Mandelic Acid Vs Salicylic Acid

woman in purple tank top applying facial tonic

Acids are tricky game, that we can all agree on . Mandelic Acid Vs Salicylic Acid is a much requested post and I understand why.

The notion of putting an ‘acid’ on your skin is pretty scary, especially if you’re new to the skincare game.

Why would we do it, why are there so many acids to choose from and how do you know which one you should use?

These are probably all questions you’ve asked yourself (which is why I’m assuming, you’ve ended up here) and they are extremely valid.

Questions like these are the reason I started creating posts on acids.

Read more on acids in skincare here.

What is an acid in skincare?

To give you a very quick synopsis of why we use acids, I want you to think about St Ives scrub, it’s pictured below.

It’s basically blacklisted in the skincare community. However, what I want you to think about is the way it feels.

If you’ve ever used it, you’ll be able to imagine the feel of the little beads. They are rough in texture and give you the feeling of scrubbing yourself clean.

This is called physical exfoliation. The aim of the game is to slough away dead skin cells, revealing your smooth skin underneath.

Well, when we talk about acids, the beads are invisible but they are doing the same thing. Using acids in skincare is chemical exfoliation.

(Well apart from hyaluronic acid. Read more on that here).

All of the acids you are confused by are working in the same way as those hard beads you find in physical exfoliants. They are drying to break bonds that hold dead skin cells and oils/dirt together.

It’s just that they can vary in strength, which means your skin can react in different ways. Lot’s of people find acids too irritating.

This can be easily remedied by adjusting which acids you use and at what concentration you use them.

So, what about mandelic acid vs salicylic acid?

Read mandelic acid vs lactic acid here.

Well, first we’ve got to understand what they are individually, before we can compare them.

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid. This means it is soluble in oil. It works by penetrating your skin and dissolving the bonds holding skin cells together.

It is routinely prescribed as a treatment for many kinds of acne. The reason’s for this can vary but it is centred around that fact that it can penetrate skin deeply because it is oil soluble.

Depending on the kind of acne you have, different forms and percentages of salicylic acid can be administered by a dermatologist.

It’s also a popular OTC ingredient, but this means you need to monitor how your skin is reacting to it yourself.

If your skin is showing any signs of irritation, it’s best to stop using it.

The bottom line is salicylic acid has the ability to bind to oil break through the build-up of bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells in the pore lining, dissolving them.

This unclogs pores and can help prevent breakouts from happening. Meaning it is a masterful exfoliator for those of you who have more serious skin problems you want to treat.

Read more on salicylic acid here.

Mandelic acid

This acid is on the other end of the hydroxy acid spectrum because it is an AHA. Also, known as an alpha hydroxy acid.

These types of hydroxy acids differ from their beta counterparts because of their chemical structure. This gives them slightly different characteristics.

One of these, is the notion that AHA’s are more gentle on skin than AHA’s. This is kind of true.

The reason for this thought is simple, AHA’s tend to be water soluble and do work on the surface of skin. This prevents them from going down into the epidermis and irritating you.

However, if you’ve used glycolic acid liberally you’ll know, your skin can be irritated by it.

Mandelic acid has the reputation for being gentle (more gentle than salicylic acid) for another reason. It’s a large molecule. This means, it penetrates the skin at a slower rate.

The uses of mandelic acid are the same as any other acid. It’s useful for treating wrinkles, fine lines, hyperpigmentation and even acne to some extent.

It just does it more slowly.

This is a trait which is useful for those with sensitive skin.

Read more on mandelic acid here.

Which one should I use?

Which acid you decide to use is very dependant on what your concerns are and how you skin will tolerate each acid.

It’s very difficult to determine what is right for you without trying them. Get a patch test for them, if possible.

If you can get your hands on one look for how your skin reacts. If it isn’t irritated by it, then it is a good place to start.

Once you’ve given the acid enough time to work (six weeks), take stock of whether your skin concerns are improving.

If they aren’t it may be worth trying something different or increasing the concentration of the chosen acid.

The key takeaway is that almost all acids do the same thing, however, the rate at which they achieve this varies.

You need to take into consideration two things. Can your skin tolerate it and are your skin concerns improving?

By using these two guidelines, you’ll find the right acid for you eventually.

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