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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a dual-board-certified dermatologist with over 90 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

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Mandelic Acid and Its Benefits: Is It Worth the Hype?

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

Until the early 2000s, Mandelic Acid was still hiding in the shadows, but all hell broke loose when the entire world discovered it a few years back!


Mandelic acid being used with a dropper

But what is Mandelic Acid, and should you really care? In this article, we will answer all your queries about Mandelic acid and its benefits and more.

 

Table of Contents

 

What is Mandelic Acid?


Mandelic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that is derived from bitter almonds. In fact, the name "Mandelic" has its roots in the German word "Mandel" which also means "almond".


Almonds

Just like all the other acids from this family (AHA) Mandelic Acid also acts by breaking the bonds between cells present in the most superficial layers of skin and causes skin peeling. But its action doesn't end just there.


Mandelic Acid is a lot more than being just a garden-variety chemical peel.


Are Mandelic Acid and Glycolic Acid the same?


No! Unlike its much more popular sibling, Glycolic Acid, Mandelic Acid is significantly milder on the skin. Since Mandelic Acid has a larger molecular size than other AHAs, it doesn't penetrate the skin too deeply, thereby causing less irritation.


Basically, Mandelic Acid does everything that Glycolic Acid can do, but in a gentle way. However, this also means that Mandelic Acid takes longer to show the same degree of results as Glycolic Acid. But when it comes to skincare, patience, perseverance, and persistence are the 3 Ps, I mean keys!


Mandelic Acid for Hyperpigmentation


Mandelic acid has a dual mechanism of action against hyperpigmentation. Firstly, it suppresses the melanin-producing enzyme tyrosinase. This blocks the production of pigment in a spot of hyperpigmentation.


Secondly, by virtue of its exfoliant effect, it clears the superficial layers of skin, thereby lifting up the existing pigmentation. Over the course of time, the pigment-laden cells get shed. Despite its complex activity against hyperpigmentation, Mandelic Acid doesn't cause any paradoxical hyperpigmentation because of its non-irritating property.


Mandelic Acid serum at night & vitamin C serum and sunscreen in the morning could be your next best arsenal against those pesky marks of hyperpigmentation.


Mandelic Acid Benefits


Goodbye to dull skin

Mandelic Acid is one of the kindest AHAs for your skin. It causes micro-exfoliation and accentuates your skin's natural glow.


Sayonara to the bane of acne

However, our over-achiever doesn't stop just there! Mandelic Acid also helps in combating acne and its unsightly marks. The drug is popularly used as a spot treatment for acne on sensitive skin.


Hello to our newest anti-ageing buddy

Mandelic acid can boost cell turnover by clearing the layer of dead skin and amping up the renewal of new cells. The process reduces the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and crinkles. Mandelic Acid serum applied at night is an ideal substitute for Retinol in sensitive skin types.


All this and a lot more!

This multifaceted wonder drug is also an antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory agent.


How Long Does it Take for Mandelic Acid to Work?


Mandelic acid's effectiveness can vary from person to person. You can start noticing improvements in your skin's texture, tone, and overall appearance within a few weeks of regular use. However, significant changes, like reducing hyperpigmentation or acne scars, may take around 6 to 8 weeks.

 

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What Percentage of Mandelic Acid is Effective?


Mandelic acid products range from 5% to 15% concentration. Beginners or individuals with sensitive skin may benefit from starting with a lower concentration of 5% for a gentler exfoliation process. Experienced users or those targeting specific skin concerns may opt for higher concentrations, like 10% to 15%. Gradually increase the concentration as your skin adjusts to the acid.


How Long Should Mandelic Acid be left on the Face?


This depends on the type of product you're using.

The recommended duration for leaving mandelic acid on your face varies depending on the product and concentration. As a general guideline, it is advisable to leave it on for 5 to 10 minutes, especially if you are new to using it or have sensitive skin. With time and improved tolerance, you can increase the duration to 15 minutes. Always follow the instructions provided by your chosen product for specific recommendations.


Can you Leave Mandelic Acid on Overnight?


This, again, depends on the type of product you're using and its concentration. Owing to the gentler nature of mandelic acid, it shouldn't be a problem leaving it on overnight. Follow the instructions provided by your product, leaving mandelic acid on your skin for the recommended duration and rinse it off thoroughly with water.


Does Mandelic Acid Cause Purging?


Compared to other exfoliating acids like glycolic acid or salicylic acid, mandelic acid is less likely to cause purging. Purging occurs when a product accelerates the skin cell turnover rate, initially leading to increased breakouts. Since mandelic acid is very gentle, it is highly unlikely that you'll experience any purging.


Mandelic Acid Side Effects


While mandelic acid is generally well-tolerated, it can sometimes cause side effects. Mild redness, dryness, or a slight stinging or tingling sensation may occur, but these reactions are usually less likely, temporary, and subside as your skin adjusts. If you experience severe or prolonged irritation, itching, or any other concerning symptoms, discontinue use and consult a dermatologist.


How to use Mandelic Acid?


This, again, depends on the type of product you're using. Mandelic acid products will come with the recommended usage methods.


However, in general, start with a low concentration: If you're new to mandelic acid, begin with a product containing a 5% concentration to allow your skin to adjust gradually.


Perform a patch test: Apply a small amount of the product on a discreet area of your skin, like the inner arm, and wait 24 hours to check for any adverse reactions.


Hydrate your skin with a gentle moisturizer and apply broad-spectrum sunscreen, mainly when using mandelic acid during the daytime.


When in doubt, consult a dermatologist.


In short, Mandelic Acid is worth the hype, and it rightfully deserves all the accolades. It fights dull skin, acne, and wrinkles all at once! I would recommend it to everyone with sensitive skin. Here's my top pick:

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