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Pixi Glow Tonic is my top pick for the best glycolic acid toner. It brightens my skin and leaves it noticeably smoother. It’s 5%, alcohol-free, and suitable for all skin types.
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.
In case you’ve missed our glycolic acid guide, here’s the recap! 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 (1).
So what does a glycolic acid toner do? A glycolic acid toner offers you 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.
Best Glycolic Acid Toners
1. The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
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.
2. Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner
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.
3. La Roche Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner
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. 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.
4. Ole Henriksen Glow2OH Dark Spot Toner
If you need a glycolic acid toner because of dark spots and hyperpigmentation, this is it. First, this one has lactic acid in addition to glycolic 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.
5. Pixi Beauty Glow Tonic
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 the 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.
6. Exuviance HydraPrep pH Balance Toner
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.
7. The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Toner
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.
8. Neostrata Oily Skin Solution
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.
9. E.l.f. SuperSmooth 4% AHA Toner
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. Because of its low pH, it’s gentle for all skin types.
10. L’Oreal Revitalift 5% Glycolic Acid Peeling Exfoliating Toner
This is a new launch from L’Oreal and it’s pretty similar to Pixi Glow Tonic considering the ingredients. It’s 5% glycolic acid topped with aloe. Its water-like consistency absorbs super fast and there’s no immediate irritation or redness. It also packs vitamin B5 to soothe and glycerin to hydrate. It instantly leaves the skin looking fresh and feeling energized.
11. Proactiv Revitalizing Toner
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.
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. If you haven’t found what you’re looking for, keep reading to learn how you can.
What To Look For in a Glycolic Acid Toner
Glycolic acid toners vary between 5% and 10% in concentration. As someone with sensitive skin, I can say that 5% is a good concentration where you can collect all the skin benefits without irritation. If you have very sensitive skin, consider lower concentrations. If the toner doesn’t disclose the concentration of glycolic acid, you can assume that it’s on the lower side.
Look for other ingredients in your glycolic acid toner to achieve maximum results. If you have acne, look for salicylic acid, or other anti-inflammatories such as witch hazel in your glycolic acid toner. Other hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin, and soothing ingredients such as aloe and green tea can help you customize the formula to better suit your skin’s needs.
A glycolic acid toner, when formulated with sensitive skin in mind, can feel super gentle on the skin. So pay attention to the formula. Go for alcohol-free toners to avoid drying your skin. Go for fragrance-free glycolic acid toners if you have sensitive skin. Additionally, exfoliating toners work best when the pH is below 3.5 (2). But that’s usually irritating to the skin. Higher pH levels make it easier for the skin to tolerate the ingredient, allowing you to use it consistently.
- Moghimipour E. (2012). Hydroxy Acids, the Most Widely Used Anti-aging Agents. Jundishapur journal of natural pharmaceutical products, 7(1), 9–10.
- Narda, M., Trullas, C., Brown, A., Piquero-Casals, J., Granger, C., & Fabbrocini, G. (2021). Glycolic acid adjusted to pH 4 stimulates collagen production and epidermal renewal without affecting levels of proinflammatory TNF-alpha in human skin explants. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 20(2), 513–521. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.13570
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