Experts Say That Mandelic Acid is the Key To Glowy Skin—Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Ask almost anyone what outcome they are hoping to achieve with their skincare routine and there’s usually one word that comes up universally—glow. Yes, we’re all on a quest to achieve that elusive radiance, and there are plenty of skincare tools that can help. Glycolic acid is beloved for its ability to boost luminosity, salicylic acid sloughs away dead skin cells to reveal the brighter skin beneath, and LED face masks and chemical peels are surefire ways to get glowing skin on a bigger budget. However, if you have sensitive skin then lots of these routes to radiance may be a no-go due to the risk of irritation. And if that’s the case then listen up as you’ll want to hear about mandelic acid—the gentle exfoliating acid that experts predict will be everywhere in 2024.

Mandelic Acid: Claire Most with bright, glowy skin

What is mandelic acid and what does it do?

Much like its more popular sibling glycolic, mandelic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid. AHA’s are naturally-occuring acids (mandelic is derived from bitter almonds) that boast exfoliating properties. Unlike glycolic acid, however, mandelic acid is much more gentle in its nature. “Mandelic acid has a large particle size which means it causes less irritation and is gentler to the skin,” explains Dr Sonia Khorana, GP and Dermatology Expert. And the reason that it’s being touted as a great route to brighter skin is thanks to its exfoliating benefits—it sloughs away dead skin cells on the surface to reveal the more radiant, healthy skin beneath.

Without getting too bogged down in the minutiae of the science, there is one unique thing that sets mandelic acid apart from other AHAs—the fact that it becomes oil soluble once it slips beneath the surface of the skin. “AHAs are water soluble [meaning they penetrate through the skin’s natural oils] and can’t sink too far into the skin,” explains Heather Wish, Paula’s Choice Education Manager. “However, with mandelic acid, once it slips below the surface, it morphs and becomes oil soluble which allows for multi-layer results like evening tone, targeting and reducing the look of dark spots, smoothing skin tone and decreasing the look of fine lines and wrinkles.”

Mandelic acid: Joanna Coops with dewy skin

What’s the difference between mandelic acid and other AHAs?

While all AHAs can be used to exfoliate the skin and boost brightness, the size of the molecule itself is what differentiates the various chemical exfoliators and will determine which is best for your skin type. “Imagine mandelic acid as a football, lactic acid as a tennis ball, and glycolic acid as a table tennis ball,” explains Wish. The fact that mandelic acid has the largest molecular size of the lineup means that it will penetrate the skin in a slower and gentler manner. 

It’s not just sensitive skin types that will benefit from this more slow-paced approach to exfoliation, either. “Mandelic acid is also great for darker skin tones and is well-tolerated in patients of colour as there’s less risk of hyperpigmentation and sensitivity compared to other AHAs like glycolic acid,” points out Dr Sonia. 

Plus, the fact that it’s more oil soluble than other AHAs means it makes a great exfoliating acid option for oily or acne-prone skin, as well as sensitive and rosacea-prone skin types.

Mandelic Acid: Ana with fresh, glowy skin

Where does mandelic acid fit in our skincare routine?

When using a new skincare ingredient it’s always important to understand how it fits within your existing skincare routine and the ingredients that it plays nicely with. And while mandelic acid is pretty non-reactive, Dr Sonia does advise that you avoid layering it on with other acids or retinoids—especially if you’re sensitive as it could lead to irritation. “However, mandelic acid is a really good exfoliator for those just beginning to use acids,” says Dr Sonia, so it’s a great entrypoint to the skincare category as a whole. 

“If you’re newer to exfoliants or have sensitive skin then begin using it once or twice a week and see how your skin responds”, suggests Wish. Once you’re confident that your skin can tolerate it without any issues then you can work your way up to more frequent use. And if you’re acne-prone and already using something like a salicylic acid or other BHA exfoliator then you could try alternating them. 

In terms of the actual application, mandelic acid is still a fairly emerging ingredient in the mass skincare category and we are seeing its inclusion in things like cleansers and serums. However, if you’re using it as a chemical exfoliator then it’s best applied after cleansing and before moisturiser. “Don’t rinse it off and always follow with a sunscreen if you’re using it in the day,” advises Wish.

Mandelic Acid: Valeria Lipovetsky with fresh, glowing skin

The pros of using mandelic acid

– It’s gentle so sensitive skin types should tolerate it well.

– Exfoliates and brightens skin.

– More oil soluble than other AHA so good for oily or acne-prone skin.

– Targets dullness, pigmentation and fine lines.

– Great if you’re new to using acids.

The cons of using mandelic acid

– It’s slower-working than other AHAs.

– Need to use it regularly to see results.

– If you already use other acids then you might not find the results as dramatic.

Shop the best mandelic acid skincare products

1. Paula’s Choice 6% Mandelic Acid + 2% Lactic Acid Liquid Exfoliant

2. Byoma Brightening Toner

3. Allies of Skin Mandelic Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum

4. Bubble Over Night Hydrating Sleep Mask

5. The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

6. Soho Skin Liquid Exfoliator

Up Next: I’m an Esthetician—These Are the Best Skincare Ingredients of All Time.


#Experts #Mandelic #Acid #Key #Glowy #SkinHeres

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