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  5. Mandelic Acid - The Gentle Solution To Skin Problems

Are you tired of dark patches, clogged skin pores or frequent breakouts? To add to the woes, is your skin sensitive to most skincare products?

Including mandelic acid in your skincare regimen might be the gentle solution to many of your skin problems.

Wondering how an acid can be good for your sensitive skin? Read on to know more about mandelic acid. Learn how to include it effectively in skincare for a healthy, glowing skin.

What Is Mandelic Acid?

Mandelic Acid is one of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids, commonly known as AHAs. AHAs are widely used in skin care products for exfoliation as well as moisturisation. [1] Some examples of AHAs commonly used in skin care are glycolic acid, lactic acid and salicylic acid.

Mandelic acid is a gentle exfoliator, and helps to remove dead cells from the outer surface of the skin. This helps in evening out the skin tone and promotes the growth of new skin cells.

It is extracted from the oil of bitter almonds (Prunus amygdalus var. amara). Bitter almond oil was traditionally used for medicinal purposes because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, though enough scientific evidence for this is not available.

Benefits Of Mandelic Acid

1. Best For Sensitive Skin

The molecular weight of mandelic acid is greater than most other AHAs such as glycolic acid or lactic acid.Due to the bigger size of mandelic acid molecules, it penetrates the skin slowly, and is thus much gentler on skin. This is particularly beneficial if you have sensitive skin that cannot withstand harsh chemicals.

2. Reduces Hyperpigmentation And Discoloration

Mandelic acid helps remove dead skin cells from the outer surface, which brightens up your skin. It also helps to even out skin tone. It helps reduce melasma, which causes dark, discolored patches on the skin, that are quite common after pregnancy.

3. Anti Comedogenic

Mandelic acid clears clogged pores gently, by removing the excess oil, dirt and cell debris. This not only reduces your acne problem, but also facilitates better penetration of other skin care products.


Mandelic acid boosts collagen production which makes your skin firm and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Collagen is a protein abundantly found in the skin, which gives it firmness and moisturisation. Usage of 40% mandelic acid peels can lead to improved sebum secretion which hydrates the skin, making it look youthful. [2].

However, experts recommend trying a 25% mandelic acid peel to start off with, so that you can ensure if mandelic acid is well tolerated by your skin.

structural chemical formula of mandelic acid

Did You Know?

Mandelic acid was first extracted by Ferdinand Ludwig Winckler, a German pharmacist. ‘Mandel’ in German means almond, thus the name Mandelic acid.

How To Use Mandelic Acid?

Who Should Use It?

Mandelic acid can be used by people with any skin type, for its multiple benefits. It is particularly suitable for those with sensitive skin or rosacea, as it usually does not cause irritation or redness.

Mandelic acid can also help, if you are genetically predisposed to hyperpigmentation and melasma.

What Are Its Roles In Skin Care?

1. Exfoliating agent

Mandelic acid breaks the bond between the dead skin cells, thus accelerating their removal from the skin surface. It is a gentler exfoliating agent than physical exfoliation methods such as scrubbing.

Mandelic acid can be used as an exfoliator in the following ways:

  • Direct use - Take a few drops of mandelic acid and rub it lightly onto cleaned skin till it is absorbed. Follow this with a moisturiser.
  • Mandelic acid peel - Buy an over-the-counter chemical peel for gentle exfoliation and use it according to the instructions given on the product. The store bought mandelic acid peels come in different concentrations. The duration of usage needs to be decided accordingly. Rinse with warm water and follow it up with a moisturiser.

Woman applies cream on her elbow

2. Skin Brightening

Creams containing mandelic acid help lighten dark patches on the skin by gently removing the dead skin layers and promoting appearance of new skin cells. You can try the SkinKraft knee and elbow brightening cream with mandelic acid for softer and brighter looking knees and elbows.

