I'm a Beauty Editor, and This Is the One Skincare Ingredient I Rely on for Serious Glow

Ask almost anyone what outcome they are hoping to achieve with their skincare routine and there’s usually one word that comes up universally—glow. Yes, we’re all on a quest to achieve that elusive radiance, and there are plenty of skincare tools that can help. Glycolic acid is beloved for its ability to boost luminosity, salicylic acid sloughs away dead skin cells to reveal the brighter skin beneath, and LED face masks and chemical peels are surefire ways to get glowing skin on a bigger budget. However, if you have sensitive skin then lots of these routes to radiance may be a no-go due to the risk of irritation. And if that’s the case then listen up as you’ll want to hear about mandelic acid—the gentle exfoliating acid that experts predict will be everywhere in 2024.

Mandelic Acid: Claire Most with bright, glowy skin

What is mandelic acid and what does it do?

Much like its more popular sibling glycolic, mandelic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid. AHA’s are naturally-occuring acids (mandelic is derived from bitter almonds) that boast exfoliating properties. Unlike glycolic acid, however, mandelic acid is much more gentle in its nature. “Mandelic acid has a large particle size which means it causes less irritation and is gentler to the skin,” explains Dr Sonia Khorana, GP and Dermatology Expert. And the reason that it’s being touted as a great route to brighter skin is thanks to its exfoliating benefits—it sloughs away dead skin cells on the surface to reveal the more radiant, healthy skin beneath.

Without getting too bogged down in the minutiae of the science, there is one unique thing that sets mandelic acid apart from other AHAs—the fact that it becomes oil soluble once it slips beneath the surface of the skin. “AHAs are water soluble [meaning they penetrate through the skin’s natural oils] and can’t sink too far into the skin,” explains Heather Wish, Paula’s Choice Education Manager. “However, with mandelic acid, once it slips below the surface, it morphs and becomes oil soluble which allows for multi-layer results like evening tone, targeting and reducing the look of dark spots, smoothing skin tone and decreasing the look of fine lines and wrinkles.”

Mandelic acid: Joanna Coops with dewy skin

What’s the difference between mandelic acid and other AHAs?

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