Mandelic Acid vs Retinol

woman in white robe holding her face

Mandelic Acid vs Retinol? Which one is right for you? Can you use both? If these are questions that have crossed your mind lately, then you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve covered the topic of acids extensively and will continue to do so (because it is incredibly confusing and you have to be careful). To keep up to date with my posts subscribe here.

Or read more on acids here.

Now the boring stuff if out of the way, let’s get down to business.


Also know as Vitamin A, retinol is apart of a group of vitamin A derivatives in skincare, which include both prescription and over the counter products.

Retinol is the most commonly used Vitamin A derivative.

It is best known for its anti-aging properties. It can increase cell turnover, which in turn:

  • helps smooth fine lines
  • reduce’s the appearance of sun damage
  • helps in the management of dark spots
  • increases collagen production
  • unclog’s pores (one way it helps treat acne)

Retinoids are deeply beloved by dermatologists and skincare lovers alike. Why? Because used properly, it has a real ability to impact the skin.

Vitamin A is one of the most well researched skincare ingredients with the ability to help address photo aging and acne.

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One major drawback of retinol, especially when comparing to Mandelic Acid, is it’s ability to irritate your skin.

Many people are unable to tolerate retinol as it can cause redness, breakouts and skin sensitivity.

In this instance, retinol would not be the right ingredient for you to use. There are many ways to deal with this, which you can see here.

Mandelic Acid

Mandelic Acid (MA) vs Retinol would not be complete without, examining MA.

MA is a chemical exfoliator which breaks down the chemical bonds between our skin cells. In doing so, it exfoliates the upper layer of the epidermis.

This acid is popular for two very specific reasons. It is one of the most gentle AHA’s available and it can treat hyperpigmentation.

To read more about Mandelic Acid’s function click here.

Which should I use?

To decide which ingredient you should use, you must first consider your skin concerns and type.

If you want to treat acne, retinol is a good option. However, if you want to treat acne but have sensitive skin, it’s MA.

They are both beneficial for pretty much everyone. However, by using the process of elimination you can decide which one is right for you.

To give you one more example, if you want a good exfoliator you might consider retinol but if your skin can’t handle it, you’ll need Mandelic Acid.

As a general rule remember retinol is best for anti-aging and Mandelic Acid is best for acne and hyperpigmentation.

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