Since exfoliation became an essential step in a basic skincare routine, we’ve turned to alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). Among the 5 alpha-hydroxy acids, one particular acid has been exceptionally helpful for gentle skin exfoliation. And that is glycolic acid. Glycolic acid has a unique ability to penetrate the skin faster and deeper than other AHAs. The best glycolic acid toners give you a very practical way to incorporate this acid into your skincare routine.
Glycolic acid promotes cell turnover by exfoliating the upper layer of the skin. By doing that, glycolic acid brightens your complexion, fades dark spots and scars, refines pores, softens the look of lines and wrinkles, and gives you an overall glowing complexion.
So what does a glycolic acid toner do? A glycolic acid toner offers you a gentle but steady exfoliation in your skincare routine. It’s a practical way to incorporate exfoliation into your daily routine as opposed to exfoliating treatments, which are to be used weekly.
Before moving on to your serums and creams, you can use your glycolic acid toner to make your skincare routine more targeted. The least it can offer is to remove dead skin cells from the skin so your upcoming skincare products absorb better.
So whether you’re dealing with acne or hyperpigmentation, ahead are the best glycolic acid toners to get glowing skin.
The Best Glycolic Acid Toners
Keeping it simple and straight to the point, this glycolic acid toner by The Ordinary has all the basics. Besides the 7% glycolic acid, it has aloe and ginseng to soothe irritation. Tingling and a tiny bit of irritation are expected when you apply any type of acid on your face. The calming properties of aloe will prevent that from happening. The highly concentrated glycolic acid retexturizes the skin for a smoother, brighter, and softer complexion without irritating the skin. It’s affordable, oil-free, fragrance-free, and an overall effective glycolic acid toner you can utilize for any skincare routine and any skin type.
Concentration: 7% Other Ingredients: Aloe, ginseng. Skin Type: Normal, combination, acne-prone. Size: 8 oz/240 ml
Benefits: Exfoliates, brightens. Good To Know: Oil-free, alcohol-free, fragrance-free, vegan.
Similar to The Ordinary, this one combines glycolic acid and aloe to give you an irritation-free experience. Additionally, this one contains grapefruit extract as an antioxidant. Gentle exfoliation, soothing, plus the antioxidant add glow to your skin. The toner gets rid of the dead skin cells, cleans out any built-up debris in clogged pores, and shrinks them in size to reduce their visibility. It purifies the face and gives you a radiant and more youthful look.
Concentration: 3% Other Ingredients: Aloe, grapefruit extract. Skin Type: Normal, combination, dry. Size: 8 oz/236 ml
Benefits: Gently exfoliates, and brightens. Good To Know: Alcohol-free, contains fragrance.
When talking about a glycolic acid toner for acne, you need to branch out a little. Glycolic acid alone is not enough to treat acne. It does help reveal smoother skin, but if you want to get rid of acne, look for salicylic acid. Salicylic acid does pretty much what glycolic acid does. But additionally, it is super helpful in decongesting the skin, unclogging pores, and controlling excess oil production.
Salicylic acid is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory too. This one utilizes both acids. That’s why this is one of the best drugstore glycolic acid toners for acne. It gives you a healthier complexion by deeply exfoliating the skin. It keeps the pores clean to treat acne as well as to prevent it. If you have oily skin, let me introduce you to the best salicylic acid toners. They work best for oily skin.
Concentration: 2% Other Ingredients: 0.5% salicylic acid, grapefruit extract. Skin Type: Oily, acne-prone. Size: 6.76 oz/200 ml
Benefits: Exfoliates, unclogs pores. Good To Know: Oil-free, fragrance-free, contains alcohol.
If you need a glycolic acid toner because of dark spots and hyperpigmentation, this is it. First of all, in addition to glycolic acid, this one has lactic acid. Among all hydroxy acids, lactic acid has the largest molecular size. This makes it less penetrating, but less irritating as well. That’s why it’s perfect for sensitive skin. But more importantly, the toner contains phytic acid as well as licorice extract. These two help brighten the skin. So besides exfoliating, you strengthen your hand against dark spots with this one and reduce their appearance significantly. The toner has a subtle vanilla scent. And it instantly wakes up dull and dehydrated skin. And it gives you a radiant, glowing complexion with improved texture and reduced breakouts.
Concentration: Unknown. Other Ingredients: Lactic acid, licorice, witch hazel. Skin Type: All. Size: 6.5oz/190ml
Benefits: Exfoliates, evens skin tone, reduces hyperpigmentation. Good To Know: Alcohol-free, contains fragrance.
