Skincare Stacy

Skincare Stacy
Mandelic Acid vs Salicylic Acid

Mandelic Acid vs Salicylic Acid

While salicylic acid and mandelic work differently, both acids are effective to treat acne prone skin and break outs.

If you’re more concerned about clearing acne scarring than treating acne, then you’re better off including mandelic acid in your skincare routine.

On the other hand, if you’re more concerned with oily and acne prone skin or blackheads, then you should include beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid in your routine.

Additionally, both acids are suitable for people with sensitive skin.

This article will explain everything you need to know about exfoliating acids.

What is mandelic acid?

The Inkey List Mandelic Acid Treatment

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

  • Turning over dead skin cells

Because it has a relatively large molecular size, mandelic is more gentle than other alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid or lactic acid.

What is salicylic acid?

Murad Deep Relief Acne Treatment

Salicylic acid is an exfoliating acid and popular active ingredient commonly found in skincare products.

Also known as a beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid is the gold standard in treating acne and clogged pores thanks to its fat soluble nature.

Generally, salicylic acid is better suited for people with sensitive skin than other acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide.

You will commonly find salicylic acid products like cleansers and toners to treat textured skin and blackheads.

Mandelic vs Salicylic Acid

Colleen Rothshild Mandelic Acid Radiance Serum

While mandelic and salicylic are both considered exfoliating acids, there are some important differences.


Generally, mandelic acid is considered more mild and suitable for people with sensitive skin than salicylic acid.

That being said, because they are structurally different types of acids, it is difficult to compare their strength.


Both mandelic and salicylic acid can help with getting rid of skin texture and treating inflammatory acne.

That being said, they are likely not strong enough treatments for treating cystic acne which is better managed under the care of a dermatologist.

Side Effects

Both mandelic and salicylic acid have the potential to cause dry skin, irritation, and redness.

However, you can reduce your chances of developing these side effects by:

  • Reducing the frequency of use

  • Using moisturizers and hydrating serums

Overall though, mandelic and salicylic acid tend to be better tolerated than stronger acids like lactic acid and glycolic acid.

Skin Types

Because of their lipophilic nature, both mandelic and salicylic acid are suitable for people with oily skin concerns like acne.

At the same time, mandelic acid can provide some benefit for people with mature skin by fighting signs of premature aging.

Additionally, mandelic acid exhibits antifungal and antibacterial properties and may be more suitable for people with sebhorreic dermatitis than salicylic.

Is mandelic acid oil soluble?

Youth to the People Mandelic Acid Superfood Unity Exfoliant

Yes, mandelic acid is slightly lipid soluble.

While it is considered an alpha hydroxy acid, it has some structural similarities to beta hydroxy acids.

Therefore, mandelic acid acts similarly to salicylic acid and can help with oily skin concerns like excess sebum production.

Can you use mandelic acid with salicylic acid?

Allies of Skin Mandelic Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum

No, you should not layer salicylic and mandelic acids on top of each other due to the risk of developing irritation.

If you want to use both acids in your skincare routine, consider using them on different nights.

Just be sure to patch test first and monitor your skin for any signs of irritation. If you develop side effects like redness or itchiness, reduce the frequency with which you use chemical exfoliants.

Summary: Mandelic Acid vs Salicylic Acid

Naturium Mandelic Topical Acid 12%

In conclusion, mandelic acid is a better chose for people dealing with dull and mature skin while salicylic is better for acne prone skin.

That being said, due to the fat soluble nature of mandelic acid, the two offer similar benefits for people with acne.

Overall, both salicylic acid and mandelic acid products can be valuable additions in your skincare routine.

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