Two acids that are often recommended for sensitive skin are mandelic acid vs azelaic acid but which one is right for your skin?
In this post, we’ll break down the differences between mandelic acid vs azelaic acid to help you determine which one is the right choice for your skin type.
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What Is Mandelic Acid?
Mandelic acid is a chemical exfoliant that’s often used as a gentler alternative to glycolic acid.
Chemical exfoliants increase the rate that your skin naturally exfoliates itself by breaking down the bonds that hold your dead skin cells together which makes it easier for them to be shed from the surface of your skin.
There are three main types of chemical exfoliant; alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), and polyhydroxy acids (PHAs).
Mandelic acid is an AHA made from bitter almond extracts. It has a high molecular weight (large molecule) which means that it penetrates your skin more slowly than other AHAs like glycolic acid and lactic acid.
Benefits Of Mandelic Acid
There are a number of ways that mandelic acid can benefit your skin, including:
- Treating existing acne
- Preventing new acne
- Controlling oil production
- Exfoliating your skin
- Boosting collagen production to improve fine lines and wrinkles
- Hydrating skin
- Reducing hyperpigmentation/dark marks
- Preventing bacteria growth
- Reducing inflammation
As it is quite gentle, mandelic acid sometimes needs to be combined with other AHAs or BHAs to increase its effectiveness. However, on its own it’s a great option for sensitive skin.
Best Products With Mandelic Acid:
What Is Azelaic Acid?
Azelaic acid is a natural substance that is produced by the yeast that live on healthy skin and found in grains like wheat and barley.
It’s a dicarboxylic acid that has gained popularity in recent years due to its ability to address a variety of skincare concerns.
Similar to mandelic acid, azelaic acid is also a gentle exfoliant that can help to improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of uneven skin tone.
Benefits of Azelaic Acid:
- It reduces inflammation
- It improves redness and rosacea
- It removes dirt, bacteria, and oil from pores
- It’s antibacterial
- It can improve the appearance of acne and acne marks (post-inflammatory erythema/hyperpigmentation)
- It prevents melanin synthesis which helps brighten skin and reduce dark marks/hyperpigmentation
- It reduces skin sensitivity
- It improves skin texture
Best Products With Azelaic Acid:
Mandelic Acid vs Azelaic Acid
One of the main differences between mandelic acid vs azelaic acid is in their molecular structure. Mandelic acid is an AHA while azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid.
Both have a higher molecular weight than other acids (e.g. glycolic acid) which means that they take longer to penetrate your skin and are less likely to cause irritation.
There isn’t a lot of research comparing mandelic acid vs azelaic acid but one study did look at how each ingredient affected oil production.
As you age, your skin produces less oil which can leave it feeling dry and rough. Increasing oil production can help correct this but too much oil can lead to breakouts.
Research suggests that both azelaic acid and mandelic acid increase oil production but only outside of the T-zone which may help improve the condition of aged skin without increasing the risk of breakouts.
AHAs, like mandelic acid, have been shown to boost collagen production and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Although azelaic acid hasn’t demonstrated an ability to increase collagen production, its antioxidant effects may help prevent premature wrinkles by neutralizing free radicals.
Both mandelic acid vs azelaic acid have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which makes them useful ingredients for treating acne. However, azelaic acid has been more widely researched and has more evidence backing its effectiveness for treating acne.
Mandelic acid is probably a more effective exfoliant and is suitable for sensitive skin due to its high molecular weight. However, azelaic acid has been shown to reduce skin sensitivity and is often used to treat sensitive skin conditions, like rosacea.
Azelaic acid also acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor to reduce melanin production and prevent uneven skin tone, hyperpigmentation, and dark marks.
Overall, azelaic acid is the better option for treating acne, pigmentation, rosacea, and facial redness but mandelic acid is the better option for exfoliating skin, improving skin texture, and improving fine lines and wrinkles.
How To Use Mandelic Acid vs Azelaic Acid
Both mandelic acid vs azelaic acid can be found in a variety of products like serums, creams, and moisturizers.
Azelaic acid can be used 1-2 x a day but mandelic acid should only be used 1-3 x per week to prevent over-exfoliation.
Both ingredients should be applied to clean and dry skin as applying them to damp skin can increase the risk of irritation.
Due to its exfoliating effect, mandelic acid is best used in the evening as that’s when your skin’s natural cellular turnover and renewal rate is highest.
Azelaic acid can be used AM and PM, but if you’re only using it once a day or are using an exfoliant, like mandelic acid, in the PM, it’s best to use azelaic acid in the AM. Especially as it can act as an antioxidant to help protect your skin.
Always remember to wear sunscreen every day, especially when using chemical exfoliants, like mandelic acid, as they can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.
Mandelic Acid vs Azelaic Acid: The Bottom Line
If you have sensitive skin and are thinking of adding mandelic acid vs azelaic acid into your skincare routine you may be wondering which is best.
The answer is that it depends on what other skin concerns you’re dealing with. If you’re looking to treat acne, rosacea, or hyperpigmentation, then azelaic acid is the better choice. However, if you’re looking to improve fine lines, wrinkles, and skin texture, then mandelic acid is probably the better choice.
You can also add both ingredients into your routine by using azelaic acid in the AM and mandelic acid in the PM. Just make sure that you only introduce one ingredient at a time, regularly moisturize your skin, and always wear sunscreen.