A cult-favorite toner that lives up to its name is brought to you by Pixi. It’s been loved from day 1. It’s a non-drying face toner that has all the good stuff we’ve been talking about. Besides glycolic acid with a concentration of 5%, it has aloe vera and ginseng to prevent inflammation. It cleans out any residual makeup sitting in pores. And it freshens up your complexion instantly! It’s alcohol-free so it’s pretty gentle on the skin. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with this one. And the reason is that I can comfortably use it as often as daily! It’s an overall gentle formula and my personal favorite glycolic acid toner.
Concentration: 5% Other Ingredients: Aloe, ginseng, amino acids, vitamin B5. Skin Type: All. Size: Comes in different sizes.
Benefits: Exfoliates, brightens, hydrates. Good To Know: Alcohol-free, contains fragrance.
If you have dry skin, or mature skin, which tends to be dry too, this glycolic acid toner is for you. Because even though it’s an exfoliating toner, the formulation is genius. It’s made with a polyhydroxy acid, namely gluconolactone. Polyhydroxy acids are super gentle on the skin, but more importantly, they hydrate the skin. So while getting rid of dead skin cells and dull-looking skin, you can achieve plumper skin too. And the toner has hyaluronic acid, cucumber, and aloe to ensure that. The glycolic acid toner energizes and brightens your look and gives you a luminous complexion.
Concentration: Unknown. Other Ingredients: Gluconolactone, aloe, hyaluronic acid, cucumber. Skin Type: All. Size: 6.7 oz/200 ml.
Benefits: Gently exfoliates, and hydrates. Good To Know: Contains alcohol and fragrance.
This one is a deal! All of the above at a better price! Not surprisingly, though. Because The Inkey List has been making a lot of good stuff available for very reasonable prices. This toner has a whopping 10% glycolic acid topped with witch hazel. It removes dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, reduces excess oil with witch hazel, and gives a smooth, bright, and radiant complexion. So if you’re on a budget, this is one of the best glycolic acid toners considering the ingredients and the bargain.
Concentration: 10% Other Ingredients: 5% witch hazel. Skin Type: Normal, dry, oily, combination. Size: 3.4 oz/100 ml.
Benefits: Exfoliates, minimizes pores. Good To Know: Contains alcohol.
This one is a great multi-tasker for oily and aging skin. The glycolic acid toner has a concentration of 8% to lift off dead skin cells that cause dullness and congestion. The deeply penetrating formula is fragrance-free and oil-free, and really gets in there and cleanses the skin. It detoxifies the skin and promotes skin turnover while improving the look of pores. The result is cleaner and smoother skin with a more even tone.
Concentration: 8% Skin Type: Oily, combination, acne-prone. Size: 3.4 oz/100 ml.
Benefits: Exfoliates, minimizes pores. Good To Know: Fragrance-free, contains alcohol.
A much-underestimated toner that is completely budget-friendly is by E.l.f. Let’s just say that the marketing of it is unfortunate. This toner uses glycolic acid, witch hazel, and aloe to gently resurface the skin. It brightens the complexion and makes the skin more radiant by conditioning it. It transforms the skin by getting rid of dullness, blemishes, and pigmentation.
Concentration: Unknown. Other Ingredients: Aloe, witch hazel. Skin Type: Normal, dry, oily, combination. Size: 5.1 oz/150 ml.
Benefits: Exfoliates, brightens. Good To Know: Alcohol-free.
Last but not least, a treatment glycolic acid toner for tired-looking skin. It fights congestion, enlarged pores, dullness, uneven skin tone, and textured skin. Add this exfoliating toner into your skincare routine and get your daily dose of a light peel. Use regularly to speed up cell rejuvenation to get bright, smooth, and glowing skin. It’s alcohol-free. So it won’t dry your skin. It’s the opposite. It’s packed with hydrating and soothing goodies like sodium PCA, vitamin B5, and aloe.
Concentration: Unknown. Other Ingredients: Witch hazel, allantoin, vitamin B5. Skin Type: Oily, acne-prone. Size: 4 oz/120 ml.
Benefits: Exfoliates, hydrates, decongests. Good To Know: Alcohol-free, contains fragrance.
So these are some of the best glycolic acid toners you can use for hyperpigmentation, acne, or anything that requires exfoliation to get rid of.
You can use a glycolic acid toner daily. But remember to take a break if you think your skin is becoming more sensitive.
Additionally, make sure your skin is dry before you apply your glycolic acid toner. Otherwise, it can be more irritating for your skin.
And lastly, remember that hydroxy acids make the skin more prone to sunburn. So wear SPF daily. And avoid layering your glycolic acid toner with other acids in the same routine.
Read Next: The Best Glycolic Acid Creams and Lotions