Health Skin

How to Use Mandelic Acid On Exfoliating Sensitive Skin

In the world of skincare, it seems like there’s always a new ingredient winning over our hearts and transforming our complexions. And sometimes the best ingredients aren’t exactly new to the industry, but new-to-us finds that meet all of our skincare needs. Enter, mandelic acid, the gentle exfoliating acid that won’t irritate even the most sensitive of skin types. It’s certainly no new invention, but if you’ve not added this ingredient to your skincare routine, we highly suggest you start, now.

According to board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Tiffany Jow Libby, MD, mandelic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid, otherwise known as an exfoliating acid. It’s actually in the same family as some of the most popular acids in skincare like glycolic and lactic acids.

“Mandelic acid is fat-soluble and derived from almonds, which makes it a good choice for oilier skin types,” Libby says. “And because it has a larger molecule than glycolic acid, it does not penetrate as deeply into the skin and can exfoliate without irritation.” Sounds like a win-win in our book. Now that we know what mandelic acid is, let’s discuss why it’s great.

For starters, mandelic acid works to slough away dead skin by exfoliating at the surface of the skin. And like other exfoliants it helps to “promote cellular turnover, brighten skin, and reduce the appearance of dark marks on the skin,” Libby says.

It’s no secret that routine exfoliation is a must for a healthy complexion, but finding the best exfoliator can be quite the challenge, especially if you want a formula that won’t leave your skin feeling irritated or inflamed. Libby says that’s why mandelic acid is great for those with sensitive skin types because it poses less of a risk of deep penetration to the skin. And because it’s fat-soluble, oily skin types can benefit from this acid, too.

“Because it’s on the gentler side, mandelic acid can be found more often in leave-on serums, masks, and peeling treatments,” Libby says. “It’s often paired with other acids in exfoliating products, but can also be found on its own.” If you’re new to using mandelic acid, Libby suggests starting slow when incorporating a new product into your skin routine. “You can start by using it 2-3 times per week and increase to daily if well-tolerated.”

Ready to dive in? We rounded up the best mandelic acid-infused skincare products worth adding to your arsenal, stat. Keep scrolling to learn more.


The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

The Ordinary


If you’re looking for an affordable way to experiment with mandelic acid, look no further. This feather-light serum is formulated with 10 percent mandelic acid that helps to get rid of dead skin in a flash. And since it’s under $10, adding this product to your skincare routine won’t break the bank.


Eminence Organic Skin Care Calm Skin Chamomile Exfoliating Peel

Eminence Organic Skin Care


You’ll love adding this organic peel into your weekly skincare regimen. It gives your skin that squeaky-clean feeling without leaving you dry or irritated. Additionally, this peel helps to keep skin calmed and balanced, so you don’t have to worry about irritation when you use it.


Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta® Extra Strength Daily Peel

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare


These two-step pads have a cult following for a reason. They’re easy to use and make exfoliation quick and simple. Plus, pairing mandelic acid with the trifecta of glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids means your complexion is sure to look more radiant after each use.





If you’re dealing with acne, exfoliation is still possible. This gel helps to treat and prevent breakouts while helping to control oil levels, unclog pores, and keep hyperpigmentation at bay.


HoliFrog Shasta AHA Refining Acid Wash



This gentle cleanser is chock-full of good-for-your-skin ingredients, mandelic acid included. Not only will it help to keep moisture locked-into the skin, it helps to reduce signs of aging, boost brightness, and promote skin regeneration, too.


Exuviance Radiance Serum



Full of antioxidants and vitamins, this serum is worth the splurge. Not only does it keep your complexion radiant and smooth, but it helps to revive dull, tired complexions and minimize signs of aging.


Elemis Dynamic Resurfacing Peel Reset



When your skin is feeling tired and dull, reach for this two-step reset. The first step helps to get rid of dead skin and the second step boosts your moisture levels and helps to lock-in hydration. It comes in handy when your complexion needs a little TLC.


Glamglow Supermud Charcoal Instant Treatment Mask



Yes, this fan-favorite is formulated with mandelic acid. This treatment has six exfoliating acids and charcoal that acts like a vacuum to dirt and grime and makes pores cleaner and less visible.


Naturium Mandelic Topical Acid 12%



Infused with 12 percent mandelic acid and niacinamide, this gentle acid is a go-to if hyperpigmentation and breakouts are of top concern. It helps to balance out pH levels in the skin and reduce the appearance of dark spots and acne scars.


Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic

This beloved potion will give you that lit-from-within glow we’ve all been dreaming up for years. In addition to exfoliation, this tonic helps to improve circulation, soothe inflammation, and boost brightness. 

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