The Regimen

Mandelic Acid: The Complete Dermatologist’s Guide

Studio shot of Vivant Skin Care mandelic acid serum bottles.

We’ve written many times about the benefits of mandelic acid, but we never get tired of talking about this magical multi-tasker. Because we get so many questions about it, we thought we’d pull everything together in one comprehensive blog, answering the most asked questions about mandelic acid. Herewith, the complete dermatologist’s guide to mandelic acid.  


What is Mandelic Acid?

Though it’s relatively new to the skincare world, mandelic acid has been used for nearly two centuries as a medicinal compound because of its anti-microbial and wound-healing properties.

Vivant formulator, Dr. James Fulton, was among the first to recognize and leverage the benefits of this unique multi-tasking AHA for skincare. He was searching for a way to treat acne in dark skin tones prone to hyperpigmentation. Mandelic acid proved remarkably effective for that and much more.


How is mandelic acid different from other AHAs?

Mandelic acid’s molecular structure is larger than other acids. The larger size slows its penetration into the skin, resulting in a more gentle action. But that gentleness doesn’t reduce its effectiveness. Mandelic acid is stronger than glycolic, but it works a little more slowly.  

Like other AHAs, mandelic acid acts as an exfoliator, loosening and lifting dead skin cells to encourage renewal. In addition to micro-exfoliating properties, Mandelic Acid is antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory. It also inhibits tyrosinase, the enzyme that stimulates melanin production, making it a natural brightener. 


What does Mandelic acid do for your skin?

  • Clears Acne: Mandelic acid’s antibacterial properties combined with its exfoliating effects make it a highly effective acne-fighter.
  • Brightens skin: Exfoliating removes dead cells from the skin’s surface to undull the complexion.
  • Smooths Fine Lines and Wrinkles: Mandelic acid promotes cellular turnover and collagen production, making skin look smoother, firmer, and more youthful.
  • Improves texture and tone: Increased cell turnover and exfoliation clear have a retexturing effect that results in smoother skin with a more luminous, even tone.


Can I use mandelic acid every day?

As the gentlest of all the AHAs, mandelic acid is well tolerated by all skin types. You can safely use it every day, though higher percentages require acclimation. We recommend starting with the lower percentage products and moving up once your skin has become acclimated. If you do notice sensitivity, you can dial back usage to every other day.


Does mandelic acid lighten skin?

Exfoliating and melanin-inhibiting properties mean mandelic acid works both in the deeper layers and on the surface to fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

As a tyrosinase inhibitor, mandelic acid interrupts the melanin production cycle by blocking melanocytes from forming and rising through the layers of skin. Mandelic acid disperses existing pigment from the skin’s surface by accelerating cell turnover.


Can I use mandelic acid with other acids or retinoids?

Mandelic acid is such a multi-tasking wonder you can use it on its own and expect excellent results. That said, there is nothing like an acid cocktail to brighten and boost skin radiance.

Complementary acids can work synergistically to accelerate results. But acids are chemical exfoliators, and too much mixing and matching could result in irritation depending on your skin. Just be sure to consider the characteristics of other acids before pairing, especially if you have sensitive skin. 

An example of a complementary pairing is mandelic acid with salicylic acid. Mandelic acid’s antibacterial qualities combined with salicylic acid’s ability to go deep into the pore to peel out dead skin cells make the two an acne-fighting power couple.

Retinol and mandelic acid can be a synergistic combo. Each targets acne, signs of aging, and hyperpigmentation. Mandelic acid’s exfoliating effects enhance penetration of vitamin A to optimize results. They can be used in the same application, but most find a routine of mandelic acid in the morning and vitamin A at night to be the magic formula.


How long does it take for mandelic acid to work?

Increased cell turnover, decongestion of pores, reduced inflammation, and a fresher, brighter appearance happen almost immediately. Acne will begin to clear and subside within one to two weeks. It can take four to six weeks to see a reduction of pigment.



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