Mandelic Acid: What Is It and What Are its Benefits for the Skin?

Mandelic acid has gained a lot of ground among cosmetic skin care products. It has a rejuvenating effect and is suitable for sensitive skin.
Mandelic Acid: What Is It and What Are its Benefits for the Skin?
Leidy Mora Molina

Reviewed and approved by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 26 September, 2022

Mandelic acid is one of those cosmetic products that is causing a stir. It has become a tremendous alternative to the already famous treatment of vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. Why? The reason is unquestionable, it’s suitable for sensitive skin.

This substance has a large molecule, which allows the skin to absorb it more slowly. Therefore, it’s ideal for delicate skin that doesn’t tolerate other products. It even has exfoliating properties and minimizes the appearance of blemishes and wrinkles. Where is it obtained? How is it used? Let’s see.

What is mandelic acid?

Mandelic acid is part of the family of alpha hydroxy acids or AHAs, which also includes other products such as glycolic acid and lactic acid. Its function is to break the bonds between dead skin cells to promote pore cleansing.

The molecules that make up this substance are larger than those of other similar products. In fact, they are twice the size of those of glycolic acid. For this reason, it doesn’t penetrate the skin barrier with the same intensity of other acids, which reduces the likelihood of irritation.

Sensitive or acne-prone skin benefits greatly from this acid. In such cases, products are required that are potent enough to have an effect, but which, at the same time, aren’t aggressive.

Mandelic acid.
Mandelic acid is obtained from almonds. It is noted for its exfoliating properties.

Benefits of mandelic acid

Mandelic acid is a product indicated to treat skin imperfections caused by hyperpigmentation. This includes sun spots, freckles, melasma, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, among others.

One of the highlights of this product is that it increases firmness and elasticity. This is because it stimulates collagen production. This was established by a study carried out in 2013 and published in the US National Library of Medicine.

Other benefits of mandelic acid are as follows:

  • It is exfoliating. It removes dead cells and dirt on the skin, as it acts as a chemical exfoliant.
  • Cleans pores. This product is able to penetrate the pores deeply, which allows to clean the dirt thoroughly. No product closes pores completely, but mandelic acid helps to conceal them very well.
  • Stimulates cell renewal. The removal of dead cells stimulates cell renewal. This, in turn, reduces acne and helps fade fine lines.
  • Brightens the skin. When the skin is well exfoliated, it regains its balance and looks brighter and more luminous.

How to use it

It’s best to start using it two or three times a week for the first month. After that, it can be used every day or every other day. It should be applied at night and can go well with other moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid.

It’s advisable to wash your face thoroughly with warm water and then wait 20 to 30 minutes before applying mandelic acid. It should be applied on the face, except on the eye line, neck, and chest. Under no circumstances should it be applied with another product of the AHAs family.

In the morning, it’s necessary to apply a moisturizer and sunscreen. The latter is essential when exfoliating acids are being used. If not used daily, all of the above benefits will most likely be lost.

You might also be interested in: Exfoliating Face Masks: 8 Homemade Alternatives

Contraindications of mandelic acid

Like any cosmetic product, mandelic acid also has contraindications. It’s best to do a test before incorporating it into your daily routine. Simply apply a little on the arm, in the area near the elbows. Then wait 24 hours; if there’s any sign of irritation, then it’s best not to use it.

This ingredient shouldn’t be used during the day or for very long periods of time, as it can generate a “rebound effect” and cause blemishes on the face. Its use isn’t recommended in the following cases:

  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • Skin lacerations
  • After waxing
  • Active herpes
  • In combination with products containing tretinoin
  • On tanned skin
Mandelic acid.
Mandelic acid should be applied only at night. In addition, sunscreen should be used the next day to avoid unwanted effects.

Final recommendations

It isn’t advisable to use mandelic acid after having undergone a chemical peeling treatment, as it can be counterproductive. After such procedures, it’s best to use only lotions or moisturizers, even though mandelic acid is an over-the-counter product and is suitable for all skin types.

It’s always best to consult a dermatologist before use. Your doctor may have suggestions or recommendations that should be followed.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Nardin, P., & Guterres, S. S. (1999). Alfa-hidroxiácidos: Aplicações cosméticas e dermatológicas. Caderno de farmácia. Porto Alegre, RS. Vol. 15, n. 1 (jan./dez. 1999), p. 7-14.
  • Wójcik A, Kubiak M, Rotsztejn H. Influence of azelaic and mandelic acid peels on sebum secretion in ageing women. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2013 Jun;30(3):140-5. doi: 10.5114/pdia.2013.35614. Epub 2013 Jun 20. PMID: 24278065; PMCID: PMC3834725.
  • Martire, A. C., & Guanaes, L. D. (2021). Avaliação da eficácia e segurança do ácido mandélico no tratamento da acne: uma revisão. Cadernos da Escola de Saúde, 21(1).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.