It doesn’t matter what your primary skin concerns are – large pores, fine lines, hyperpigmentation, rough texture, a lackluster complexion. The ultimate goal is to have skin that radiates so much that your lit factor gives the sun a run for its money. What if we told you there was a product category out there that helped you reach said glowy goddess goals? Because there is, and it’s real easy to incorporate into your current skincare regimen.
We’re talking about exfoliating toners, which are essentially liquid gold for your skin. While they come in lots of different formulations, all include mild acids that help gently nix dead skin cells, brighten your complexion, and improve general tone and texture. Some exfoliating toners can even help with things like excess oil production, acne, large pores, and fine lines. Today we’re highlighting seven of our faves.
1. Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic, $15
This cult favorite toner ranks high on beauty editor and aficionado lists all the time, and for good reason. First, the formulation is legit. It contains 5% glycolic acid to help exfoliate and purify skin, ginseng to energize and improve circulation, aloe vera to hydrate and calm, and fructose and sucrose to further brighten your complexion. Second, the price point is hard to compete with, and you can even snag a tiny sample version for less than $5 bucks.
Youth to the People is known for their earthy concoctions, and their Kombucha + 11% AHA exfoliating toner is new to the lineup as of 2019. It’s made with a blend of lactic (8%) and glycolic (3%) acids to exfoliate and brighten, black tea kombucha ferment that works as a probiotic to balance your skin’s microbiome, and tree bark ferment to help prevent and reverse free radical damage.
Glossier launched Solution in early 2018 and it quickly rose through the market ranks to become an “it girl” exfoliating toner option. This one’s unique because it combines a 10% blend of three different types of acids: AHA, BHA, and PHA. Together, they work to brighten and improve texture, zap oil and acne, improve clarity, and make skin super glowy.
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Leave it to The Ordinary to gift the skincare community a 7% glycolic acid toner for less than $10. Not only is the price point happy-dance inducing, but the product delivers on its promises, too. It’s very similar to the Pixi formulation, though it contains a slightly higher concentration of glycolic acid along with amino acids and Tasmanian pepperberry to keep skin calm.
5. Bioligique Recharge Lotion P50, $30
Let’s give it up for the OG exfoliating toner by Biologique Recharge, which has spurred many similar liquid-based exfoliating products on the market (including some on this list). It stands out for its exceptional formulation, and remains a cult favorite among the skincare industry’s most discerning members. P50 contains a unique blend of niacinamide, vinegar, magnesium chloride, lactic acid, salicylic acid, and sulfur to help exfoliate, brighten, purify, zap acne, and tone. Note that the original P50 ‘1970’ formulation, which you can still buy, contains phenol (a controversial ingredient) and is considered the most effective version by the brand. The new formulation does not include phenol.
If you’re looking for a gentle version of an exfoliating toner, try e.l.f. Cosmetics SuperTone. The formulation puts hydration and soothing first with ingredients such as aloe vera, castor oil, and witch hazel. Though the brand hasn’t released the glycolic acid concentration, based on its position in the ingredient list we estimate it’s enough to give you a small glow boost.
Another newbie exfoliating toner to the market comes from Glamglow. It’s markedly different from the others on this list because it combines six different acids (lactic, salicylic, glycolic, mandelic, tartaric, and pyruvic) to clarify and brighten, witch hazel to tone, and activated charcoal powder to nix impurities and zap oil.
Pro Tip: Before using any of the above exfoliating toners, we recommend reading through the application instructions. Some indicate it’s best to start slow and then increase frequency to daily. Also, if you have highly sensitive skin or open wounds on your face (including those from acne), these ingredients may cause some discomfort. Another thing to note – if you’re already using an exfoliator in your routine, you may want to use it less frequently, and definitely don’t use it on the same day as one of these toners (you don’t want to over-exfoliate your skin). Always spot test first and listen to your skin’s needs.