Mandelic acid is also one of the best acid selections for those with darker complexions because it isn’t melanotoxic, Dr. Marmur notes. In other words, it doesn’t kill melanocytes and won’t exacerbate discoloration. Instead, it will decrease the appearance of dark spots due to acne, sun exposure, or otherwise in all the right ways. Dr. Kikam agrees, adding, “mandelic acid peels are considered well-tolerated in patients of color with less risk of hyperpigmentation, photosensitivity, and scarring compared to other AHAs, like glycolic acid.” 

Despite its larger particle size, mandelic acid also delves deeper into skin than other AHAs because it’s oil-soluble, as Sejal Shah, MD, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist, previously told Allure. Glycolic and lactic acids, on the other hand, are water-soluble, so they only work on the top layers of skin. 

How does mandelic acid benefit skin? 

Mandelic acid’s powerful antibacterial properties team up with its gentle exfoliating, cell-turnover-activating abilities team up to defeat acne, dull skin, uneven texture, hyperpigmentation, and fine lines and wrinkles. It does the latter by boosting collagen production, too, Dr. Marmur says. After about one to three weeks of use, you’ll notice mandelic acid is making your skin smoother, brighter, plumper, and clearer, she adds. 

I like to think of mandelic acid as an electricity-free Dyson vacuum for your skin. It sucks up acne-causing bacteria and oil clogging up your pores, as well as dead, discolored skin cells on the surface of your skin — leaving your floors, I mean complexion, cleaner and sparklier than ever. 

A major downside of mandelic acid is you can’t layer it onto your face at the same time as your go-to retinol. “Both of these ingredients disrupt the skin barrier,” Aegean Chan, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Santa Barbara, California, previously shared with Allure

So when they are both on your skin, they can create redness, sensitivity, and excessive dryness. Avoid these issues by alternating the days you implement them into your nighttime skin-care routine. Also, if you’re allergic to almonds, it’s best to avoid mandelic acid, Dr. Kikam says. 

Other than those drawbacks, you can consider mandelic acid to be one of the best acids for those just beginning to dabble into the world of AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs. It does everything for everyone. 

What are the best mandelic acid products? 

Before you dive into mandelic acid — or any of its acidic relatives — Dr. Marmur suggests investing time into basic skin protection first in the form of moisturizer and SPF. From there, you can seek out one of the many mandelic products beauty experts swear by. You’re less likely to experience irritation and flakiness if your skin’s basic needs are met. 

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