Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner Review—A Dual Acid Formula

We tested out this dual acid formula to see if it can exfoliate and soothe skin

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Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner

Joline Buscemi

Toners come with all sorts of benefits, depending on which one you choose. The the Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner is known for  its pore-tightening ability, but it does so much more than that.

The two stars of this product are right there in the name: PHA and BHA. These are two acids that have benefits ranging from exfoliation to hydration. BHA is “great for those with more pore congestion or acne or oily skin,” explains Jenny Liu, board-certified dermatologist. PHA, while lesser known, is what makes this product both effective but not harsh. “PHA is a class of hydroxyacids but are much bigger in size compared to glycolic acid, so it’s more gentle, ideal for those with sensitive skin looking for exfoliation, but also they are great humectants and can work as antioxidants,” says Liu. Basically, PHA provides the benefits of harsher exfoliating ingredients, but without the negative side effects.

But it’s not just these active ingredients that make the Glow Recipe toner worth it. Watermelon isn’t in the name alone, it’s actually used in the formula, along with ingredients like cactus water and hyaluronic acid. “These are great humectants that can help hydrate skin,” says Liu, creating a more hydrating toner. Plus, “it smells lovely,” says Liu, “and a part of that sensorial experience does influence one's enjoyment of a skincare production.” We love that this formula contains ingredients that exfoliates, tightens pores, and hydrates skin.

I started by applying this toner once a day after cleansing, but when I found it left behind zero irritation, I added it to my morning routine, too. It has a consistency of “thick water” so it was easy to apply with my hands.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner

Joline Buscemi

I’m very familiar with intense toners and peels that sting skin, but this one felt nothing like that. There is absolutely zero burning or tingling, instead, this toner actually feels soothing. The most immediate standout feature is how good it smells: like real, fresh fruit, without any of the fake sweetness watermelon fragrance tends to have. Initially, this toner feels more like a hydrating product rather than one that can tighten pores or exfoliate skin. But I noticed that despite skipping my usual retinoids and more aggressive exfoliants, my skin stayed just as soft and free from blemishes. Throughout the day, my skin never erred too oily or too dry, and while it was subtle, it definitely kept my pores clean and tightened.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow BHA + PHA Pore-Tight Facial Toner


Shop now: Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner, $34

PHA is just becoming more popular in skincare ingredients, but it’s a welcome addition to a pool of exfoliants that are typically irritating and overly abrasive. PHA is perfect for those with sensitive skin who might have avoided acid exfoliants in the past, since its larger molecule size means it doesn't penetrate skin as deeply but it still has benefits like removing signs of sun damage. It even has some hydrating properties. BHA, or salicylic acid, is a bit stronger but still generally well tolerated. This is where the pore-tightening benefits come from, since salicylic acid penetrates pores and clears out excess sebum. Meanwhile, the toner’s hydrating ingredients keep the formula from being too drying.

My skin is mostly normal, but it leans oily and acne-prone. My skin can handle harsher products, but that doesn’t always mean that’s what it needs. I prefer to use gentler formulas like this one, that exfoliate without stripping skin. This is a product that I can use twice a day and see not only clearer skin, but also more hydration. For my skin type, I would still want to occasionally incorporate something stronger for time periods when my skin felt congested.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner

Joline Buscemi

Although you can use this product twice a day, I started with less frequent application despite the gentle formula, just to make sure that my skin wouldn’t react. This is an especially good idea for those new to acid toners. I also applied this toner with my hands since I hate to waste product or cotton pads. It’s slightly viscous which means it won’t drip everywhere with careful application.

Value: Perfectly priced

There are two sizes for this toner: a large 150ml bottle for $34, and a smaller 40ml for $15. The math is obvious — the larger size will get you more of your money’s worth, but if you just want to sample the toner, the smaller bottle may be a better choice. Either way, this feels like two products in one: an exfoliator and a moisturizer. This makes it even more valuable for the price. 

If you want to save, a PHA toner from The Inkey List is an affordable way to try the ingredient, and comes in at half the cost. The bottle is slightly smaller though, and the formula lacks the robust mix of hydrating ingredients that Glow Recipe’s has.

For about the same price, iNNBEAUTY PROJECT Down to Tone Resurfacing Acid Toner has an even larger mix of exfoliating acids. This can be ideal to target a number of different skin conditions, however it comes with one caveat: it can be more irritating. Those with sensitive skin will find the Glow Recipe toner is better tolerated.

The same AHA and PHA combination can be found in The POREfessional Tight 'n Toned Pore-Refining AHA+PHA Toner from Benefit Cosmetics. Not surprisingly, it comes with the same pore-tightening claims, too. But while it has some hydrating ingredients, it’s still not as gentle and sensitive-skin friendly as the Glow Recipe toner.

What You Can Expect to Pay

Toners are priced from around $12 to upwards of $75, with the majority sitting around $30 to $40. At $34 for the full size, this puts the Glow Recipe Watermelon Toner right where you can expect for most toners. Considering it has benefits of both exfoliating and hydrating, this makes the price worth it.

Final Verdict

The Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner claims to hydrate skin and tighten pores, and I’ve found that that’s exactly what it does. It gently exfoliates skin, and does so without the sting or irritation of other toners. Plus it’s so hydrating, it almost doubles as a moisturizer.

It might not be strong enough for some skin types, but those with sensitive skin or anyone looking for a toner gentle enough for twice a day use will find this is an effective and hydrating toner.

Meet the Expert

Jenny Liu, MD, FAAD is a  board-certified dermatologist and skincare expert who specializes in anti-aging skincare. She helped advise this review by explaining the effect two acids, PHA and BHA, can have on your skin.

  • How do you use Glow Watermelon Toner?

    Glow Watermelon Toner can be used directly on the face after cleansing, and applied via hands (my preferred method) or with a cotton pad. It can be followed by sunscreen, moisturizer, or the next step in your skincare routine.

  • What are the benefits of using Glow Watermelon Toner?

    Glow Watermelon Toner contains ingredients that exfoliate, tighten pores, and hydrate skin. BHA and PHA are both acids that exfoliate skin. PHA is a gentle exfoliator with hydrating properties, and BHA is a stronger acid that penetrates pores and gives the toner the pore-tightening ability.  Hyaluronic acid helps skin retain moisturizer, while watermelon and cactus water add hydration.

  • Can I use Glow Watermelon Toner everyday?

    Glow Watermelon Toner can be used everyday, even twice a day if your skin tolerates it, says Liu. It can be a good idea to start slowly to observe how your skin handles the formula.

  • How often should I use Glow Watermelon Toner for best results?

    You can use the toner as often as your skin tolerates it — using too often may result in irritation that can set back your results. A survey conducted by the brand showed results after two weeks of daily use.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Joline Buscemi is an experienced beauty writer with bylines in HuffPost, HelloGiggles, and Glamour.  She’s been reviewing products for Byrdie since 2020 and specializes in skincare.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Edison BL, Green BA, Wildnauer RH, Sigler ML. A polyhydroxy acid skin care regimen provides antiaging effects comparable to an alpha-hydroxyacid regimen. Cutis. 2004;73(2 Suppl):14-17.

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