The Regimen

Mandelic Acid or Vitamin A? Which One is Right for You?

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You may have noticed the Vivant line is heavily weighted with Vitamin A and Mandelic Acid products. These ingredients are our tentpoles. Why? First, because Dr. Fulton pioneered both for skin care. Second, because they work. Between the two, they bring targeted results for treating acne, hyperpigmentation, and signs of aging in every skin type and tone. There is some overlap between the two, and there are some distinct differences. Here, we breakdown each ingredient to help you understand which is right for your skin, and how to know when the answer is both.  



What is Vitamin A?

Retinoids (including non-prescription retinol) are derived from vitamin A. Originally co-developed by Dr. Fulton to treat acne, retinoids proved to be beneficial for reducing signs of aging as well. More research revealed that in addition to clearing acne impactions, vitamin A derivatives are potent regenerative agents that repair and prevent photodamage and stimulate cellular renewal. But to be effective, vitamin A must reach the deeper layers of the dermis where it’s converted to retinoic acid. Vivant’s patented Vitamin A Propionate is the gold standard for non-prescription retinols because of its small molecular structure, the closest of any to the prescription strength Retin-A® co-developed by Dr. Fulton.


Unique properties of Vitamin A Propionate

  • Small molecular size enhances effectiveness
  • Accelerates cell turnover from 30 to 14 days
  • Encourages collagen production and cellular renewal


Ideal for

  • Severe acne
  • Adult acne
  • Photodamaged skin
  • Skin of all ages


Choose Vitamin A if your goal is:

  • To reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • To peel out acne impactions
  • To firm and retexture skin
  • To prevent signs of aging
  • To restore and retain a youthful appearance




What is Mandelic Acid?

Dr. Fulton pioneered the use of mandelic acid for treating acne in dark skin prone to hyperpigmentation. Derived from bitter almonds, this antioxidant multi-tasker has a larger molecular structure than many other acids, which slows absorption produces less irritation. It’s a micro-exfoliator and melanin-inhibitor, so it helps reduce existing discoloration and prevent the formation of new pigment. Anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties make it a formidable acne-fighter.


Unique properties

  • Anti-bacterial and anti-microbial
  • Melanin-inhibiting
  • Larger molecular size slows absorption to reduce irritation


Ideal for

  • Darker skin tones prone to hyperpigmentation
  • Acne-prone skin
  • Sensitive skin
  • Lightly photodamaged skin


Choose mandelic acid if your goal is:

  • To clear mild to moderate acne
  • To reduce fine lines
  • To brighten skin tone
  • To avoid triggering post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
  • To create gentle micro-exfoliation in the skin and speed renewal



“Okay, but I have goals that match those of both vitamin A and mandelic acid. Now what?”


If your main concern is acne, use a mandelic acid cleanser and toner for the antibacterial properties, and a vitamin A serum to peel out deeper impactions.


If hyperpigmentation is a concern when treating inflammatory acne, use mandelic acid for all three steps: cleanser, toner, and serum.


If your main goal is to brighten, create a more even tone, and reduce hyperpigmentation, use a mandelic acid cleanser, toner, and serum.


For treating fine lines in all skin tones, mandelic acid is your go-to.


For targeting more advanced photo-aging concerns in all skin tones, Vitamin A Propionate is your hero.



Always start with the lowest percentage and work up to the higher percentage formulas to allow skin to acclimate. When using our concentrated serums in either vitamin A or mandelic acid formulations, you will notice some mild flaking when you first begin using the product. Mandelic acid is the gentler of the two, so this effect will be less with mandelic acid. Flaking is the sign of micro-exfoliation, which is cellular turnover and regeneration. It means your product is working. It will subside within a couple of weeks and your skin will continue to improve.


Shop Vitamin A products.


Shop Mandelic Acid products.


Related Articles

Mandelic Acid: The Miracle Molecule

Vitamin A: Topping The A-List Of Skin Care

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