Ingredient Spotlight

Mandelic Acid


Mandelic Acid is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid that has been gaining in popularity over the last decade or so. While not as well known as some other exfoliating acids like Salicylic or Glycolic, it boasts the widest range of benefits. Derived from bitter almonds and coming in the form of peels, serums, cleansers, toners, and scrubs – Mandelic Acid is anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial, exfoliating, and brightening. Quite the impressive list of benefits even compared to the widely known alternatives.

It gets even better from here with L-Mandelic Acid. This is the chirally correct form of the acid meaning its molecules are spinning left with the natural spin of the cells in the body. This allows receptors on those cells to better receive the acid, reducing the chance of reaction or irritation. Due to Mandelic Acid’s diverse skill set, it can be used to treat several different skin conditions. While being an excellent option for fine lines, texture, and pigmentation, Mandelic Acid is many estheticians “go-to” product for their acne client’s home care regimens.

For inflamed acne, the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits of Mandelic Acid help to calm and heal lesions.

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Whether you are treating noninflamed acne, inflamed acne, or Malassezia folliculitis (“fungal acne”) – Mandelic Acid has you covered. It’s a great option for those experiencing anything from mild to severe acne and is one of the best ingredients to use for acne clients that are a Fitzpatrick rating of 4+. Mandelic Acid has the largest molecular weight of all Hydroxy Acids allowing for slow and even absorption into the skin.

For inflamed acne, the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits of Mandelic Acid help to calm and heal lesions. Noninflamed acne is cleared by the exfoliating nature of the acid. Many clients you may see are likely experiencing combination acne – both noninflamed and inflamed lesions. Adding an ingredient like Mandelic Acid is the best way to combat the various lesions a client may have. It is extremely common for those experiencing acne to also develop post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from their lesions. Mandelic Acid is also a great lightener and brightener, especially when combined with something like Lactic Acid.

“Fungal Acne” has also been gaining traction on social media in recent years, especially as TikTok’s popularity grows. This skin condition is not acne at all, but another skin condition by the name of Malasezzia Folliculitis. It is one of the most common “acne imposters” and is also referred to as fungal folliculitis and pityrosporum folliculitis. Malassezia folliculitis and acne both occur in the pilosebaceous unit but unlike acne, which is caused primarily by retention hyperkeratosis, malassezia folliculitis is caused by an overgrowth of the yeast, malassezia. Some tell-tale differences to watch out for that make identifying fungal acne easier; it can “come and go”, has a rash-like appearance, and can often itch.

If you are performing a treatment on a client with folliculitis, you will not be able to extract a true core from the lesion as it will just be a watery substance. If you believe your client is experiencing malasezzia folliculitis either by itself, or accompanied by acne lesions, the anti-fungal benefits of Mandelic Acid can quickly help to get this skin condition under control. Depending on the area of the body, the clients skin type, and whether any acne lesions are present, including a mandelic wash, scrub, or serum will aid in the clearing process.

Depending on a client’s skin type and the skin condition that you are treating, the usage frequency may vary. For acne clients, especially those with a moderate to severe case, may use several forms of Mandelic Acid morning and night. While Mandelic cleansers and scrubs are great additions to a skincare routine, a Mandelic serum is going to have the biggest impact on the skin as serums are a targeted treatment product. You will also be able to find Mandelic Acid in varying strengths depending on what your client’s skin can handle.

Mandelic Acid is not only for the face either. It can be used to treat skin conditions on the body such as the chest and back. It is very common for athletes or those that work out frequently to experience acne or folliculitis lesions on various parts of the body. They may benefit from a Mandelic wash or scrub used daily. For those acne-prone individuals that also experience breakouts on the body, they may need more of an in-depth routine including a Mandelic serum.

In short, Mandelic Acid should be an integral part of every esthetician’s back bar and retail offerings. Make sure to research brands that you are interested in to ensure they provide adequate options and education.