review the ordinary glycolic acid 7% toning solution

My bad.

I’ve been raving about The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution for more than a year now. I’ve told you it’s a dupe for Pixi Glow. But I haven’t done a proper review yet.

Time to fix that, me thinks. Here’s what this toning exfoliant did for me. But first, the sciencey bits (cos that’s how we roll here):

What’s In The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution?


Glycolic acid is my favourite exfoliant. I like multitaskers and this one does a lot of jobs:

Awesome, right? It’s so effective because it’s the smallest member of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids family so it penetrates skin more deeply than its siblings Lactic acid & co.

But, there’s a catch. In the skincare world, more effective usually means more irritating. Start with a low concentration (this one is low) a couple of times a week and build up both dose and frequency from there.

P.S. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, you can stop reading now. Glycolic acid is awesome… for dry and sun-damaged skin.  Your skin type needs Salicylic acid (it exfoliates the pores, too) and this toning solution doesn’t have it.

Related: The Complete Guide To Glycolic Acid

Struggling to create an anti-aging routine that really works? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” cheat sheet to get started. It features product recommendations + right application order:


Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, like collagen and elastin. Without them, your skin would lose all its firmness and elasticity.

Each amino acid works slightly differently. Here’s the lowdown on the most famous amino acids used in The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution:

Related: Why You Should Add Amino Acids To Your Skincare Routine


Hexyl Nicotinate is a vasodilator that “causes the blood vessels near to the surface of the skin to increase in diameter and to increase their blood flow.”

It doesn’t really do much for the skin but I had to mention it because it can be irritating if you have super sensitive skin.


Liquidy and runny. It absorbs quickly into your skin.


It’s fragrance-free.

How To Use It

Every other night, after cleansing.

I don’t recommend daily exfoliation because it can be drying and irritating for skin.

​If you’re feeling completely intimidated and overwhelmed by The Ordinary skincare I recommend taking Extraordinary Skin With The Ordinary. A The Ordinary speed training created by my scientist friend Cheryl Woodman. Cheryl’s helped hundreds of ladies see real-life results, first hand. Click here to find out more about the course and see their reviews. (affiliate link)

The Ordinary Skincare Routine - Where to start with The Ordinary skincare

Performance & Personal Opinion

Exfoliating toners are the only type of toner I bother with. I must get my exfoliating fix somewhere and if a toner can do the job, awesome.

I alternate The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution at night with a retinol serum. It’s a liquid, so I pour a little on a cotton pad and apply it to my skin. If it’s your first time with glycolic acid, you’ll probably experience a gentle tingling. That’s totally normal.

If you get a burning sensation, on the other hand, that’s your cue to discontinue it. If your skin is too sensitive, it’ll never go along well with glycolic acid. 🙁 As for me, I’m used to acids so I had no tingling or burning.

After just a couple of uses, I could already see a difference. My skin’s texture is smoother. The pores around my nose (the only area where you can see pores on my face – I know I’m lucky) look smaller and tighter. My whole face glows.

With regular use, glycolic acid also helps fade dark spots, including the brownish mark those nasty pimples sometimes leaves behind. But I don’t have them (again, lucky, I know!) so I can’t personally vouch for this.

But the science is clear: if you have light hyperpigmentation, glycolic acid can help. If you have severe hyperpigmentation, use it together with a more powerful skin-lightener.

For now, this is good enough for me. 🙂

Related: Battle Of The Skin-Lighteners: Which Is The Best Alternative To Hydroquinone?

the ordinary glycolic acid toning solution

Who Is This For?

  • Dry skin
  • New dark spots
  • Sun-damaged skin

Who Is This NOT For?


A see-through bottle with a big opening. It’s not the most practical, but it’ll last you a long time.

Does The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution Live Up To Its Claims?

This 7% toning solution offers mild exfoliation for improved skin radiance and visible clarity. True.
The formula also improves the appearance of skin texture with continued use.  True.

Price & Availability

$8.70/£6.80 at Cult Beauty, Escentual, Feel Unique, Sephora, and Ulta

Do You Need It?

If you’re looking for a glycolic acid exfoliant and are on a budget, this is a good option to consider.

Dupes & Alternatives


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, Tasmania 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