Skincare Stacy

Skincare Stacy
Mandelic Acid vs Lactic Acid

Mandelic Acid vs Lactic Acid

While lactic is stronger than mandelic, both acids can help with hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone.

If you’re a beginner with exfoliating acids, you should try out using mandelic acid in your routine before lactic.

On the other hand, if you have resilient skin and are dealing with issues like acne scars and skin texture, try using lactic acid in your evening routine 2-3 times per week.

This article will explain everything you need to know about mandelic acid, lactic acid, and how to use them in your skincare routine.

What is mandelic acid?

Naturium Mandelic Topical Acid 12% and Box

Derived from bitter almonds, mandelic acid is a chemical exfoliant also known as an alpha hydroxy acid.

It has benefits like:

  • Brightening dull skin

  • Reducing dark spots

  • Fighting acne prone skin

Because it has a relatively large molecular size, mandelic is considered to be more suitable than other alpha hydroxy acids for people with sensitive skin.

What is lactic acid?

Lactic acid is another alpha hydroxy acid used for chemical exfoliation.

It is slightly stronger than mandelic acid though not as strong as glycolic acid.

Similar to glycolic acid, lactic acid serums can:

  • Fade acne scars

  • Help with improved skin texture

  • Support a healthy skin barrier

  • Gently exfoliate your skin

Further, because of its molecular structure, lactic acid has moisturizing properties and can help with skin dehydration.

Overall, it is a powerful and versatile tool in skincare with plenty of applications for different skin types.

Lactic Acid vs Mandelic Acid

Naturium Mandelic Topical Acid 12%

Both mandelic acid and lactic acid are alpha hydroxy acids used to speed up turnover of dead skin cells and treat skin texture.

They have similar benefits, but there are significant differences between them as well.


Lactic acid typically has a bitter smell while mandelic acid tends to have less of an odor. Granted, this is anecdotal evidence, and you may find that neither has a smell at all.


Both mandelic acid and lactic acid have similar exfoliating benefits and can help with:

  • Uneven skin tone

  • Brighter skin

  • Acne scars

Further, they can both help improve skin texture.

That being said, because mandelic acid is somewhat structurally similar to beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid, it is more effective at unclogging pores.


Both lactic and mandelic acids are weaker than glycolic acid.

That being said, lactic acid molecules are still smaller than mandelic. Therefore, lactic acid is stronger and able to penetrate deeper into your skin.

Side Effects

Because lactic acid is stronger than mandelic, it is more likely to cause side effects like skin irritation.

You can reduce your chances of developing irritation by adjusting the frequency of your exfoliating products.

Additionally, using a good moisturizer and a hydrating serum with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin can help protect your skin barrier.

Skin Types

Because mandelic acid is more gentle than lactic, it may be more suitable for people with dry skin or sensitive skin.

Alternatively, because lactic acid is stronger, it may be more suitable for people with oily skin.

Lactic Acid vs Mandelic Acid for Hyperpigmentation

Youth to the People Mandelic Acid Superfood Unity Exfoliant

Both mandelic and lactic acids are suitable to treat dark spots.

Because lactic acid is stronger, it may be more effective at treating hyperpigmentation than mandelic acid.

That being said, if lactic acid is so strong that it causes your skin to develop irritation, then you run the risk of developing further hyperpigmentation.

In that case, you may choose to try out a mandelic acid serum as it is more gentle than lactic acid.

How to Use Mandelic Acid and Lactic Acid

The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% Serum

To use exfoliating acids in your evening skincare routine, follow these steps:

  1. First, wash your face with a gentle cleanser

  2. Apply 3-5 drops of either mandelic or lactic acid serum

  3. Gently rub in the serum

  4. Wait 1-2 minutes for the acid to fully absorb

  5. Finish off with a layer of your favorite moisturizer

That’s it! Simple, right?

Can you use lactic acid and mandelic acid together?

No, you should not layer lactic acid and mandelic acid on top of each other.

If you would like to use both lactic acid and mandelic in your skin care routine, try using them on different nights.

Be sure to patch test first and make sure to reduce frequency if you develop any irritation.

Should I use mandelic acid or lactic acid?

If you’re new to using exfoliating acids or have sensitive skin, start out with mandelic acid.

Alternatively, if you have acne scarring and more resilient skin, you may benefit from trying out lactic acid.

Remember, you can always upgrade to lactic acid after you’ve proven that your skin can handle mandelic first.

Summary: Mandelic vs Lactic Acid

Biossane Squalane + 10% Lactic Acid Resurfacing Serum

Both mandelic and lactic acid are alpha hydroxy acids used in skincare for chemical exfoliation.

While mandelic is gentle and suitable for people with deeper skin tones and sensitive skin types, lactic acid is slightly different.

Lactic acid is stronger and more suitable for people dealing with oily and acne prone skin that is more resilient to chemical exfoliants.

Each acid is unique, but both can help with concerns like:

  • Acne scarring

  • Dull skin

  • Skin texture

Try out adding one of these acids into your routine and see if they work for you!

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