Healthy Skin

Mandelic acid – what you need to know

Mandelic acid is a lesser-known member of the alpha-hydroxy acid family. Otherwise known as AHAs, these acids (including glycolic and lactic acid) have a special place in any skincare lover’s collection due to their exfoliating action.

Here we explain what you need to know about this beauty staple and how to incorporate it into your skincare regime.

Mandelic acid – what you need to know

AHAs, including mandelic acid, are extremely efficient exfoliators. They buff away at the superficial layer of dead skin cells that can contribute to a dull-looking complexion, revealing fresh, glowing skin underneath.

AHAs are usually preferable to exfoliating scrubs (containing particles), as these can leave micro-tears on the skin’s surface, compromising the skin barrier and leaving us prone to dry, flaky patches, redness and sensitivity.

In contrast, acids have a more elegant exfoliating method. They eat away at the bonds that cling to dead cells, speeding up the natural process of shedding skin that’s past its use-by date.

With its larger molecular size than both glycolic and lactic acid, mandelic acid penetrates the skin more slowly and is therefore a gentler option.

What are the benefits?

Skin smoother

Mandelic acid gently eats away at the bonds between dead skin cells, increasing the rate of cell turnover. This helps to smooth rough patches of skin, enhancing the skin’s natural moisturising factors (such as hyaluronic acid) and boosting brightness.


It also works to improve the appearance of skin by promoting collagen production. Collagen is best known as the gravity-defying elixir of youth that keeps skin bouncy and firm. As we get older, collagen production slows down and we lose around 1% every year. Mandelic acid can help to boost dwindling levels of collagen, softening the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and restoring a youthful firmness to skin.


Patches of pigmentation – whether they be age spots, melasma or the dark marks left behind by acne – remain a pressing skin concern for many.

Excess exposure to the sun, hormonal imbalance and inflammatory skin conditions (such as acne and eczema) can all trigger excess melanin production. This makes hyperpigmentation more likely.

Mandelic acid can help to prevent this by accelerating cell turnover, exfoliating away any irregular pigment that’s lodged in these skin cells. It’s unlikely to whisk away particularly dark or stubborn patches of pigmentation however. In these cases, we’ll need a prescription-only product such as 4% hydroquinone. Mandelic acid is best used as a preventative strategy. It clears away lighter patches of pigment before they take root in the skin.

It’s a particularly smart option for darker skin tones. Stronger AHAs are often too harsh and can actually trigger further hyperpigmentation.

Who is mandelic acid for?

It’s ideal for sun-damaged or sensitive skin types. It’s also a great pick for those with darker skin looking to benefit from exfoliating acids without triggering hyperpigmentation.

How to use it

Apply in the evening twice a week to freshly cleansed skin. Wait 20 minutes before applying any other products. We recommend products that contain 10% mandelic acid as a good dose.

Follow up with a broad-spectrum SPF the following morning as it can leave skin more sun sensitive.

What does it work well with?

Opt for hydrating serums and antioxidants. Avoid using alongside other AHAs, beta-hydroxy acids (such as salicylic acid) and retinoids. This will simply be too much exfoliation for the skin, which may start to suffer and rebel.

That’s not to say we should avoid products that contain a blend of exfoliating ingredients. These have been carefully formulated to contain safe percentages of the acids.

The best mandelic acid products

Garden of Wisdom Mandelic Acid 10% Serum

This affordable and effective serum combines 10% mandelic acid with hyaluronic acid and seaweed extract to hydrate and nourish the skin.
A great way to try this up-and-coming ingredient without breaking the bank.

Buy Garden of Wisdom Mandelic Acid 10% Serum

Wishtrend Mandelic Acid 5% Skin Prep Water

This gentle formula will be too weak for most but is a great option for those with extremely sensitive skin who still want to benefit from mandelic acid’s skin-smoothing properties.

Buy Wishtrend Mandelic Acid 5% Skin Prep Water

Allies of Skin Mandelic Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum

You get what you pay for with this hardworking serum. It stars 11% mandelic, lactic and salicylic acid to gently dissolve dead skin cells and battle pigmentation, as well as a restorative blend of hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and essential fatty acids.

Buy Allies of Skin Mandelic Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum

Medik8 Surface Radiance Cleanse

This bestselling cleanser contains an exfoliating trio of mandelic, lactic and salicylic acid, as well as moisturising glycerin.
It’s a perfect pick for oily/congested skin types, as well as those looking to get a deep cleanse without a dry, squeaky feeling.

Buy Medik8 Surface Radiance Cleanse

Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel

These travel-friendly sachets from Dr Dennis Gross contain a two-part treatment.
The first sachet contains an exfoliating blend of lactic and mandelic acid, and the second a cocktail of ingredients designed to rein the acids back, to prevent irritation and nourish the skin.

Buy Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel

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