8 Best & Worst Mandelic Acid Serums & How They Work

Did you know that not all mandelic acid products are good? Mandelic needs to be in a good formula for it to truly do great work. So, let’s break down some of the best and worst mandelic acid products, and let’s review what mandelic acid actually is. 

What is mandelic acid?

Mandelic acid is an AHA, but it’s a very special AHA. Firstly, the molecule is relatively small which means it can penetrate the skin deeply and evenly. But, even though the molecule is small, it’s not as small as glycolic acid which can be overly potent for some people's skin. 


In addition, mandelic acid is compatible with both water and oil which makes it even more effective on a variety of skin types. It works for people who have oily skin and want an exfoliating and hydrating acid. At the same time, mandelic acid is great for people who have dry skin too. Mandelic acid is very special because it not only helps to exfoliate and even skin, but it can also help with hyperpigmentation without being melanotoxic. More simply, mandelic acid does not damage “melanin-producing cells.” Likewise, it has the potential to work notably well for those with richly melanated skin. It can also work well for redness and dark spots. 

How should you use mandelic acid?

Mandelic acid is best used at night, but regardless of AM or PM use,  you’ll need a sunscreen in your routine since mandelic acid exfoliates. If the product has a small percentage of mandelic acid, you might be able to use it during the day though. Mandelic acid comes in a variety of products such as washes, face masks, and serums. But, Cassandra prefers treatment products that stay on the skin as opposed to a cleanser like the one below.

NIP + FAB Charcoal + Mandelic Fix Cleansing Bar -$15.99

This charcoal cleansing bar was a disaster. While Cassandra loves Nip + Fab as a brand, but this was not a potent product. Firstly, Cassandra was not sure about how much mandelic acid the cleansing bar actually had. This is mainly because her skin did not feel exfoliated or refreshed after using it. She also felt as though soap scum was left on her face. There was also charcoal left in her pores and residue left in the shower. This is not what Cassandra expects from Nip + Fab. This was disappointing because bar skincare already does not have the best reputation within the esthetics and skincare industry. However, please know that not all bar skincare products are bad. 

Allies of Skin Mandelic Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum 

As mentioned before, Cassandra likes treatment products that stay on the skin. This way, they have ample time to be effective. This serum from Allies of Skin is a decent serum, but it's still at the bottom of Cassandra’s list. While it’s a decent serum, Cassandra doesn’t think it’s worth the price. There are other mandelic acids that work way better for a cheaper price. And when it comes down to it, she simply can’t justify the price of this product.  As for the ingredients, the formula contains mandelic acid, rose hip, salicylic acid, and niacinamide among many other ingredients. B

ut given this, Cassandra feels like they threw too much into the formula – so much so that the mandelic acid wasn’t able to do its job to the best of its ability. The pros do outweigh the cons though, and it could be a dream come true for someone who struggles with pigmentation and can’t use other AHAs. It could be worth every penny for someone else. But, for Cassandra, it just wasn’t worth $100. To her, the combination of salicylic, lactic acid, and antioxidants just kind of took away from the Mandelic acid. 

Face Reality Mandelic Face and Body Wash 

This body wash is awesome for acne-prone skin. It has green tea, it’s hydrating, and it’s a good wash. But again, mandelic acid works better as a leave-on treatment. For mandelic acid to work, it needs to absorb into the skin. Then, it can  exfoliate over time, bring brightness, help with retexturing, and help with acne. This is a good body wash, especially if your skin doesn’t do well with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid and you’re struggling with acne, or you have dry skin and acne. Cassandra thinks it’s worth every cent.

Face reality is fantastic, and if you struggle with acne and haven’t tried their products, you need to try some. 

WISHTREND Mandelic Acid 5% Skin Prep Water - $19.28

Next, Wishtrend is a K-beauty retailer that has a variety of great items at great prices. They also have their own brand and line of great products. For example, their skin prep water is very gentle and easy to use, especially before sunscreen. This formula is skin-refreshing, and it is not overwhelming or irritating to the skin. In addition to mandelic acid, this formula has licorice. Licorice helps with pigment and uneven skin. If you get little red marks after blemishes, hyperpigmentation, or sunspots, this is absolutely fantastic. But, not everyone’s skin is the same. So, remember to patch test before using new skincare.

When Cassandra uses this, she likes to pour this product onto her hands and press it into her skin. Cassandra would recommend this product to anyone who struggles with pigmentation. Overall, this works well for those who want a straightforward serum that is easy to pair with sunscreen too.

SELFLESS BY HYRAM Mandelic Acid & Rice Bran Gentle Exfoliating Serum -$20.50 

When Cassandra first tried this two years ago, she wasn’t sure if she was the biggest fan. But, once you get it out of the cumbersome packaging, it works pretty well as a pore reducer. When Cassandra used it, she did see a difference on her nose. It’s gentle enough to use during the day and periods of irritation. This is a very gentle mandelic acid serum that you could use during the day on sensitive skin. And even though this has a bit of salicylic acid, they didn’t overdo it, and you could still wear it with sunscreen. Thus does not overexfoliate, and it also works well for those who are beginners to skincare.

Another great thing about this formula is the rice bran. Rice bran is super hydrating because it has beta-glucans that retain moisture. And when you have a damaged skin barrier, retaining moisture is very important. So, this is a very decent choice even though it’s not Cassandra’s favorite. 

The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA 

This is one of the best  fragrance-free Mandelic acid serums that Cassandra has come across. For how effective it is, it’s a great budget option too. It’s very potent and a little oily so Cassandra would suggest only using it at night. You should also use it at night because of the hyaluronic acid, When you use it at night, the HA a chance to bind onto moisture from the other products in your routine. And from there, it pulls the hydration deeper. Likewise, you’ll probably need to layer this product with others to make the hyaluronic acid works. That’s why Cassandra wishes there was a version without hyaluronic acid.

Face Reality 8% L-Mandelic Serum 

L-mandelic acid is a more stable form of mandelic acid, and it can gently and effectively be absorbed into the skin. In regards to this Face Reality Serum, a little goes a long way. This is potent, effective, but gentle. If you struggle with pigmentation, especially acne, this is one of the best choices. If you need a bit more oiliness in your serums, go with the one from The Ordinary. 

THE INKEY LIST Mandelic Acid Treatment - $11.99

This is like a spa treatment on the skin. It is hydrating, effective, anti-pigmentary, and anti-acne. For the price, this is the best mandelic acid option. Cassnadra also loves that this treatment has jojoba oil. Jojoba mimics our skin’s natural oils, and it helps to strengthen the skin barrier. On top of that, this has rice bran. And as we mentioned before, this rice bran has beta-glucans that help to hydrate the skin. If you were to wear this during the day, sunscreen is a must and a hat would be optimal. Otherwise, just use it at night. This is great, especially if want to avoid over-exfoliating.

Overall, there aren’t a lot of mandelic acid skincare products out there So, Cassandra kind of feels like this ingredient is an unsung hero of skincare!