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Best glycolic acid toner

Which glycolic acid toners are best?

From face washes to toners to serums, glycolic acid is a trendy ingredient that you can find in just about any skin care product. Glycolic acid toners are a favorite among skin care enthusiasts since they can unclog pores, even skin tone and remove dead skin cells.

Finding the best glycolic acid toner will depend on your skin type and concerns. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution is an ideal choice if you're struggling with clogged pores and acne.

What to know before you buy a glycolic acid toner

Here are a few things to consider when buying a glycolic acid toner.

What is glycolic acid?

Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid derived from sugar cane. A few other common AHAs are citric acid and lactic acid. AHAs are considered chemical exfoliants instead of physical exfoliants, such as face washes or masks with tiny beads or sugar.

Glycolic acid helps speed up skin cell turnover, shedding dead skin cells and generating new skin cells. Dead skin cells can clog pores, make the skin look dull and cause uneven texture, so using a glycolic acid toner can help in many ways. 

Benefits of glycolic acid toner

Unlike some facial toners that cleanse the skin or restore your skin’s pH level, glycolic acid toners treat your skin like a serum or cream. Because they shed dead skin cells and promote new, healthy skin cells, glycolic acid toner has many benefits. 

  • Acne: In addition to unclogging pores and reducing oil production, glycolic acid also has antibacterial properties, reducing acne. 
  • Hyperpigmentation: Hyperpigmentation is dark patches of skin generally caused by age, sun damage or acne scarring. By speeding up skin cell turnover, it accelerates skin regeneration to fade spots and scarring.
  • Aging: As we age, our skin cell turnover gets slower and slower, which is why we experience lines and wrinkles. While glycolic acid won’t eliminate deep lines, it can reduce the look of surface lines. 
  • Brighten: Skin can become dull due to dead skin cells, which is why one of the main benefits of glycolic acid is brightening.

What to look for in a quality glycolic acid toner


The strength of a glycolic acid toner depends on the percentage of glycolic acid. For example, a toner with under 3% glycolic acid is considered low strength. Between 5% and 8% is medium strength and should only be used a few times per week. Concentrations above 20% are considered very strong and should be used with caution.


Many glycolic acid toners are formulated with other ingredients to target specific concerns. For example, if you have sensitive skin, you’ll want to ensure a toner is free of fragrance, alcohol and other irritating ingredients. Those who have acne-prone skin might appreciate the addition of salicylic acid, while dry skin types should look for hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid.


When comparing the cost of glycolic acid toners, be sure to look at how many ounces are in a product instead of just looking at the bottles. 

How much you can expect to spend on glycolic acid toner

Depending on the size, brand and formulation, glycolic acid toners cost $5-$75. However, the majority of glycolic acid toners retail for under $20.

Glycolic acid toner FAQ

Can I mix glycolic acid with other AHA and BHAs?

A. What works for one person may be harmful to another, so it’s best to check with your doctor before mixing any exfoliants. 

Can I use glycolic acid toner on other parts of my body?

A. Yes. Glycolic acid can brighten, smooth texture and remove dead skin cells, which can be beneficial for arms and legs. Many individuals have found that glycolic acid helps with keratosis pilaris, back acne and eliminating bacteria that cause odor under the arms.

Does glycolic acid cause skin purging?

A. Yes. Since glycolic acid increases cell turnover, it can cause your skin to purge by bringing impurities to the surface. However, if you still notice breakouts a month after starting a new product, it may not be purging but rather a bad reaction to that product.

What’s the best glycolic acid toner to buy?

Top glycolic acid toner

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution

What you need to know: Combined with salicylic acid, this 2% glycolic acid toner is recommended for various conditions, including clogged pores, acne and rough skin texture.

What you’ll love: While it’s targeted toward those with oily skin, it’s gentle enough to use on dry skin. The brand is known for its sensitive skin-friendly formulations, and this product has no fragrance, oil, or parabens.

What you should consider: A few users reported breakouts after the first few uses, which is known as purging and should clear up with continued use.

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta Beauty and Amazon

Top glycolic acid toner for the money

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

What you need to know: This glycolic acid toner delivers similar results as expensive products without the high price tag.

What you’ll love: Those struggling with uneven skin tone, textural irregularities or aging will love this product. It’s also formulated without alcohol, fragrance, oil, parabens and sulfates. 

What you should consider: With 7% glycolic acid, this toner is deemed strong and may not be appropriate for those with sensitive skin. 

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta Beauty and Sephora

Worth checking out

Good Molecules Glycolic Exfoliating Toner

What you need to know: A combination of glycolic acid, galactomyces ferment, hyaluronic acid and aloe make this toner ideal for hydrating and brightening the skin.

What you’ll love: This product is fragrance-free, vegan and cruelty-free, which is crucial to many users. This product is also very affordable and comes in a large bottle. 

What you should consider: Some users have reported a tingling or burning sensation directly after applying this toner. 

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta Beauty

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Bre Richey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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