The All-Star of Skincare Acids Right Now: Mandelic Acid

young smiling woman touching the clear skin on her cheek

Everyone is getting more comfortable with our skincare routines and is curious about their prospective next steps. Maybe you're not even at the next step in your skincare routine, but you're wondering what you can do to establish the reversal of some signs of aging. Have you been fighting a losing battle with acne or even aggravation that comes with sensitive skin types, oily skin, or dry skin? Stick with us, and we'll show you how skincare acids like mandelic acid can change your skincare routine and your skin, thereby changing your life! The acid may seem scary, but with perfectly measured and dosed onto your skin, a skincare acid may be gentle enough to use on the most sensitive skin. Don't worry; we'll break it all down here for you. From what a skincare acid is and what it does for your skin to what you can use in conjunction with and what you should steer clear of while using each skincare acid. So, get comfortable while we spill all the secrets to perfect skin.

What Makes Up Skincare Acids?

Before we even get into that "juicy" stuff that you're indeed hanging on to the edge of your seats for, you may want to know what the hydroxy acids are and why they're vital to your skincare routine. And to be honest, this stuff is pretty "juicy," too. Starting off, the names of these essential skincare acids, called hydroxy acids, are alpha hydroxy acid, beta hydroxy acid, and then polyhydroxy acid. There are more than these acids, but these are the main acid types for your skin. Most skincare acids work as exfoliants by dissolving your dead skin cells and generating new skin cell development (like collagen production). Some work harder by acting as a humectant wherein the skin gets moisturized, and that moisture gets locked into your skin for fast-acting and long-lasting nourishment. By knowing a little about how skin care acid works, you can rest easy on the science and medical technology from which they're formed.

Essential Cell Cycles and Metabolic Pathways of All Skincare Acids

You need to know that the way the skincare acid is born is purely biological and medically studied at length. Highly accredited scientists and dermatologists who go to great lengths to ensure the success of each skincare acid before it ever gets manufactured fully understand the anti-aging medicinal scene. This is the science behind acid: they have studied three different cell cycles to manufacture these incredible skincare superheroes. The Krebs cycle naturally occurs in your body by releasing stored energy through chemical reactions. Outputs of the glycolic cycle make this cycle. The glycolic cycle is a metabolic pathway by which the body's internal organisms extract energy to host the conversion of glucose into pyruvate and lactate and other events like ion transport or protein synthesis. The third biological process is the biosynthesis of serine. In layman's terms, the biological three-step process yields serine. Serine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning it can process entirely in the body to bind to the water, to act as a moisturizing agent for your skin, like a humectant like hyaluronic acid or mandelic acid, perhaps.

Now, let's find out how skin cells use these biological processes to give you back your youthful glow.

The Hydroxy Acid Way: Understanding the Behavior of Skincare Acids

The thing about alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid is that they're vital skincare acids for anti-aging skincare and makeup. You'll find a plentitude of makeup, body lotions, serums, toner, and toner pads, facial moisturizers, facial peels, facial and body cleansers, spot treatments, and cream moisturizers and oils containing acid. Also, you'll find a ton of expert blends of alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid in some treatments. You can safely use these treatments as long as you go by your skin type. That means you need to know your skin type. It's also recommended that you get a board-certified dermatologist to help you with the best way to use these skincare acid treatments. If you're using treatments other than acid, it's best to set up a treatment plan that eliminates any adverse reactions to the signs you're trying to correct. If you go it alone and find that your skin has reacted badly, quit the treatment. Then, after the skin has cleared, use the acid treatment less than once a week and build from there. Sometimes, especially with dry skin and sensitive skin types, you want to slowly build your relationship with any new skin treatment—like monumentally slooooow.

Alpha Hydroxy Acid & Beta Hydroxy Acid in Skin Care

After that, hopefully, you see that the disclaimers and the typical behavior of the skincare acids are very similar to many other topical skincare products. Only the anti-aging and anti-acne superhero here is second to none for correcting fine lines and wrinkles, dark spots, acne, scar rehab, sagging skin, and clogged pores (comedogenic). The skincare acid does this through gentle exfoliation. The plant-derived skincare acids are in two groups: alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid.

Alpha Hydroxy Acid

Alpha-hydroxy acid is general because different acids target specific yet similar skin concerns, like malic acid derived from apples. We love malic acid for its skin brightening superpowers and incredible ability to even the texture of the skin. Next, glycolic acid, derived from sugar, is a sure winner of all the skin concerns by the best exfoliation, which promotes skin cell turnover, allowing collagen production to occur naturally. The lactic acid produced by soured milk and tomatoes has the exact superhero makings of glycolic acid, like treating dark spots, hyperpigmentation, age spots, and the dull, uneven complexion that comes with aging. Still, it is a milder compound than glycolic acid. Alpha hydroxy acid is a wide range of acids including, but not limited to, kojic acid, ferulic acid, and azelaic acid to treat many skin issues from plantar warts to seborrheic dermatitis.

