Shopping Product Reviews

9 Mandelic Acid Products To Add To Your Skin Care Routine

Buzzy skin care trends come and go, and for beauty enthusiasts like myself, it’s always interesting to see which active ingredients are on the rise. When HuffPost first reported on mandelic acid about two years ago, it was still a relatively unknown alpha-hydroxic acid.

This chemical exfoliant — which works to slough off dead skin cells and can make skin appear smoother and more even in tone — has only continued to grow in popularity ever since, going from a niche ingredient found primarily in aestheticians’ offices to a must-have that can be found in popular brands like Paula’s Choice.

In HuffPost’s previous coverage, dermatological nurse and celebrity aesthetician Natalie Aguilar explained that it is one of “the most gentle alpha-hydroxy acids,” since it has “a larger molecule structure than other acids, such as glycolic acid. This allows the molecule to stay on the outer surface of the skin, which creates a gentle subsurface exfoliation.”

It’s ideal for people like myself with sensitive, acne-prone skin who want the benefits of mild resurfacing without the risk of stripping the skin of its natural moisture barrier. Its antibacterial properties help to prevent, treat and heal breakouts, leaving skin soft and fresh.

I love to alternate it with retinol — it can help to slough off the dead skin cells that retinol quickly turns over, leaving skin nice and smooth. Just remember to be on top of your sunscreen usage, as AHAs like both mandelic acid and retinol can make your skin more sensitive to sun damage.

Below, we’ve rounded up the best skin care products with mandelic acid that are in-stores and online. Some have been around for a few years now, while others are new additions to the mandelic acid lineup. They’re available in a range of budgets so you can find the one that is best for your own needs.

HuffPost and its publishing partners may receive a commission from some purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently curated by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.

Sephora

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 6% mandelic acid + 2% lactic acid liquid exfoliant

This is one of Paula’s Choice’s newest products, and I’m thrilled to see my favorite AHA debut at such a prominent brand. It skews more toner than serum in texture, making it ideal for those who prefer a lighter formulation, without skimping on effectiveness. It combines mandelic acid and time-released lactic acid to reduce discoloration and get the most of these powerful ingredients. Yarrow extract and antioxidants round out this formula and help support both the skin’s microbiome and moisture barrier. I got my hands on a few little sample packets and my skin absolutely loved it. It is effective without being overly tingly or aggressive. Some reviewers noted that it has a distinct smell, but I have not found it to be overly strong or off-putting. If anything, it gives me reassurance that there are no essential oils in the formula to mask it, which can irritate sensitive skin.

Promising review: “Works great for my sensitive, acne prone, mature skin. The 2% BHA exfoliant was way too strong and dried my skin out so much. This one works perfectly for me and I don’t mind the smell, as other have mentioned. Yes, it stinks but as long as it works, that’s all that matters. I’m sure sensitive, acne prone skins would appreciate that it doesn’t contain fragrance. I wanted a chemical exfoliant that was gentle for daily use to remove my dead skin but didn’t irritate. I’ve tried so many (the ordinary, Clinique, Ren, Caudalie, ole henriksen just to name a few) but none worked for me. They either contained alcohol, essential oils or just was too strong). Would recommend.” — luvcj

Sephora

The Ordinary mandelic acid 10% + HA

If you’re interested in stronger formulations, then check out The Ordinary’s 10% mandelic acid serum. It gently exfoliates to help erase dullness and uneven texture, address lines, treat blemishes and more while hyaluronic acid keeps skin supple, hydrated and healthy.

Promising review: “I usually never write reviews, but I had to for this product. This absolutely changed the way my skin looks. I have hormonal acne and I heard mandelic acid is great for that and it is! I get amazing results overnight! Highly rec.” — AbbyLeah

Sephora

The Inkey List mandelic acid treatment

Best used as a spot treatment, The Inkey List’s fast-acting, targeted formula not only helps to exfoliate and treat breakouts, but it also reduces the appearance of hyperpigmentation and discoloration that can be left behind by blemishes. It pairs mandelic acid with hydrating glycerin and encapsulated retinol for powerful results at a low price point.

Promising review: “I’ve tried everything recommended by dermatologists for my severe acne but nothing helped. This product is a hidden gem and I haven’t heard many people talk about it. It not only helped with acne but also with dark spots.” — afas

Sofie Pavitt Face

Sofie Pavitt Face mandelic clearing serum

I’ve been using this serum since its arrival on the scene about a year ago and can attest to its gentle potency. It’s deliciously hydrating without feeling greasy and has been able to manage and keep my breakouts at bay. I’m thrilled with both the long- and short-term results — my skin feels soft, supple and smooth, and I rarely get breakouts. The longer I use it, the better my skin gets. I don’t think I’ll be able to quit this serum anytime soon. It’s more than earned it’s place in my regimen.

