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Why You’ll Want to Add Mandelic Acid to Your Skincare Routine—STAT

Photo by Anna Efetova/Getty Images

There are so many types of acids used in skincare, and you may be familiar with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) such as lactic acid, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid. But there are other less used but still stellar hydroxy acids for exfoliating dead skin cells and leaving your skin glowing. One of our favorites is mandelic acid—it’s basically a miracle AHA derived from bitter almonds. Mandelic acid has many uses and every skin type can benefit from adding it to their nighttime routine.

Want to know what mandelic acid can do for your skin, and what makes it different from other AHA’s? To get to the bottom of it all, we chatted with board-certified dermatologist Marina I. Peredo, MD, FAAD. Continue reading to learn how mandelic acid can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as clear up acne and hyperpigmentation. (Trust us, it’s pure magic.).

About the Expert:

Marina I. Peredo, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and owner of Skinfluence in New York City. She is currently an Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.

So, what is mandelic acid?

Mandelic acid is an AHA just like glycolic acid and lactic acid. What makes mandelic acid different is how gentle it is for those with sensitive or especially dry skin. “Out of all the hydroxy acids, it is the most gentle because it has larger molecules than the others,” explains Dr. Peredo. “It is a great option for patients with sensitive skin.” And just like all your other favorite AHAs, mandelic acid exfoliates the skin by accelerating cell turnover, Dr. Peredo explains. But there’s a good chance you won’t have any redness, excessively dry skin, or other skin conditions with mandelic acid that you might have with other less gentle hydroxy acids.

What are the benefits of mandelic acid?

Mandelic acid is a beneficial ingredient for all skin types, especially if you have acne-prone or aging skin.

  1. It reduces wrinkles and fine lines. 

“Mandelic acid is great for anti-aging and it helps the skin look younger and brighter,” says Dr. Peredo. “Because it improves cell turnover, mandelic acid gets rid of older cells and promotes new cell production, causing fine lines to look less prominent.” Instead of abrasive scrubs which can cause micro-tears and skin irritation, mandelic acid helps gently smooth skin’s texture when used properly. Try not to over-exfoliate (no more than 2-3 times a week) to make sure your skin stays comfy and not irritated when you use it.

  1. It can help with acne.

Salicylic acid is our go-to for acne-prone skin, but it isn’t the only way to treat blemishes. In fact, it can be harsh for many skin types. Mandelic acid is a great alternative for a few reasons. “It has antibacterial properties that can treat both existing acne and future breakouts,” says Dr. Peredo. “It gets rid of dead skin cells and bacteria that can cause clogged pores which lead to breakouts.” In fact, mandelic acid is especially stellar at getting into clogged pores to clear out bacteria and excess sebum that causes breakouts.

  1. It can treat hyperpigmentation. 

Dark spots can be frustrating and difficult to get rid of (we’ve been there). Mandelic acid can help. “When your cells turnover, you are getting rid of the top layer of skin, which can reduce dark spots and even sun damage,” says Dr. Peredo. This is especially helpful if you have dark spots and acne scars from cystic breakouts, or from spending time in the sun without the proper broad-spectrum SPF. Even with the best lotions and potions (or, you know, serums and moisturizers), exfoliating is a must to help lift those dead skin cells and reduce hyperpigmentation.

Are there any side effects?

Side effects vary depending on your skin type and the strength of the hydroxy acid you’re using. AHAs can cause some skin irritation, redness, swelling, or itching if used too often. “Like any other alpha hydroxy acid, mandelic acid can cause dry skin or peeling in some patients as well as redness or tender skin,” says Dr. Peredo. But mandelic acid is one of the least likely AHA to cause these side effects. Just as with any active skincare product, don’t overdo it and watch your skin for any adverse effects. And when in doubt, check with your dermatologist.

How to use mandelic acid in your skincare routine

Because “beauty sleep” is real, you know. “Mandelic acid is best used at night right after cleansing but before moisturizing,” explains Dr. Peredo. “This allows the product to penetrate the skin and work overnight for best results.” There have been studies that show skin cells regenerate faster at night than during the day, so using an active ingredient that promotes cell turnover will be most effective at night. Be sure not to apply another serum or a lotion before mandelic acid, or you’ll be creating a barrier it can’t penetrate.

It’s pretty safe to combine gentle mandelic acid with other ingredients. Just keep from using a retinol or other peel at the same time. Mandelic acid is most often combined with other acne-fighting ingredients, such as bentonite and kaolin that absorbs oil and impurities. Hyaluronic acid is also sometimes added to help retain moisture and leave skin looking glowy.

Would you add a mandelic acid product to your skincare routine? Let us know @IPSY!

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About the author
Elizabeth Denton
Elizabeth is a freelance beauty writer. Previously, she was a beauty & fashion editor at Time Out New York, Seventeen, & Allure. She has more than a decade of experience in the beauty and fashion world, writing for Nylon, StyleCaster, Cosmopolitan & more.
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Article Last Updated August 6, 2020 12:00 AM