Exfoliating Acne Pads
$23.95 ($0.24 / Count)

by Neutralyze 

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Neutralyze Rejuvenate Toner Pads

Neutralyze resurfacing and toning pads are an excellent tool for warriors battling oily and acne-prone skin. With 2% salicylic acid and 2% mandelic acid, these textured wipes get soaked in the acne-clearing skincare acids to conquer not only your acne but also skin texture and tone. Fight fine lines and discoloration from aging, and brighten your complexion. With acne out of the picture, the dual-sided pads will address your post-acne marks and fade the scars that acne has left behind. And the pads are non-comedogenic and will stave off future breakouts with continued use for oily skin and acne-prone skin types. The Rejuvenate toner pads are highly esteemed skincare acid products and have appeared in magazines like Elle, Marie Claire, and Vogue.

Maximum Strength 2% Mandelic & Salicylic Acid Cleanser
$9.95 ($1.99 / Ounce)

by Neutralyze 

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Pair it With Neutralyze medical-grade acne face wash for a double whammy on your oily or acne-prone skin. The face wash has the same 2% salicylic and mandelic acid to clear out the gunk that hosts the acne event. Live your life free from acne and worry about future breakouts. And the Neutralyze products come with an extensive money-back guarantee for all the skeptics. Try it. What do you have to lose?

A Five-Star Alpha Hydroxy Acid: Mandelic Acid

Among the acid is a semi-new skincare acid that is taking the cake. And, by "new," we mean that mandelic acid dates back to the 16th century (not for skincare), but it's found a revival in the skincare aisle more recently (in the mid-1980s). Mandelic acid combines safely with other alpha hydroxy acid forms and specific beta hydroxy acid forms to bring you the most targeted skin concern treatment. They make mandelic acid from bitter almonds and primarily have been the focus of acne treatment. However, the almonds have a hydrating and firming effect that you can't dismiss. So, mandelic acid is the queen of acne zapping yet is an effective treatment for aging skin. The water-soluble acid is the perfect follow-up to a freshly washed face so that the acid has moisture to eat up, giving you the most efficacy.

Mandelic Acid 5% Skin Prep Water


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By Wish Trend Mandelic Acid 5% Toner

By Wish Trend toner isn't necessarily just a toner, but you can use it as such. The 5% mandelic acid skin water is an expertly blended "water" to enhance the strength of the mandelic acid. Hydrating elements Panthenol, Centella Asiatica Extract, and Beta-Glucan offer a great deal of moisture after the gentle exfoliation of the acid peel is done. The product can be a start-off point in your skincare routine, but steer clear of other skincare acids that aren't mandelic acid. Remember that mandelic acid is naturally gentle enough to use on sensitive skin types, making this product perfect for all skin types—even oily and dry skin.

Vitamin 75 Maximizing Cream
$14.00 ($7.95 / Fl Oz)


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Pair it With By Wish Trend Vitamin 75 Maximizing cream for a lovely hydrating effect after the 5% mandelic acid toner/peel. The light moisturizer features 75% of Vitamin Tree water in place of plain water to offer many vitamins and minerals to your skin. With the enriched vitamins C and E, you can beat dull tired-looking skin with the finishing cream. It's safe for all skin types and tones, but the oily, combination and sensitive skin types will find this cream especially beneficial.

Body Clearing Serum Level 2

by Almond Clear 

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Almond Clear 15% Mandelic Acid for the Body (Level 2)

Almond Clear Mandelic Acid here is a miracle in a bottle for things like hyperpigmentation, dull and uneven skin, and ingrown hairs (folliculitis). The 15% mandelic acid formula is anti-acne, anti-aging, and anti-photoaging and will brighten and clear your skin in no time. This pure skincare acid is safe for sensitive skin types and works wonders for dry skin, too!

Face & Body Clearing Serum Level 1

by Almond and Clear 

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Pair it With Almond Clear Mandelic Acid 10% Level 1 is the best compliment to the body clearing formula because of its lowered strength, specifically for the delicate skin on your face. Although the mandelic formula is targeted for the skin on the face, the low-strength option can still be a very effective skincare acid for your body. Levels 1 and 2 of the mandelic acid formulas make an unstoppable duo for an unstoppable beautiful you.

