Mandelic acid is a superstar of an ingredient that most people don’t know about. It’s commonly skipped over in product formulations for stronger, faster acting acids, which is why many people don’t know about it – there are very few products that include it.
This is a real shame considering its many skin benefits and gentle nature. Mandelic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (like glycolic acid or lactic acid) that is derived from almonds and is larger in molecular weight than other AHAs. This causes it to absorb more slowly, which makes it much more gentle that traditional AHAs, and an ideal exfoliator for sensitive skin.
Like other chemical exfoliators, mandelic acid also increases cell turnover, prevents the formation of clogged pores/acne, reduces hyperpigmentation, and provides anti-aging benefits such as stimulating collagen production. It’s a killer ingredient that I can’t get enough of, and if you have sensitive skin like mine, I 100% recommend you give it a try.
That being said, finding a high-quality serum, toner, moisturizer, or really any product with mandelic acid on its ingredient list that isn’t obscenely expensive is a challenge. The large majority of products are subpar, poorly formulated, contain a dismal concentration of mandelic acid, and are downright not worth the money. To help you avoid having to waste your hard-earned cash, I’ve made a list of some of the best products that include mandelic acid that don’t break the bank. I hope it’ll help you find your next holy grail skincare item!
1. The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA
This is perhaps the most well-known product on this list. The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA is a simple and affordable mandelic acid serum then I have no qualm recommending to anyone and everyone. It’s got an effective, barebones formulation with ingredients such as:
- 10% mandelic acid
- Sodium hyaluronate (Also known as hyaluronic acid, a substance that is naturally produced by the body and integral in keeping our skin hydrated. When applied topically, it acts as a humectant and absorbs moisture from its surroundings like a sponge, helping skin retain water.)
- Glycerin (another humectant that helps hydrate the skin and keep hold of moisture)
- Tasmanian pepperberry extract (has potent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties)
Does it have a bad formulation? Absolutely not. Is it the best on this list? Also not, but if you’re on a budget, this is the product I’d recommend for you because the others can get pricey. This is a simple and effective product that does its job. And, to be honest, that’s not surprising considering it’s a product created by The Ordinary, a brand who prides themselves on creating affordable, minimalistic skincare.
2. Naturium Mandelic Topical Acid 12%
If you’re looking for a mandelic acid serum with a little more oomf than The Ordinaries, this topical treatment made by Naturium is an awesome alternative. It’s got a higher concentration of mandelic acid paired with a ton of other great ingredients, and contains a particularly high amount of fruit extracts. Some of the formulations best ingredients include:
- 12% mandelic acid
- Niacinamide (A form of vitamin B3 that plays an important role in supporting/maintaining skin barrier health. It also regulates oil production, treats hyperpigmentation, reduces redness, and so much more – it’s an amazing ingredient.)
- Sodium hyaluronate (Hyaluronic acid)
- Bilberry fruit extract (A fruit similar to blueberries that is high in antioxidant compounds and has anti-inflammatory properties.)
- Sugar cane extract (Often used as a humectant, and like many other fruit extracts has trace amounts of AHA’s.)
- Sugar maple extract (contains trace amounts of AHA’s)
This is a nice, affordable serum that offers a bit more than just mandelic acid. Its formulation is solid, but I will say that if you have sensitive skin, this product may be a bit harsh due to the high concentration of mandelic acid and fruit acids, so keep that in mind.
3. Vivant's 8% Mandelic Acid 3-in-1 Serum
First and foremost, this product is quite a bit pricier than the others on this list, so if you aren’t willing to spend a pretty penny, I’d skip this one. Now that that’s out of the way, I love Vivant’s 8% Mandelic Acid Serum and its formulation. I have a weakness for lactic acid, it just does wonders for my skin, and this serum checks all the right boxes. Its ingredient list includes:
- 8% mandelic acid
- Lactic acid (An alpha hydroxy acid that, like its other AHA siblings, exfoliates, increases cell turnover, and stimulates collagen production. But, unlike other AHA’s, lactic acid also helps keep the skin hydrated, making it a better exfoliating option for those with sensitive and/or dehydrated skin.)