Promising review: “II am a 30 y.o. who has always struggled with acne. I’ve tried almost everything – benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, retinol, tret. This is the first product in a long time that I saw fast results from, with little irritation. I had a little dryness on my chin and nose, but other than that, my skin was clearer in one week!I am a 30 y.o. who has always struggled with acne. I’ve tried almost everything – benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, retinol, tret. This is the first product in a long time that I saw fast results from, with little irritation. I had a little dryness on my chin and nose, but other than that, my skin was clearer in one week!” — Kathryn M.

Amazon

By Wishtrend Mandelic Acid 5% skin prep water

More essence than serum, this toning water from By Wishtrend is formulated with mandelic acid alongside other moisturizing and soothing ingredients like centella asiatica extract, panthenol and beta-glucan. It gives you all the benefits of chemical exfoliation without drying your skin or disrupting the moisture barrier. Its lightweight formulation is ideal for those with oily skin.

Promising review: “Mandelic acid is a great exfoliator for those with more melanated skin like myself. This essence is a very gentle exfoliant and I use maybe once to twice a week. I love Korean skincare, as it is way ahead western skincare and they use cutting edge products. This essence leaves my skin soft, glowy and helps with removing pesky hyperpigmentation. I highly recommend this product.” — Dawn Ashwood

Target

Naturium mandelic topical acid 12%

This lightweight serum has a high percentage of mandelic acid along with niacinamide and other fruit acids. These ingredients work in tandem to brighten and exfoliate the skin, and can also give the added benefit of reducing fine lines along with other signs of aging.

Promising review: “I cannot really explain how much I love this serum. I have acne-prone, combination skin that leans toward the more oily side. I purchased this in combination with the Creamy Double Cleanse Duo and have seen better results than anything I’ve tried in the past. My oiliness is completely under control – COMPLETELY, and the brightness I see in my skin is a huge bonus that I didn’t expect. I’ve never experienced that in my life. I typically break out on my lower cheeks and jawline and I’ve had only one very minor breakout since using these products. I also use the cleansers once a day on my chest to combat my chest acne (caused from heat/irritation from oil/sweat and friction), and now my chest is clear and bright and soft! The redness throughout my face and chest is also gone! I will continue to purchase this!!!” — Anonymous

Dermstore

Allies of Skin mandelic pigmentation corrector night serum

While on the pricey side, this highly concentrated serum packs a major punch. It can help to speed up cell turnover, lighten dark spots, improve the look of breakouts and even reduce some common signs of aging. This hefty dose of mandelic, lactic and salicylic acids, plus peptides and bakuchiol — a natural form of retinol — can give the complexion a major boost improving elasticity, firmness, brightness and hydration.

Promising review: “This very gentle serum brings results quickly. I purchased this to fade sun damage, tighten up the look of my pores, and for general brightening. I’ve been using it for about a week, and I’m impressed with the smoothness and brightness of my complexion. I have a dark spot on my cheek that is really starting to fade The serum sinks in quickly. I recommend this, especially if you are trying to tackle more than one skin issue at once.” — Anonymous

Sephora

Hyper Skin gentle brightening gel cleanser with mandelic acid

While most brands utilize mandelic acid in the form of a serum or toner, Hyper Skin’s cleaner can help to unclog pores while soothing and resurfacing. It combines mandelic acid with licorice root, barberry and willow bark to help target dark spots, inflammation and breakouts. Just be sure to follow the directions and leave it on your skin for up to 30 seconds to get the full benefits of these yummy ingredients. Reviewers also noted that it works well as a second step when double-cleansing.

Promising review: “I wasn’t too impressed with this at first. For some reason I decided to read the instructions after several uses and saw that it says to leave for 30 seconds prior to rinsing. and, OH BOY did this make a difference. My skin has been noticeably smoother and brighter since then. Been using consistently for about 6 weeks now and I love it. I will absolutely be repurchasing.” — ladystig

Chemist Confessions

Chemist Confessions The Specialist blackhead exfoliation treatment

This unique treatment can be used in three different ways: as a nightly toner, a spot treatment or a weekly mask. It’s infused with a powerful combination of mandelic acid and salicylic acid that makes it a powerhouse for combatting oily skin and acne. It’s rounded out with niacinamide to ensure that your skin stays healthy, hydrated and smooth.

Promising review: “despite this product being targeted towards people with oily skin, I had a really good experience with it as a person with very dry, eczema-prone, and sensitive skin. this is one of the only exfoliants I’ve used (besides baby steps) that has produced results on my skin. it clears up breakouts and is also good at smoothing texture; i use it nightly by putting a drop in my moisturizer and it never stings or burns, which is often my experience with other hydroxy acid exfoliants. a true winner!” — Anonymous

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