Some AHAs may irritate the skin during exfoliation, which increases melanin production. But mandelic acid being mild in nature reduces hyperpigmentation within a few weeks of usage.

3. Slows Photoaging

Mandelic acid increases cell turnover of skin. Using this reveals fresh cells on the skin surface and promotes collagen production. This helps reverse the aging signs in skin caused by exposure to UV radiation.

How Does It Interact With Other Ingredients?

Mandelic acid works well with the following:

  • It can be used with hyaluronic acid or other such moisturising agents for youthful and refreshing looking skin.
  • It can be used effectively in combination with salicylic acid to treat cystic acne (large, painful swellings caused by infection and inflammation).

Avoid using mandelic acid in certain combinations. These are:

  • Avoid using retinol or its derivatives for at least 3- 5 days before using mandelic acid.
  • It is also advisable not to use any other AHAs or products containing them while using mandelic acid.
  • Avoid using other chemical peels while using a mandelic acid peel, especially if you have sensitive skin.

What Is The Recommended Dose?

The dosage of mandelic acid or a product containing it depends on the following:

  • Concentration of mandelic acid in the skin care product
  • Skin concern to be addressed
  • Cosmetics that irritate your skin
  • Individual skin type

Experts recommend using a lower percentage of mandelic acid in the beginning for exfoliation treatments at home and slowly ramping it up according to your need. On the other hand, professional peels used for treating hyperpigmentation or melasma contain a higher percentage of mandelic acid and should preferably be used under the supervision of a dermatologist.

Precautions While Using Mandelic Acid

  • As with the usage of any new skin care ingredient, you should perform a small patch test on the less sensitive areas of skin before using mandelic acid for the very first time.
  • Do not use mandelic acid if you have sunburn or after an artificial tanning treatment. Also you must apply a high SPF sunscreen after using mandelic acid.
  • Experts also advise not to indulge in activities that might cause profuse sweating post usage of mandelic acid, as it might adversely affect your skin.

Side Effects Of Mandelic Acid

Mandelic acid is usually well tolerated by most people. However, if you experience redness, irritation or rashes, you should consult your doctor immediately.

How Long Does It Take For Mandelic Acid To Work?

The exfoliation effects of mandelic acid are visible almost immediately after the treatment. The sloughing off of the dead skin cells give way to fresher and brighter looking cells.

However, it can take upto 2 to 4 weeks of usage, for lightening of the dark patches or achieving a smoother complexion.

Can You Use Mandelic Acid Every Day?

Lower concentration mandelic acid formulations can be used on a daily basis. They need to be used between the cleansing and moisturising part of your skin care routine. If you develop persistent itching or redness, reduce the frequency to every alternate day. You can also ask your skin care professional for appropriate dosage.

However, bear in mind that mandelic acid is an exfoliating agent. Excessive use of exfoliators might make your skin dry and irritated, and may cause the very problems in your skin that you were trying to treat with it.

What's Better: Mandelic Acid Vs. Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid derived from sugarcane is the smallest of AHAs. Glycolic acid can penetrate the skin quickly and deeply by virtue of its small molecular weight and thus can cause irritation.

Mandelic acid on the other hand is milder, penetrates skin slowly and does not cause irritation. Mandelic acid can be used on sensitive skin and also for elderly people.

The result of mandelic acid peels take more time to appear than that of glycolic acid peels. But mandelic acid peels can be used more frequently and show visible results within 3 to 5 days of treatment. [3]

Mandelic acid is particularly helpful in acne treatment, and it also helps in reducing long term acne scars and dark patches. [4]

Wrapping Up

Mandelic acid is one of the mildest AHAs currently used in skincare. Derived from a plant source, it is vegan in origin. Mandelic acid can be used by one and all, but is particularly beneficial to people with sensitive or acne prone skin. It can be used to address a plethora of skin issues like hyperpigmentation, acne, or photoaging of skin. However, you should consider your skin type and purpose of use while incorporating mandelic acid in your skin care regimen.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin