Fine Lines? This Is Why Mandelic Acid Is the Skincare Ingredient You Need

Perdita Nouril
·6-min read
Photo credit: Fiordaliso - Getty Images
Photo credit: Fiordaliso - Getty Images

From Women's Health

Just a few years ago and words such as 'retinol' and 'glycolic' would have prompted looks of bewilderment. Now, thanks to innovative brands such as The Ordinary and Beauty Pie, who hone in on single-ingredient formulations, they’re part of our everyday beauty vocabulary.

But even if you're clued up on your Vitamin C and castor oil, you may not be au fait with mandelic, the latest acid that's causing a stir in the skincare world.

Research published in Dermatologic Surgery showed that it was as effective as glycolic at treating pigmentation from sun damage, but with less redness and irritation. And further studies show that it also reduces melasma by as much as 50% in four weeks.

Impressive, eh? Well, that's not all. Read on to find out why the skincare pros go mad for mandelic and why it's worth adding to your beauty routine asap rocky.

So, what is mandelic acid?

'Mandelic acid is a type of Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) or exfoliating acid found in skincare and medical-grade chemical peels and it is derived from bitter almonds,' reveals consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto.

What does mandelic acid do to your skin?

'It works by increasing cell turnover in the skin by loosening the bonds between skin cells and allowing exfoliation' explains Dr Sophie Shotter, medical director of Illuminate Clinic.

'It's a very gentle exfoliator because its molecules are twice the size of glycolic acid's and a third bigger than lactic acid's so irritation is reduced, as it takes a long time to penetrate the skin.'

Don't take its kindness for weakness though, Like other AHAs, mandelic’s micro-exfoliating properties help lift excess pigment from the skin’s surface. it’s the only AHA to work in the skin’s deeper layers to inhibit melanin production. So what it might lack in speed, it makes up for in depth.

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What is mandelic acid good for?

1.Lines and wrinkles

‘If you want something to help reduce the effects of premature ageing on the skin, then mandelic acid is just the thing. In fact, it’s been hailed as the go-to anti-ageing ingredient by many dermatologists and skin experts,' says Dr Aikaterini Charakida, Consultant Dermatologist at EF Medispa

'As well as increasing cell turnover it also helps to remove the surface dead skin that can contain fine lines. It’s also great at strengthening collagen, which is necessary to support the skin and keep it looking young and firm and helps to hydrate dehydrated skin,' he

2. Melasma and pigmentation

'It’s considered to be one of the most effective AHAs for pigmentation, including post-spot marks and sun spots.' says Jennifer Rock, dermal facialist and founder of skincare brand Skingredients. 'It’s also been shown in studies to improve melasma by unto 50% in 4 weeks,' adds Dr Shotter.

3. Acne

'It’s my AHA of choice in acne-prone patients, as it helps to regulate sebum production and has antibacterial properties,' says Dr Shotter.

How long does it take for mandelic acid to work?

You can expect to see initial results such as a smoother skin within a few days, once cell turnover kicks and the acid starts to resurface your skin.

Breakouts can be reduced within 1-2 weeks and stubborn dark spot will begin fading within 4-8 weeks of using the acid. Worth noting that the results keep getting better if you are diligent and use SPF every morning.

Does mandelic acid treat pigmentation?

'Mandelic acid has exfoliating and anti-acne effects, but it's best effects are when it comes to treating pigmentation. In one study, regular use of mandelic acid for four weeks reduced pigmentation by 50% vs the control group. It is a large molecule so doesn't penetrate the skin quite as deeply as others' reveals Dr David Jack.

Can I use mandelic acid every day?

'At low levels, yes. Often I would suggest having a low concentration mandelic acid within say a serum) on a daily basis, then a slightly stronger version once per week a peel or a mask,' says Dr David Jack.

'In a 2018 study of 24 participants, they used mandelic acid twice daily and this proved the most beneficial amount. I would usually ask my patients to start once daily and, if they are comfortable, build this up to more frequent use' reveals Dr Ahmed El Muntasar.

Are there any side effects to using mandelic acid on your skin?

As with all acids, its advisable to do a patch test on skin if you've never used them before. Dr Galyna also adds that 'it is very important to apply daily SPF 50 as part of your routine especially when you are using mandelic acid or any other AHA as in can increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun. Even on a cloudy day.'

Is mandelic safe for all skin tones?

'Due to its larger molecule size than acids such as glycolic acid, mandelic acid is largely considered to be safe for all skin tones,' says Rock.

The 5 best mandelic acid products to shop now

1.Nip+ Fab Mandelic + Charcoal Fix Cleansing Bar

In addition to mandelic, this solid cleansing also contains blemish-fighting actives such as tea tree, aloe vera, and witch hazel, all known for both their anti-inflammatory and soothing properties.

2. The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

This is a brilliant and long-term clarifier that visibly removes dirt from pores. Apply 2 to 3 times a week post cleansing and leave on for twenty minutes before moisturising, as this will allow for proper penetration.

3. DCL Multi-Action Penta Peel

Pre-soaked pads are a blessing for those who are unsure how much of the product they need to use. Swipe over your face after cleansing at night, leave on for five minutes and rinse off. Prepare to wowed come morning.

4. Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting Cleansing Gel

A cleanser is a great place to start if you're new to acids as it means the ingredients don't spend a lot of time on the skin, giving it a chance to get use to it.

5. PCA Skin Pore Refining Treatment

This formula tackles acne in three ways. Rice Powder and pumice provide physical exfoliation to buff away rough texture, mandelic acid provides chemical exfoliation to loosen dead cells, and papaya Fruit provide enzymatic exfoliation brighten a lacklustre complexion.

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