The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
Refines skin texture
Gives visibly more radiant skin
Can be too strong for sensitive skin
The smell isn’t the most pleasant
The Ordinary Glycolic 7% Toning Solution is a powerful toner that exfoliates, refines skin texture, and boosts radiance. Priced at $10, you can give this product a try—and see results—without making a huge investment.
The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
We purchased The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution so our writer could put it to the test. Keep reading for our full product review.
Ever since it debuted, much talk has surrounded The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution—similar to just about every product The Ordinary puts out—for being an exfoliant that delivers prestige results at a drugstore price. As a fan of The Ordinary, I’m still amazed at how good their products are while being so affordable.
Up until recently, a liquid exfoliating toner was never on my radar. Since I’ve tried a handful of impressive products from The Ordinary over the years, I looked to the brand to try their toner out when I thought about using one. Intrigued by the ingredients, cost, and customer reviews, I wanted to see if this toner lived up to the hype.
Keep reading for my honest, full review.
Best for: Balanced, combination, and oily skin
Uses: Mild exfoliation, refining skin texture, boosting radiance
Potential allergens: Glycolic Acid, Triethanolamine, Sodium Lactate, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate
Active ingredients: Glycolic acid, Tasmanian Pepperberry, Amino Acids, Aloe Vera, Ginseng
About the brand: Founded in 2013 by Brandon Truaxe, his mission with DECIEM and the different brands under the company’s umbrella was to disrupt the beauty industry by being authentic and transparent. The brand creates unique, affordable skincare products.
About My Skin: Acne-prone, sensitive, combination with dark spots
With my sensitive skin and acne, I’ve had to be incredibly discerning about the types of skincare products I use. I usually react to products that are fragrant, formulated with active ingredients that are too strong, or have formulas that are too rich and hydrating. Because of that, I stick to what works: I use my CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser, the SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic Serum, the La Roche Posay Ultra Fluide Moisturizer, and the Elta MD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46 Sunscreen. I use a prescription retinol treatment every three days as well.
While my retinol treatment helps minimize the intensity of my breakouts, there are areas of my skin that are textured and bumpy, and I hadn’t found a liquid or physical exfoliant I could use consistently that didn’t irritate my skin. I wanted to see if the Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution could minimize the texture, as well as my hyperpigmentation. Board Certified dermatologist and educator at the Yale School of Medicine Dr. Mona Gohara notes that glycolic acid has several uses. “Those looking to rejuvenate [their skin] or add a glowy boost could benefit from glycolic acid, [and] also those [with] acne or uneven skin tone,” she says. Based on her insight, this toner sounded like a good choice to me.
How to Apply: Start slow
Following a patch test—a process of checking whether you’ll react to a product by testing it on your neck or arm for a day before you apply it directly to your face—I incorporated the toner into my routine slowly, something Dr. Gohara recommends doing. “Start by using one day a week, and work up gradually to enhance [an] even skin tone and glow, while reducing acne and wrinkles.” Following the brand's advice, I’d pour a bit of toner onto a cotton pad and swipe it across my face after cleansing my skin in the evening once a week for two weeks.
The Ordinary recommends using the toner in the evening. I made sure to load up on SPF in the mornings, because the brand advises my skin may be more sensitive to the sun after use.
The Feel: A lightweight liquid that feels comfortable
The toner feels really lightweight, similar to any other traditional toner I’ve tried. The product does have a slightly sour smell, but it’s fragrance free—there isn’t a scent to mask how the formulation smells as is, which I actually prefer. Once I finished applying the toner, I waited about a minute for it to completely absorb into my skin. I didn’t feel like there was any residue or film on my skin, but once my skin was dry, it felt a bit sticky. When I applied my moisturizer, the stickiness disappeared. Gohara advises that layering glycolic acid and retinol is a major no-no. “Use [it] separately from retinol products to avoid irritation,” she says. I decided to save my retinol treatment and vitamin C serum for other days in the week.
Ingredients: Potent and calming
Classified as an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), glycolic acid is used in exfoliating products that break down and slough off dead skin cells. This acid also helps to refine the texture of skin and reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, sun spots, and acne scars.
Tasmanian Pepperberry is often used in skincare as an anti-inflammatory ingredient, helping to calm the skin and lessen irritation.
The Results: Brighter, smoother skin after one use
Though I only managed to use the Glycolic 7% Toning Solution twice over two weeks, I was able to see improvements in my skin. It may not be as noticeable to someone else, but I can see the difference in my skin’s texture, which I was actually quite excited about. Each morning after using the toner the night before, the small bumps on my skin looked smaller, and my skin looked more radiant.
Each morning after using the toner the night before, the small bumps on my skin looked smaller, and my skin looked more radiant.
Since my skin is so sensitive, my skincare routine is incredibly simple. I prioritize my skin’s sensitivity and gently treat my acne, but sometimes, I do think that I’m unable to achieve my best skin because I can’t use potent and powerful products without irritation or scarring. It was nice to see changes in my skin with The Ordinary's toner. I knew that if I integrated the product into my routine slowly, I could benefit from the exfoliation from this toner—something I knew I wanted to do more of—even if my results wouldn’t be as noticeable in comparison to someone whose skin can tolerate frequent use. Knowing my skin could handle 7% glycolic acid once a week—which is an intense percentage—was such a pleasant surprise. I can definitely see myself using this product once a week moving forward.
The Value: A steal
Similar to other products from The Ordinary, this product is priced well: $10 for 8.1 fl. oz. is pretty hard to beat, especially when you consider the noticeable difference the Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution can make in your skin. Even if your skin can tolerate this amount of glycolic acid more than mine can, you’d still be able to use the toner for at least a couple of months before having to replace it.
Similar Products: You've got options
The INKEY List Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Toner ($12): Packed with 10% glycolic acid, the INKEY List’s Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Toner is just as affordable as The Ordinary’s toner, with a similar promise to help reveal smoother skin. It's also formulated with witch hazel, so stick with The Ordinary if your skin isn’t ready for INKEY’s powerful formula.
Pixi Beauty Glow Tonic ($15): Another wallet-friendly option, the Glow Tonic from Pixi Beauty has amassed a following for delivering wildly impressive results while being affordable and available at most drugstores. Formulated with aloe vera, ginseng, botanical extracts, and 5% glycolic acid, the Glow Tonic may be for you if you think The Ordinary’s toner may be a bit too strong.
After using The Ordinary's Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, I had smoother, more radiant skin, and my sensitive skin didn’t react poorly to the formula. If you’re looking for a product that can exfoliate your skin at an affordable price, this toner is a solid contender.
- Product Name Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
- Product Brand The Ordinary
- Price $10.00
- Weight 8.12 oz.
- Ingredients Aqua (Water), Glycolic Acid, Rosa damascena flower water, Centaurea cyanus flower water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Propanediol, Glycerin, Triethanolamine, Aminomethyl Propanol, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Aspartic Acid, Alanine, Glycine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glutamic Acid, Arginine, PCA, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Urea, Hexyl Nicotinate, Dextrin, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Gellan Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Hexylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.
Murad H, Shamban AT, Premo PS. The use of glycolic acid as a peeling agent. Dermatol Clin. 1995;13(2):285-307.
Netzel M, Netzel G, Tian Q, Schwartz S, Konczak I. Sources of antioxidant activity in Australian native fruits. Identification and quantification of anthocyanins. J Agric Food Chem. 2006;54(26):9820-9826. doi:10.1021/jf0622735