Mandelic Acid vs. Glycolic Acid

First, let's see why we compare these two alpha hydroxy acid types in the first place. They're both very water-soluble and get the job done with exfoliation. However, the molecular structures of each are the polar opposite of one another. While glycolic acid has undeniable benefits, its molecules are vastly smaller than that of mandelic acid. Mandelic acid wins by its larger molecular structure that ensures that it doesn't penetrate the skin as deeply as glycolic acid. Mandelic acid's limited depth of exfoliation makes it less irritating and more receptive to the skin. This is a game-changing exfoliating acid for all the sensitive skin types needing corrective action against their dull and uneven complexion, UV damage to the skin, hyperpigmentation, scarring, fine lines, and inflammatory acne.

Bright Boost Resurfacing Facial Exfoliator
$9.98 ($3.84 / Fl Oz)

by Neutrogena 

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Neutrogena Bright Boost Micro Resurfacing Polish

The best example of these two skincare acids (mandelic acid and glycolic acid) teaming up to bring forth all your skin offers is the Neutrogena Bright Boost micro-resurfacing polish. The mandelic acid goes below the skin's surface to do its work without disturbing the sensitivities. The glycolic acid goes above and beyond to double the removal of old dead skin cells and replace the skin cells with bright and awake ones. The gentle micro resurfacing treatment uses chemical and physical exfoliation to cleanse and resurface with three times the polishing power as other face scrubs with the power to even out uneven skin tone and texture in just one wash. The micro resurfacing polish is safe for everyday use on all skin types and tones. It is non-comedogenic, oil-free, and alcohol-free and can reduce the appearance of pores and lighten dark spots in just one wash.

Bright Boost Brightening Moisturizing Face
$19.99 ($11.76 / Fl Oz)

by Neutrogena 

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Pair it With: Why not step up your face skin game with the Bright Boost Illuminating Serum and Bright Boost Gel Cream? These two additions to your skincare routine will ensure a glowing complexion and visibly improved skin tone and texture that will grow with regular use. Remember that these skincare acids are water-soluble. So follow your micro resurfacing wash with serum and gel cream and let it absorb completely before applying your makeup or the Bright Boost broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen & moisturizer, and take on the day with a new face and new attitude!

Beta Hydroxy Acid

While beta hydroxy acid and alpha hydroxy acid are remarkably similar in their effects as remarkable skincare acids, they have different compounds. Of course, we all know what salicylic acid is capable of for an oily skin type. Salicylic acid is made from the bark of willow trees. It treats all areas of the skin ranging from dandruff struggles to comedogenic (ability of a skincare or makeup product to clog your pores) battles we all have faced at one point in time. But what if you discover that the FDA doesn't recognize salicylic acid as a BHA because the cosmetics industry recognizes it, and we know salicylic acid as a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA)? The acid has many names like silicate, sodium salicylate, and willow extract. Beta hydroxy acid forms are threthocanic acid, tropic acid, and beta hydroxy butanoic. And citric acid is sometimes called a beta hydroxy acid in the cosmetics industry, although we primarily recognize citric acid as an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). However, the benefits are the same betwixt the two forms of skincare acid with different strengths and ideal candidates based on their skin type.

Polyhydroxy Acid in Skin Care

Ah! Alas, a gentler chemical exfoliant than ever, the polyhydroxy acid, or PHA for short. Polyhydroxy acid, while technically an exfoliant, acts more like a humectant in the grand scheme of things. The prime example of a polyhydroxy acid is or can be noted in the behavior of hyaluronic acid. That's because hyaluronic acid is a polyhydroxy acid. When the polyhydroxy acid takes on the properties of a humectant, it binds with the water available in your skin to restore elasticity and fill in fine lines. During the gentlest chemical exfoliation, the acid is simultaneously coming to the rescue with moisture and goes to work, plumping the skin for truly radiant and lively results. The most common humectants of polyhydroxy acid are hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, glycerin, and polyglutamic acid. And here are the most common types of polyhydroxy acid, gluconolactone, galactose, and lactobionic acid. The PHAs are gentle enough to treat things like rosacea and extremely sensitive skin issues.

Stubborn Blackheads Daily Acne Facial Serum

by Neutrogena 

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Neutrogena Stubborn Blackheads Daily Serum

What you get with the super-advanced blend of alpha hydroxy acid, beta hydroxy acid, and polyhydroxy acid is clear skin and advanced healing of scars and marks left on your skin from acne. Neutrogena Stubborn Blackhead serum is gentle enough for daily use and strong enough to give you back your looks. The proprietary blend of 0.5% salicylic acid, 5% glycolic acid, and 2.5% mandelic acid will resurface and brighten your face. In comparison, the humectants in the 2.5% polyhydroxy acid will be a helping hand in erasing stubborn scars from your skin. The daily use will yield immediate results and long-lasting results.

