Mandelic Acid: A Complete Guide for Dermatologists



We’ve covered the benefits of mandelic acid many times, but we can’t get enough of talking about this amazing all-rounder. Since we receive so many questions about mandelic acid, we thought we would put them all together in a comprehensive blog and answer the most frequently asked questions about mandelic acid. Here’s the complete dermatologist’s guide to mandelic acid. 

What is mandelic acid? 

 Although mandelic acid is relatively new to the world of skin care, it has been used as a medicinal compound for nearly two centuries due to its antibacterial and wound-healing properties.



Vivant formulator Dr. James Fulton was one of the first to recognize and harness the unique multi-tasking AHA skin care benefits. He was looking for a way to treat acne on darker skin tones prone to hyperpigmentation. Mandelic acid has proven to be very effective in this and other ways. 

How is mandelic acid different from other AHAs? 

 Mandelic acid has a larger molecular structure than other acids. The larger size slows penetration into the skin, resulting in a gentler effect. However, this mildness does not reduce its effectiveness. Mandelic acid is stronger than glycolic acid, but acts a little slower.



Like other AHAs, mandelic acid acts as an exfoliant, promoting renewal by loosening and lifting dead skin cells. In addition to its micro-exfoliating properties, mandelic acid also has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. It also inhibits tyrosinase, an enzyme that stimulates melanin production, making it a natural skin whitening agent. 

What does mandelic acid do to the skin? 

 Eliminate Acne: The antibacterial properties of mandelic acid combined with its exfoliating action make it a highly effective acne combatant.


Brighten skin tone: Exfoliation removes dead cells from the skin's surface, resulting in a smoother complexion. 

Lightens Pigmentation: Increases cell turnover and disperses melanin from the upper layers of skin, thereby reducing the appearance of dark spots and minimizing sun damage. But mandelic acid goes a step further and blocks the production of pigment deep within the skin to prevent future discoloration.




Smoothes Fine Lines and Wrinkles: Mandelic acid promotes cell turnover and collagen production, making skin appear smoother, firmer, and younger. 

IMPROVED TEXTURE AND TONE: Increased cell turnover and exfoliating clarity has a texture-reshaping effect, resulting in smoother skin and a brighter, more even complexion.



 Can I use mandelic acid every day?




Mandelic acid is the mildest of all AHAs and is well tolerated by all skin types. You can safely use it every day, but the higher percentages will take some getting used to. We recommend starting with a lower ratio of product and increasing as your skin gets used to it. If you notice sensitivity, you can reset usage to every other day. 


Can mandelic acid whiten skin? 



Because mandelic acid has exfoliating and melanin-inhibiting properties, it works both deep and superficially to fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation.



As a tyrosinase inhibitor, mandelic acid interrupts the melanin production cycle by preventing the formation and advancement of melanocytes through the skin layers. Mandelic acid dissolves existing pigment on the skin's surface by accelerating cell turnover. 

Can I use mandelic acid with other acids or retinoids? 

Mandelic acid is a multitasking wonder that you can use on its own and expect good results. However, nothing brightens and adds radiance like an acidic cocktail.



Complementary acids work synergistically to accelerate results. But acids are chemical exfoliants, and mixing and matching too many can cause irritation, depending on your skin type. Be sure to consider the properties of other acids before mixing, especially if you have sensitive skin. 

An example of a complementary pairing is mandelic acid and salicylic acid. The antibacterial properties of mandelic acid combined with the ability of salicylic acid to penetrate deep into pores and remove dead skin cells make the two a powerful combination in the fight against acne.


Retinol and mandelic acid can be a synergistic combination. Each product targets acne, aging and hyperpigmentation. The exfoliating action of mandelic acid increases the penetration of vitamin A, thereby optimizing results. They can be used in the same application, but most people think that using mandelic acid in the morning and vitamin A at night is the magic formula. 




How long does it take for mandelic acid to work? 

 Increased cell turnover, unclogged pores, reduced inflammation, and a fresher, more radiant appearance occur almost immediately. Within one to two weeks, the acne should begin to clear up and subside. The reduction in pigmentation may take four to six weeks to become apparent.

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