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Mandelic Acid is an Anti-Aging Ingredient that is Beneficial to Everyone

"Here’s everything you need to know about mandelic acid."

The Fashion Enthusiast
Mandelic Acid is an Anti-Aging Ingredient that is Beneficial to Everyone

Fleur Kaan/Unsplash

One of the most talked-about additions to the anti-aging armory this year? Mandelic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) generated from bitter almonds that is popular for its delicate yet effective nature—and it is not new at all.

"Mandelic acid has been popular among dermatologists for as long as I have been practicing," says Dr. Blair-Murphy Rose, a board-certified dermatologist. "However, it may be increasing in popularity due to increased awareness among consumers."

Dr. Michelle Henry, a board-certified dermatologist, also points out that the acid acquired popularity in the late 1990s and that its benefits are well-known in skin-care circles. Its recent popularity is most likely due to its slightly oxymoronic nature. What, after all, is a gentle acid?

"Mandelic acid is larger in molecular size compared to other AHAs like glycolic acid, which means it penetrates the skin more slowly and is less likely to irritate," Henry said. Because of this physical property, the benefits of chemical exfoliants are also available to persons with sensitive skin.

What Are the Benefits of Mandelic Acid?

Mandelic acid, like other AHAs, reduces the indications of aging through chemical exfoliation. "Exfoliation removes dead cells from the skin's surface, reducing dullness and revealing brighter, healthier-looking skin," she explains. Along with enhancing skin texture and tone, this type of exfoliation helps to prevent the production of wrinkles and fine lines. (Yes, it also helps with skin issues such as hyperpigmentation and dark spots!)

Those who suffer from breakouts might also try integrating mandelic acid into their regimens. Regenerative exfoliation works in tandem with antibacterial characteristics to clear acne-prone skin, prevent clogged pores, and assist in regulating sebaceous glands without irritating them.

Finally, studies suggest that mandelic acid enhances the skin's natural regenerative processes, increasing collagen formation and quickening cell turnover for firmer skin.

How to Use Mandelic Acid

Mandelic acid can be integrated into either your morning or evening routine—with caution, of course. "Initially, use mandelic acid products once or twice a week, gradually increasing the frequency as your skin adjusts," Henry says, adding that applying any AHA at night may be your best chance owing to heightened sun sensitivity. (Regardless of whatever route you use or the acid you prefer, sunscreen should always be first to avoid sun damage.)

Murphy-Rose recommends beginning with a nighttime serum containing mandelic acid and avoiding the use of other AHAs, BHAs, or retinol while introducing the component. "Once you have started mandelic acid, you may be able to re-introduce some of those other products back into your routine gradually and assess your skin's response," she said.

"Be mindful of the concentration of mandelic acid in products; higher concentrations may be more effective but also more likely to irritate," according to Henry. And, after exfoliating, use your chosen moisturizer to rehydrate and preserve the skin barrier.

How Does Mandelic Acid Compare to Similar Ingredients?

So, how does mandelic acid stack up against your current favorites, like as glycolic acid or retinol? As previously stated, mandelic acid has a larger molecule size than other AHAs (a category that also includes glycolic acid), implying that its penetration is both sluggish and uniform. This makes mandelic acid a gentler alternative to glycolic acid, providing equal advantages at a slower, gentler rate.

Retinol, on the other hand, is a potent, concentrated derivative of vitamin A that provides many of the same benefits as AHAs (think increased collagen formation and cell turnover, reduced fine lines, and clearer, brighter skin). Although retinol and mandelic acid are both "active" substances, they can be used together. Start gently and with patch testing for safety, and always see your dermatologist.

What Are the Downsides of Mandelic Acid?

Though benign, mandelic acid is still a topical acid that should be used with caution, such as Lightsaver Activated Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

"Similar to other alpha hydroxy acids, potential side effects include redness, peeling, and skin irritation—overuse of AHAs can cause irritant dermatitis and even chemical burning," according to Murphy-Rose. "All skin exfoliators, including mandelic acid, increase photosensitivity so it is even more important to use sun protection when using these ingredients."


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Linda Maria

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Linda Mariya is a New Jersey-based writer and editor who is covering fashion, beauty, celebrity, and models. She is currently the Senior Editor at The Fashion Enthusiast

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