If You Must Use A Toner, Make It This One

by Gio
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):

Glycolic Acid

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 smaller 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. That’s why it’s a good idea to 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

the ordinary glycolic acid toning solution

Amino Acids

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

This is a vasodilator that β€œcauses 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.

Let’s Put It To The Test: Personal Use & 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 it 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. πŸ™ 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. πŸ™‚

Available at: $8.70/Β£6.80 at Asos, Cult Beauty and Sephora


The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution 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, 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

PR Sample. Affiliate links.



Jade July 23, 2018 - 10:27 pm

I have combination skin, should I use glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid serum on the dry spots of my face (cheeks and corners of my mouth) and salicylic acid on my t-zone and nose? Can I do that?

Gio July 28, 2018 - 6:20 pm

Jade, yes, you can do that.

Amelia November 8, 2018 - 1:49 am

Have you heard of or tried the Bliss Incredi-peel pads with Glycolic acid? How would you say they compare?

Gio November 10, 2018 - 6:46 pm

Amelia, they pads contain 10% glycolic acid so they’re a bit more effective than this toner… but also potentially more irritating. I wouldn’t use them daily but 2 or 3 times a week, they’re cool.

Farah November 25, 2018 - 12:03 pm

I have acne and combination skin. Is this glycolic acid toner not good for my skin?

Gio December 9, 2018 - 9:04 am

Farah, if you have acne, you need a toner with salicylic acid. Glycolic can’t fight acne.

JC January 2, 2019 - 9:49 pm

The majority of search results tell me that glycolic acid is a good ingredient to fight oily skin and especially if you are prone to break outs, this review is the only place I’m seeing that says otherwise. Are you able to cite your source(s) that support your claims?

Gio January 12, 2019 - 9:13 am

JC, I didn’t say in the review that glycolic acid is completely useless for oily skin. But it’s not oil-soluble so it’s not able to penetrate – and therefore unclog – pores as well as salicylic acid. For oily skin prone to breakout, that’s the priority and there’s no denying that salicylic acid is the better option here. So no, I can’t cite sources that say that glycolic acid is useless for oily skin but there’s plenty of evidence that salicylic is better than glycolic for oily and acne prone skin. This study is just an example: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921757/

Gio March 8, 2019 - 5:13 pm

Debra, I would recommend you use them on alternate nights if possible.

KaCie August 10, 2019 - 4:18 pm

I was using the Clinique 2 toning liquid. I decided to use this instead. I have dry skin that gets some oil around my nose. How would you say they compare? Also do you have social media outlets that I can follow you on for more information πŸ™‚

Gio September 15, 2019 - 6:48 pm

Kacie, the Clinique lotion isn’t exfoliating. Plus, it has some actives, like Alcohol and witch hazel, that can be irritating.

You can follow me on Instagram. My handle is beautifulwithbrainsofficial

sirine hammami May 14, 2020 - 1:55 pm

Could I use this toner after my squalane cleanser in the AM and use the salicylic acid in the evening on my T zone. Also should i use my cleanser am and pm , i have dry skin t zone and a big pores and black head on t zone but the sun kind of damaged my forehead so would love to use the toner. and then should i finish am and pm as last with a moisturizer , sorry i am a virgin when it comes to skin care and now thati am 30th i am getting sccared. all my product are ordinary

Gio May 17, 2020 - 3:25 pm

Sirine, I’d love to help you create the best skincare routine for your skin. You can book your consultation here: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/skincare-consultation/


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