How It Benefits Skin & How To Use It, From Experts

Mandelic acid is a member of the AHA family, which means its main gig is to exfoliate, brighten, and stimulate cell turnover. Like other AHAs, it’s derived from plants—in mandelic’s case, bitter almonds—and it hydrates the skin while sloughing off dead cells. As board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, M.D., tells us about the acid family: “They can be simultaneously exfoliating and hydrating, making them very beneficial to many skin types.” 

Some AHAs can be more intense than others—glycolic acid, for example, has the smallest molecular weight of the bunch, which means it can penetrate the skin’s outer layer quite easily. Mandelic acid, on the other hand, is larger in molecular size (even larger than lactic acid!), which may make it more tolerable for easily irritated skin types.

“It’s my absolute favorite AHA—way underrated in my opinion—as it is the most gentle,” says board-certified dermatologist Roberta Del Campo, M.D. “Meaning, anyone can use it, but it is just as effective as other AHAs, such as lactic acid and glycolic acid.”

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