Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Shreya Singh (Pharmacist)  on 12th Oct 2020

Mandelic Acid For Skin: The Multi-tasking AHA With Minimal Irritation

Mandelic Acid For Skin

We are all in the quest for a glowy, smooth, and flawless skin. But did you know there is a lot of dirt, sebum, and dead skin cells clogged up on the surface layers of your skin that need to be buffed away and sometimes using just a daily cleanser doesn't cut it? 

Why Do You Need Exfoliation?

It is rightly believed that "If you don't shed that dead skin, nothing can sink in."

Therefore, whenever your skin feels lackluster, tired, and congested, it is in a severe need of exfoliation that can help slough off the dead skin build-up to reveal a blemish-free, healthier and luminous skin. And this furthermore helps in the significant penetration of other actives into the skin. 

And our preferred method of exfoliation in this discussion? Chemical exfoliation!

Although the words' chemical' and 'skincare' don't sound right together and might be very intimidating to many people. But the fact is that when used in the right concentration and formulation, acids can be a massive boon for your skin- and the trick lies in choosing the suitable acid to meet your skin's specific needs.

And if you've not already incorporated them in your skincare regime, then you're probably missing out on all the chemical magic that your skin can benefit from!

While we have already ranted about the benefits of adding glycolic, salicylic, and hyaluronic acid to your beauty regimen, there's a lesser-known acid on the block in the form of mandelic acid.

Today we will be giving a lowdown on what mandelic acid is, how it benefits the skin, and why you should seriously consider including it in your skincare routine. Scroll down to know everything about this miraculous ingredient. 

What is Mandelic Acid? 

Mandelic acid is no stranger to the world of face acids, although it has been getting its moment in the spotlight that it deserves in recent years.

Mandelic acid is a part of the alpha hydroxy acid family (AHA), including more familiar acids like glycolic acid and lactic acid.  

Why are AHAs effective?  

AHAs are incredibly beneficial for the skin because of their ability to provide surface-level exfoliation. They work to unglue and loosen up the bond between the dead skin cells sticking to the topmost layer of your skin and shedding them off, resulting in an even-toned, fresher, and brighter complexion. 

Liquid error (sections/pf-c4a0041c line 55): product form must be given a product

How is Mandelic Acid Obtained?

Mandelic acid was initially derived from the hydrolysis of an extract of bitter almonds. Due to its antibacterial properties, it has been most extensively studied for its use in treating acne and can also be called an "acne eraser." It not only improves the skin's overall texture but also helps brighten your skin tone. 

Did you know?

The name "Mandelic Acid" is derived from the German word "Mandel," meaning "Almond." 

What are the benefits of mandelic acid for skin? 

Mandelic acid is a powerful ingredient that can help to supercharge your skincare routine when it badly needs a boost.

Some of the prime benefits offered by mandelic acid are: 

1). Gentle on the skin: 

One of the absolute beauty of this acid is that it isn't that irritating at all!

Unlike any other AHAs like glycolic and lactic acid, it is far safer and gentler on the skin.

It has a larger molecular size so that it penetrates the skin at a much slower rate and causes minimal irritation the way.

Therefore, it is better tolerable for sensitive and darker skin types prone to acne, hyperpigmentation, and melasma that cannot tolerate glycolic acid.

Nevertheless, it is milder, yet equally effective compared to any other AHA and is suitable for almost every skin type, including the most sensitive skin. 

Good to know:

The order of the strength of alpha-hydroxy acids ranging from most vital to mildest can be depicted as:

Glycolic acid > Lactic acid > Mandelic acid (depending on their molecular sizes and level of penetration)

Therefore, for people who are newbies to the world of face acids, mandelic acid could be their safest bet to start with. 

2). Fights acne: 

As far as acne clearing benefits go, mandelic acid indeed does it all for combating acne right from the root cause. Excess sebum production, bacterial growth, dead skin cells build-up, and inflammation are some of the major culprits behind your random breakouts.

Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help curb the growth of acne-causing bacteria and suppress the inflammation associated with inflamed acne like the cysts and the bumps.

It also helps in keeping your oil production in check, leading to fewer breakouts altogether.

One recent comparative study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology discovered that a chemical peel with 45% mandelic acid was equally effective as a chemical peel with 30% salicylic acid in treating mild to moderate acne.

The study also concluded that mandelic acid might have the upper hand over salicylic acid. in treating inflammatory lesions (papules and pustules) while having very few to no adverse effects. 

3). Exfoliates and re-texturizes the skin's surface: 

If dewy skin is your goal, you'll need to slough away dead cells, dryness, and dullness. So the first step should be exfoliation.

Like any other alpha hydroxy acid, mandelic acid breaks down the bonds between corneocytes (skin cells in the topmost skin layer ), which help swap off the dead skin cells and debris, revealing smoother and firmer skin.

It helps maintain your pores free of clogging oils, gunk, and debris to prevent congestion and acne. 

4). Fades hyperpigmentation: 

Breakouts and acne can often leave behind pesky leftover dark marks, challenging to get rid of and may take an eternity in fading out.

Luckily, mandelic acid is the star player in speeding up the fading process of pigmentation and discoloration. It works by peeling away the superficial layers of the skin and promoting cell turnover, which over time, helps bring back your natural skin tone so that hyperpigmentation is a thing of the past.

A research study from 1999 reported that mandelic acid might be useful in diminishing hyperpigmentation in melasma cases by as much as 50% in just about four weeks.

5). Fine lines and wrinkles: 

As a bonus, mandelic acid also has anti-aging properties. It helps boost collagen and elastin production- the two crucial proteins naturally found in the skin responsible for keeping your skin youthful and plump.

As one gets older, the production of these two ingredients depletes, leading to loose and saggy skin, ultimately leading to the growth/development of early signs of aging.

The application of mandelic acid accelerates their skin production and smoothes out wrinkles, making it more youthful and vibrant.

A 2013 study proved that chemical peels containing mandelic acid could stimulate collagen production in aging women. 

Side effects of mandelic acid:

Like any other AHA, mandelic acid also has some possibility of irritating your skin. However, mandelic acid's potential side effects are few to none, and even people with super sensitive skin can slap on this acid on their coat without experiencing any adverse effects.

However, performing a patch test is a non-negotiable step before its generalized use.

If your skin develops any redness or irritation, stop using it right away and seek the advice of your dermatologist. Overuse of products containing mandelic acid should strictly be avoided as that can lead to undesirable effects. 


Mandelic acid, without a doubt, can turn your skin around if you use it properly. It is the safest bet for people with sensitive skin as it is mildest amongst all the other AHAs and suitable for all skin types.

It is a go-to ingredient for struggling with acne, breakouts, hyperpigmentation patches on the skin, irregular skin texture, or if they want to achieve a brighter and healthier complexion overall.