Pair it With: You already know that Neutrogena doesn't put just one fantastic product on the shelves! No, you must know this Stubborn Blackhead Serum is only one product in an entire collection of acne-fighting products. To begin with, we recommend the Stubborn Acne Face Wash (medical grade) to use in conjunction with one another. There's also a Stubborn Marks scar recovery gel and a few products that any kind of acne-prone skin or oily skin needs to rope that flawless skin back in.

Two Types of Exfoliation

Since we've mentioned a type of exfoliation a time or two now, perhaps it may serve some good to quickly divulge the details of the two types of exfoliation in skincare. What makes chemical exfoliation different from physical exfoliation is how they work to, you guessed it, exfoliate your skin. Both modes of exfoliation can be gentle, and both might be hazardous to your skin's health. So, let's do a quick run-over of the two types of exfoliation.

Chemical Exfoliation

Chemical exfoliation is using skincare acids in a chemical peel, scrub, etc., to break down the binding of your skin cells. This process helps remove the old dead skin cells, unclog and reduce the size of pores, fight acne, and much more to reveal brand-spanking-new skin cells that are undeniably radiant and better than the last. Peel, baby, peel!

Physical Exfoliation

Physical exfoliation, or mechanical exfoliation, thought soon to be a thing of the past, with chemical exfoliation and other gentler means of exfoliation have made it onto the market. Anything you have used to exfoliate your skin like a scrub brush, washcloth, microdermabrasion, and even dermaplaning is considered physical exfoliation. Chemical exfoliation is a gentler means of exfoliation than physical exfoliation. How could a chemical be less harmful to our skin? Well, we're a lot rougher on our faces than we realize!

Retinoic Acid and Trichloroacetic Acid: Powerful Acid?

First, the question is whether retinoic acid is a vitamin, a hormone, or an acid? And the short and the long of it is: yes, yes, and yes. Retinoic acid is a carboxyl acid derived from fermented vinegar. The skincare acid group that retinoic acid belongs to is esteemed as the most advanced and effective skincare acid for anti-aging benefits. Retinoic acid shares this group with a popular acid peel acid referred to as TCA. TCA stands for trichloroacetic acid, and once initially applied, it keeps resurfacing the skin a week later. Now, why do they call these skincare acids the most powerful?

Chemical Peel Neutralizer

by Divine Derriere 

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Divine Derriere PH Balanced Neutralizer (Post Acid Peel Spray)

Divine Derriere post-acid peel spray offers a neutralizing and balancing spray with chamomile and green tea extracts. The active ingredients work to calm the burning or stinging, inflammation, and irritation of your skin after a chemical peel and bring your skin back to a PH. The PH balanced neutralizer spray is perfect for use following a lactic acid, glycolic acid, mandelic acid, and salicylic acid peel. It is even more significant after a TCA or Jessner chemical peel. Divine Derriere spray is fast-acting, used and loved by professionals, and made in the USA. It is free from parabens, phthalates, alcohol, and sulfates and is non-PEG.

Glycolic Acid 40% Pro Strength Alpha Hydroxy Acid Skin Peel

by Divine Derriere 

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Pair it With Divine Derriere's 40% Glycolic Acid professional grade chemical peel for the ultimate anti-aging skincare acid power, or go a step beyond and try the big boy, the 70% Glycolic Acid chemical peel by the same brand name. The 70% glycolic acid is a pro-grade chemical peel to treat acne scarring, hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, and all the skin concerns associated with aging. Check their Amazon store for more alpha-hydroxy acid wonders.

Vitamin A or Retinol for Skincare?

Most people can easily assume that retinoic acid is the same as retinol, and they'd be almost right. The thing is that retinol is a subsidiary of the skincare retinoic acid, but the acid is the one that's capable and effective all by itself. The retinol form is only as good as its ability to turn into actual retinoic acid on your skin, whereas the retinoic acid is naturally ready to use. With the skin cell growth and regrowth factor, you can count on RA, or retinoic acid, to slay precancerous age spots (actinic keratosis), wrinkles and fine lines, and acne. At the same time, it sparks collagen regrowth, a skin revival, and pore renewal, among other magical new beginnings for your skin.

These Skincare Acids Will Transform Your Skin

If you haven't been paying attention, this is the bottom line: these skincare acids will completely transform your skin, self-image, and life! Don't get intimidated by the word acid. It's nothing to fear. Either stick with the mandelic acid or buy a collection from a well-known and trusted brand to ease the anxiety. You've got this! Now, let your beautiful light shine.

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