What is mandelic acid?

Mandelic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid that’s extracted from bitter almonds.

Alpha hydroxy acids are also found in other types of food, such as citrus fruits, grapes, and tomato juice. These natural exfoliating agents come in different strengths and produce varied effects when applied to the skin.

Mandelic acid acts as a powerful — yet gentle — exfoliator that breaks up the tiny bonds between dead cells at the skin’s surface, making it an effective component in chemical peels.

Compared to chemical peels containing salicylic, glycolic or lactic acids, mandelic acid is lower in strength but produces longer-lasting effects.

Benefits of mandelic acid peels

Mandelic acid’s gentle peeling effect can be attributed to its molecular structure.

Since its molecules are larger than those found in glycolic acid and other alpha hydroxy acids, mandelic acid takes longer to penetrate the skin’s surface. This makes it less likely to cause irritation.

As a chemical peel, mandelic acid offers a wide range of treatment benefits:

  • Reducing dark spots
  • Improving skin texture
  • Lightening freckles
  • Refining skin tone
  • Unclogging skin pores
  • Reducing acne
  • Lightening skin tone
  • Reducing fine lines
  • Evening out the complexion
  • Being compatible with all skin types

“What is particularly nice about mandelic acid peels is that they generally don’t cause a lot of inflammation,” says Stamford, CT dermatologist Dr. Robin Evans. “As such, they are a safer option for treating darker skin-type individuals, resulting in less risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or brown discoloration.”

How often should you use mandelic acid?

Professional and at-home mandelic acid formulas come in different strengths.

Higher strength concentrations — such as 40% or greater — should only be applied by a dermatologist or qualified provider. Treatments can be scheduled every other week or possibly on a weekly basis, depending on healing time.

At-home peel products typically have a 20–25% percent concentration. They can generally be applied several times a week, depending on how well your skin tolerates them. Skin should be fully healed before applying another peel.

People whose skin is prone to cold sores may want to have a dermatologist perform the peel, since it can trigger outbreaks; your dermatologist can prescribe antiviral medications to prevent this.

Does mandelic acid have any side effects?

As with any chemical peeling agent, mandelic acid peels can cause side effects, but taking certain precautions will greatly minimize these risks.

While this type of treatment mainly interacts with surface layer skin cells, it does stimulate tissue remodeling and collagen fiber production. People with darker complexions or sensitive skin are therefore at higher risk of discoloration and scarring, two side effects that are common to all chemical peels.

Immediately after applying mandelic acid, the skin will feel sensitive. It may also become dry, a little flaky and take on a pinkish color. It typically takes two to three days for the skin to fully heal. During this time, it’s especially important to avoid sun exposure, scrubs, and strong cleaning agents. Using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher is recommended.

Using mandelic acid as an acne treatment may also result in purging, as clogged pores underneath the skin rise to the surface. In most cases, these pimples will go away within two or three days.

This is a 25% Mandelic Peel done on a client and the results over a period of 4 days

 

This is the Final Outcome of the 25% Mandelic Peel