The day I learned about the versatile glory of glycolic acid toners was the day my skin went from "eh" to "damn, girl." Skin-health experts agree that out of all the hundreds of buzzy skincare ingredients on the market, glycolic acid can always be trusted to keep breakouts, wrinkles, dullness, and congested skin at bay. "Glycolic acid is a must," comments Renée Rouleau, celebrity esthetician and Byrdie's go-to skincare guru. "It chemically nixes the cell buildup that leads to clogged pores and blemishes, and it's also an anti-aging mainstay."
There are several ways to incorporate glycolic acid into your routine—skincare brands work the stuff into their cleaners, lotions, serums, and peels—but one of our favorite ways to exfoliate is with glycolic acid toners. It's simple: You wash your face at night with a gentle cleanser, apply one of these glycolic acid toners with a toning pad (Rouleau's are my favorite), then follow up with your favorite serum and moisturizer. Couldn't be simpler. Especially since we rounded up the eight best glycolic acid toners on the market for every skin type. Read on to find the right one for you.
This tried-and-true glycolic acid toner is what Byrdie editors with combo and dry skin types reach for when all else fails. Its 2% glycolic acid concentration means it's gentle enough to use every day, even on sensitive skin, especially since the formula is packed with soothing aloe vera.
I once had the feeling of AHA's described to me as a "tolerable tingle"—enough of a zing to tell you it's working, but not so much that you feel like your face is going to melt off. With its double-duty combination of glycolic and lactic acids, a tolerable tingle is exactly what this trusty pick from DermaDoctor offers.
Glowing up on a budget? This cute and affordable skincare gem (which is conveniently available at Target and Urban Outfitters) has been a Byrdie go-to for years, especially for those of us with temperamental skin. Just ask our assistant editor Erin, who says, "Although it does offer a power-packed dose of exfoliating glycolic acid, it's gently balanced with other glow-intensifying ingredients like aloe vera and ginseng to keep the skin calm and clear, never red and angry. Simply put, it can't be beat."
SK-II is one of the Byrdie team's favorite high-end lines (and if you've ever given its famed sheet masks a try, you know why). The luxury Japanese brand pays top dollar to ensure its formulas are effective and proprietary, and this brightening toner is no exception. AHAs combine with "Pitera," an ingredient unique to SK-II that's rich in amino acids, vitamins, and organic acids to give the skin an extra dose of exfoliation. The product is also fragrance-, alcohol-, and animal cruelty–free.
An AHA toner new to the market comes from too-cheap-to-be-true skincare brand The Ordinary. Similar in formula to the Pixi pick, this product has a mild 7% glycolic solution, plus ginseng and aloe vera for radiance and soothing properties. The product just hit Sephora shelves and already has 40K loves, which speaks for itself.
This clarifying, antibacterial toner uses not only glycolic acid but also a willow bark extract to gently exfoliate and purify congested pores. Perfect for combo skin types or anyone whose pores tend to clog on them.
Another wallet-friendly option comes courtesy of Alpha skincare (which you can often find at Walgreens). Its refreshing, natural formula makes use of witch hazel, chamomile extract, and menthol (in addition to AHAs) to reduce redness and cool inflamed skin.
Dry skin types, this one's for you: Though the product will definitely exfoliate you to glowy goodness, it's also formulated with hyaluronic acid and aloe vera to make sure your skin is soothed and moisturized. Bonus: This stuff is also currently on sale at iHerb!
So… there you have it. Whether you're new to glycolic acid toners and interested in something gentle or are jonesing for a maximum-strength pore perfector, may this list of editors' picks be your guide.