If you’d asked me 5 years ago what types of acids I liked using, I would have sternly told you, omg I don’t do drugs!!
Well, I still don’t but now I’m hip to acids in skincare in a way I never was before. This is the only acid I’ll be dropping and if you aren’t yet, you’re going to be soon.
There are 2 main categories of acids: beta hydroxy acids and alpha hydroxy acids. You can use one or the other, or both.AHAs
Alpha Hydroxy Acids work ABOVE, on the surface of the skin. They help to brighten skin and even tone by basically eating up and dissolving the dead skin cells on the surface. Your other skincare works better after using them because the ingredients can better penetrate without that layer of cobwebs on the top layer. Ooh, spooky.
The most common alpha hydroxy acids are:
Beta Hydroxy Acids work BELOW the surface to unclog pores by dissolving the dirt, dead skin cells and sebum inside of them. I like to think of BHAs as a landlord evicting terrible tenants of the apartments that are your pores. BHAs are oil soluble and AHAs are not, making BHAs ideal for clearing up and preventing breakouts.
The only one commonly used in skincare is:
- Salicylic acid
You can get the benefits of AHAs or BHAs via serums but one of the easiest methods of delivery is via toner. I’ve been trying out several acid toners over the past few months and I’ve broken them down into which one would be best for you based on your skin type and needs.
Best for Beginners
Pixi Beauty Glow Tonic
This is like Intro to Acids 101. This 5% glycolic acid toner is a great way to dip your toe in and see how your skin likey da acids. It’s tried and true and I’ve yet to find someone that doesn’t enjoy it.
I don’t experience uncomfortable dryness or tightness after using this but it’s still something you want to work up to if you’ve never used an acid toner before. I like to use a new product every 3 days, then every other, working up to everyday if desired.
I definitely don’t love the rose scent of this but it’s not bothersome enough not to use it. I just don’t look forward to it.
This leaves skin feeling firmer and looking brighter thanks to the glycolic acid, brightening horse chestnut extract, witch hazel, aloe and ginseng.
I love that Pixi Glow Tonic comes in various sizes, including their Glow-To-Go pads, ideal for travel.Best for Acne-Prone Skin
Tarte Knockout Tingling Treatment This took down inflammation and redness of active blemishes overnight. It reduces pore size and is a heavy hitter for breakouts. This is due to the fact that it contains both AHAs and BHAs in lactic acid and salicylic. I didn’t experience a tingling sensation but a mild sting on active blemishes is all.I won’t beat around the bush; it’s scent is not pleasant. It smells like vinegar, or maybe onions? The results are worthwhile though but just don’t expect a flowery experience.
Tarte Knockout wouldn’t be for someone who has never used an acid toner as it’s quite strong. My skin is dry and semi-reactive but I had no issues, likely because I’ve already been using acid toners and serums for a while now. You might also want to look into Glossier’s Solution as it also contains AHAs and BHAs. Best for Brightening
REN Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic
This contains both lactic and azealic acid (an ingredient that cleared up my dermatitis last year,) and also 4 different citrus oils and willow bark extract, the natural form of salicylic acid. This makes my skin completely smooth and firm feeling and is another one I reach for during breakout-prone times. The scent is quite pleasant on this one, like a juicy orange.
I think this is a moderate strength so I wouldn’t recommend it for someone sensitive.
The pump is a nice feature but I find it grabs onto fibers from cotton rounds so that’s a little annoying.
One other thing I noticed about this toner was that it left almost a squeaky clean feeling on the skin. I tried using my jade roller after applying this and found it actually prevented the jade roller from functioning smoothly as my skin had almost a tacky texture on the surface.
Best for Sensitive Skin + Budgets
Derma E Radiance Toner
This toner is not only budget-friendly and widely-available but gentle too. For these reasons, it makes a great starter acid toner. I did not experience any burning or stinging and found I could build up to using this daily or nightly with no sensitivities or irritation.
It’s inclusion of aloe, hyaluronic acid, rosehips and rooibos help to buffer the acid for a gentle experience.
It has a faint, but pleasant rose scent. I find the scent far preferable to the Pixi Glow Tonic actually. I’m not able to find a percentage of glycolic acid in the Derma E Radiance Toner but I suspect it’s lower than Glow Tonic.
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