a result, the acid penetrates the skin much slower leading to a lesser likeliness to cause redness or irritation. But is it as good as it sounds? Let’s see what experts have to say.

Meet the experts –

  • Dr Nishita Ranka Bagmar, Dermatologist, Medical Director & Founder of Dr. Nishita’a Clinic for Skin, Hair & Aesthetics
  • Dr Meghna Gupta, Founder and Dermatologist, Delhi Skin Centre


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Benefits Of Mandelic Acid For Skin

1. Enhances skin texture without being too abrasive – Physical scrubs can be abrasive on the skin. Certain AHAs and BHAs also come with a disclaimer of making the skin overly sensitive if used improperly. So for beginners starting with regular exfoliation, mandelic acid can offer a safe haven and be gentle to the skin. It works by sloughing off the top layer (epidermis) of the skin by loosening the bonds that hold dead cells on the surface. This, in turn, helps fade hyperpigmentation, evens out the complexion and improves the skin’s texture gradually. The acid has shown effectiveness in treating sun damage and melasma as well. 

2. Offers anti-acne benefits – Chemical exfoliation is essential for cell renewal and pore-care. The exfoliating and antibacterial properties of mandelic acid make it an excellent anti-acne hero in a skincare routine. It also helps regulate sebum and reduce inflammation to help keep the skin blemish-free. FYI, glycolic acid does not boast of antibacterial properties so for people with acne-prone skin, mandelic acid might be an ideal AHA pick. 

3. Includes an anti-ageing action – Dr Nishita explains, “As we age, collagen production decreases. Chemical peels with mandelic acid have shown to stimulate collagen production, which helps soften the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, leaving skin with a more youthful appearance.”

4. Safe for sensitive skin – For Dr Meghna, mandelic acid is an ideal formulation for sensitive skin. But she does caution against jumping on the bandwagon without proper research, “Each skin is different, and if you have a medical condition, it is best advised to consult a dermatologist before including any acid in your routine.”

Mandelic Acid’s Claim To Fame

Fueled by the rise in consumer awareness around various actives, mandelic acid’s status as a ‘less irritating’ AHA has made it a popular ingredient in many OTC and pharmaceutical products. Dr Nishita credits the ingredient’s safety profile as its main claim to fame. She elaborates, “With its nearly-all-skin-safe profile, mandelic acid is becoming popular now. Even people with sensitive skin and rosacea can often use mandelic acid without any irritation.”  She further goes on to explain, “Unlike other AHAs, mandelic acid works best for deeper skin tones that are genetically prone to discolouration and melasma because it does not trigger inflammation, photosensitivity, and hyperpigmentation.”

Layering skincare products the right way has been an important conversation in the skincare community. Given that skincare routines are now elaborated and more dynamic, it is important to pair actives the right way. This is where mandelic acid’s gentle nature plays to skincare enthusiasts’ intrigue. It can be combined with most skincare actives like hyaluronic acid, sodium PCA, and niacinamide (vitamin B3). However, do not use mandelic acid at the same time as other AHAs or retinol products as it which can cause excessive dryness and irritation. Dr Meghna suggests, “Layering mandelic acid with other AHAs and BHAs can be a bit much for the skin to handle and may cause irritation.”


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How To Include Mandelic Acid In Your Skincare Routine

Dr Nishita advises that it is best to use small amounts of mandelic acid at a low strength to start with. “Use twice or thrice weekly and work up to daily use. After a few applications, the skin usually builds up a tolerance for everyday use. Apply mandelic acid-containing product as part of your nighttime skincare routine, after cleansing and before moisturising. However, make sure to do a patch test if you are a newbie!” She further recommends following a dermatologist’s directions on the best way to use the products. “Like all AHAs, mandelic acid increases sensitivity to UVA rays. So, slathering an SPF 50 or above during the day is non-negotiable if you want to protect the skin and hold the glow”, she concludes.

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