- Urea (An ingredient often used to treat conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It has mild exfoliating properties and is both a humectant and an emollient.)
- Sodium PCA (a superb humectant)
- Inositol (another superb humectant)
- Glycine (an amino acid that works as a moisturizer)
If you’re looking to treat acne, fade hyperpigmentation, or reduce texture, this serum will work exceptionally well due to its combination of mandelic acid, lactic acid, and niacinamide.
4. Neutralyze Renewal Complex Cream
If you’ve got extremely dry or dehydrated skin that doesn’t tolerate exfoliation well, a mandelic acid moisturizer might suit you better. That being said, as of this moment you don’t have a lot of options. I could only actually find one reasonably priced, well formulated mandelic acid cream, and it’s this one made by Neutralyze. I haven’t tried this product, but I do use this brand’s mandelic acid cleanser almost every day to ward off bacne, and I swear by it.
I’m not the only one who loves this brands products either – they’ve got all kinds of raving reviews on many websites, Amazon included. The cream is formulated with 1% mandelic acid and 2% salicylic acid, which happens to be the same formulation as their cleanser as well. The low concentration will help ward off irritation, but at the same time will warrant slower results, so keep that in mind.
I will say that for me the combination of mandelic acid and salicylic acid works extremely well on my stubborn body acne, better than either acids do alone. Neutralyze’s product line is also very affordable, which can’t hurt.
5. WISHTREND Mandelic Acid 5% Toner
This toner is, by far, my favorite product on this list. That’s not saying anything bad about the other products either – it’s just that good.
WISHTREND’s Mandelic Acid 5% Skin Prep Toner has a cult following worldwide, and I’m not surprised why. Everything about it is amazing – it’s ingredient list is obscenely good, it’s gentle enough to use on virtually any complexion, and it’s got a long and successful track record of treating acne and hyperpigmentation.
I have sensitive skin and often reach for this toner (or azelaic acid) on my off days from tretinoin, and I really truly cannot say enough good things about this product. It doesn’t leave my face or decollette feeling irritated like most acids do, it works just as well as a hydrating toner as it does an exfoliating toner, and as I said before, it’s formulation is phenomenal. Some of its star ingredients include:
- 5% mandelic acid
- Licorice root extract (One of the best ingredients for treating hyperpigmentation. It inhibits the production of an enzyme needed to produce melanin and helps remove excess melanin already present.)
- Panthenol (This is one of my top three favorite ingredients of all time. It’s a pro-vitamin that our bodies convert to vitamin B12, and it has soothing, anti-inflammatory, and wound healing properties. Products heavy in this ingredient have saved my skin more times than I can count, and if you have easily irritated skin that is worsened by exfoliation or retinol/retinoid use, I sincerely recommend you take a look at this product. It’s one of my holy grails and I use it every morning and night.)
- Centella asiatica extract (Also known as gotu kola, this ingredients contains potent antioxidants, is a rich source of amino acids, and has wound healing properties that are hard to rival.)
- Sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid)
- Beta-glucan (has antioxidant and skin soothing properties, and is particularly good at reducing redness)
- Houttuynia cordata extract (An all-around great ingredient that is very common in Asian skincare. It helps controls sebum production and refines pores, among other things.)
- Hydrolyzed collagen
Those are just some of its many great ingredients. 10/10 would buy again and recommend.
Those are all of the mandelic acid products that I have found and would recommend. I’m sure there are more awesome products that I don’t know about, so if there’s one that you love that I didn’t mention, feel free to let me know about it in the comments below.
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Hi, I'm Ash!
I’m a travel blogger who loves experiencing new things and deeply connecting with people. My missions are to help others around the world realize their travel dreams, and to spread the word about sustainable travel. Feel free to send me a message here.