Why Mandelic Acid Is One of My Top Holy Grail Ingredients For Anti-Aging & Glow
Not familiar with mandelic acid, the kinder, gentler, collagen-promoting AHA? Then you may be missing out, especially if you’re an AHA newbie, are prone to sensitivity, or have a deeper skin tone. In other words, probably just about everyone. Learn why here.
If I were stranded on a desert island and could only bring five beauty products with me, they’d be:
1. Mandelic acid cleanser
2. An exfoliating but hydrating mandelic acid toner
3. The COSRX BHA Liquid
4. MANDELIC ACID OF ANY SORT AND ALL KINDS. Actually, this whole list can just be mandelic acid and I wouldn’t even be mad.
As you can see, I love me some mandelic acid. To me, it is my ideal AHA product. It’s non-irritating. It’s anti-aging. It makes my skin glow and feel soft like a baby. I am obsessed.
(Quick refresher — AHAs are chemical exfoliants that help slough off dead skin to reveal bright, glowing, and hopefully acne-free skin. They are my lifeline and I could not do life without them.)
So what exactly is mandelic acid? Well, it’s an AHA exfoliant derived from bitter almonds (so if you’re allergic to tree nuts, steer clear!). It’s similar to glycolic and lactic acid, but due to its large molecular size, it penetrates more slowly into the skin, which makes it very gentle, non-irritating, and suitable for those who want to get on the exfoliation train but have sensitive skin. It’s been shown to improve skin conditions for all skin types — from dry to oily to combination to acne-prone to everything in between. If you have acne-prone skin, it’ll help keep the acne at bay. If you have oily skin, it’ll help balance the skin and oil production. And as a bonus, it’s also anti-aging, as it strengthens collagen and promotes healthy skin cell turnover.
K-beauty is innovative in many ways, but I will admit that they are a bit behind on the chemical exfoliation bandwagon. It makes sense though, as the major tenets of K-beauty are all about nourishing, hydrating, and balancing the skin. Even in Korea, BHA and AHA ingredients in products are somewhat limited, and most products are reformulated for Korea (like the Paula’s Choice BHA liquid) to meet the country’s strict rules on the type of chemical exfoliating ingredients you can use over the counter. This is one of the reasons why you might have rarely seen mandelic acid used explicitly in a product. The Klairs 5% Mandelic Acid Toner is the one Korean product that comes to mind. I use it in my daily arsenal when I just want a little mandelic acid boost. It does tingle slightly on the first application, but it provides a very gentle exfoliation that’s perfect for that everyday glow.
I love mandelic acid because it’s an amazing AHA. Whenever I have a pesky hormonal breakout, I can dab a little of my mandelic acid from The Ordinary on it and BOOM. It’s gone within a few days. It doesn’t irritate my skin, even at higher concentrations like a 40% chemical peel. No other AHA can give me a glow like mandelic acid can — not lactic nor glycolic. And what’s better, it’s meant for those with darker skin tones, as it won’t cause any unnecessary discoloration like glycolic and lactic acid can. We stan an inclusive AHA ingredient!
Have you ever tried mandelic acid? What do you think? Let me know in the comments!