Acid/Exfoliating Toners – A Brief Review on What I Have Been Using


I am relatively new in the world of acid toning and to be honest, it was something that I put off due to the fact that the thought of putting an acid on my face scared me. I just didn’t think my skin would react so well to it. After some reading and research I discovered that acid or exfoliation toning was not as scary as it sounded – in fact regular chemical exfoliation of the skin is generally highly recommended to create a brighter, radiant and even complexion. It is also important to note that we can always run the risk of over exfoliating as well, so it is quite important to find that balance of when and how to use an acid toner. 

Acid toning is the use of chemical acids such as alpha hydroxy acid or beta hydroxy acids to remove some of the dead skin cells from the surface of the skin to reveal a brighter, more youthful complexion and also to aid in the penetration of other active serums or moisturisers that you may use after cleansing. Blogger, Hidden Harmony World has summarised the different types of acids and their uses quite well in this blog post here, if you want to know a little bit more about them. Whilst acid toning will give fantastic results for most people, it is also extremely important to be careful not to over exfoliate the skin as it can cause all sorts of problems such as increased sensitivity, redness, dryness, tightness and acne, as blogger Skin Ritual Diary has summarised quite well in her blog post here. For those with sensitive skin, it also extremely important to be careful and mindful what products you use. If the product is too strong you could potentially cause even more sensitivity, redness and some pain. As scary as I have made it sound, acid toning has made my skin much healthier and it does allow my other products to work far more effectively on my skin. Recently, I have been using three different types of chemical exfoliators.


I initially purchased these with the intention of using them to travel as the tub that I purchased these in have 28 pre-soaked pads. These pads are enough to take on my travels and the tub is small and convenient to put in an overnight/carry on luggage without the weight and mess of a traditional bottled liquid toner. However, I actually found myself reaching for these more often to use in my normal daily routines as they are just so quick, simple and just easy to use. I love the fact that these do not use alcohol in its formulation and are gentle to use on my sensitive skin. The ingredients list is the following: 

Water/Eau, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Glycerin, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Water, Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Leaf Extract, Chrysanthemum Parthenium (Feverfew) Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Extract, Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Fruit Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Phyllanthus Emblica (Indian Gooseberry) Fruit Extract, Polysorbate 20

The First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads were also one of my first acid toners that I ever used as I had read that the formulation was quite gentle and still effective, especially for those who had never used acid/exfoliating toners before and those with sensitive skin. These use two types of acids: lactic acid and glycolic acid which are an AHA and help to shed old dead skin cells that contribute to an uneven dull skin tone. The result in using these acids is a more radiant, fresh and glowing complexion. It also combines some wonderful skin soothing ingredients such as Aloe Vera and Green Tea with also some hydrating ingredient such as hyaluronic acid in its formulation.  

I really like using these First Aid Beauty pads as they are super gentle on the skin, I love to reach for these after my skin has had a bad eczema flare up or after it’s gone through a period of sensitivity to ease myself back into acid toning again. I find that it does get rid of the dry skin effectively without causing too much sting or pain and it does reveal a much brighter and even complexion afterwards. I would definitely recommend these for someone who is just starting to use acid toners or for those with sensitive skin to see if acid toning will work for them. It’s a great introduction to acid toners as the formula is so gentle. These are also great for travelling and also on those lazy days where you just want something quick and easy to use. The First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads come in two sizes – 60 pads and 28 pads. For 60 pads – it is USD$30 from First Aid Beauty or Sephora, GBP£22.00 from Selfridges and AUD$52 from Sephora Australia


This is probably a step up from the First Aid Beauty Radiance Facial Pads as I find this just that little bit stronger and it does sometimes give a little (and I mean very little) sting. This has had rave reviews from many beauty and skincare bloggers and is well endorsed by skincare goddess Caroline Hirons, she has even gone to say that it is a a Biologique Recherche P50 (more on that later) dupe. The Glow Tonic contains 5% Glycolic acid which is it’s main active ingredient in terms of exfoliation. With the addition of Aloe Vera, it definitely feels gentle, soothing and hydrating on the skin.  The ingredients are the following:

Aqua, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Leaf Extract, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract, Glycolic Acid, Ammonium Glycolate, Glycerin, Glucose, Fructose, Sucrose, Urea, Dextrin, Alanine, Glutamic Acid, Hexyl Nicotinate, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Biotin, Polysorbate 20, Fragrance

Whilst most of the ingredients in Glow Tonic are fine, it is important to note that this does contain Fragrance and Phenoxyethanol which may aggravate some skins or are ingredients that some wish to avoid. I have found overall, that this is a great acid toner for my skin as it is gentle enough to use almost every day and sometimes, depending on how my skin feels – both day and night. I find that this is effective in exfoliating my skin and getting rid of any dead skin cells. It also aids in the decongestion of my skin on those awfully hot and humid days. I find that my skin is definitely smoother and softer when using this and in no way does it dry the skin out. To say that it is a P50 dupe may be a long stretch, especially for those who are used to acid toning as it is no where near as strong at P50. It is however, an incredibly reliable exfoliating toner for those with more sensitive skins. I probably tend to reach for this the most out of the three exfoliating toners that I own as my skin can generally tolerate it and it still does reveal a radiant complexion. Pixi Glow Tonic can be found on Cultbeauty for GBP£18.00 and US Target for USD$29. 


This is often quite touted as the Rolls Royce of Acid Toners and for good reason as well – it is STRONG and you most definitely get results from this fromulation. The P50W, is the more gentle of the 3 formulations that this is available in and I do still find this quite strong (but oh so effective) for my skin. I find that I do need to be careful in how I use this as my skin is quite sensitive and I cannot over use it or use this when my skin is sensitive as it does tend to sting just a bit too much for me. The ingredients list is as follows:

Water (Aqua), Gluconolactone, Glycerin, Niacianamide, Propylene Glycol, Lactic Acid, Ethooxydiglycol, Megnesium Chloride, Malic Acid, Vinegar, Phytic Acid, Citric Acid, Quillaja Saponaria Bark Extract, Cochlearia Amoracia (Horseradish) Extract, Arctium Lappa Root Extract, Caspicum Fructescens Fruit Extract, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Sulphur, Allantonin, Sodium Salicylate, Serine, Urea, Sorbitol, TEA-Lactate, Sodium Lactate, Sodium Benzoate.

When my skin isn’t sensitive and is back to its normal self, this is a fantastic acid toner that really does brighten your complexion and leaves your skin feeling smooth, soft and radiant. It effectively sloughs off any unwanted dead debris on the skins surface to reveal a more glowing complexion. It uses a combination of AHAs such as Lactic Acid, Malic Acid and Citric Acid, as well as a small component of Salicylic Acid in its formulation. As mentioned before I do need to be careful when using this as my skin is quite sensitive. I tend to only use this in the evening and will use this perhaps 2-3 days a week when I am on a ‘good’ skin roll. I will mix this up in my rotation, using this with my other acid toners mentioned above and I find that when I do have this on rotation with my other acids, my skin looks fantastic. It is important to note that this does have a strong like vinegar smell to it, so this may bother some people.

I would definitely not recommend this for super sensitive skins, especially if this is your first acid toner. I have found that most people do work towards using this as the formulation is much stronger, so starting with a lighter exfoliating acid and gradually having the skin acclimatize to acids might be a safer and better way to go when wanting to incorporate this into your skincare routine. This is the most expensive out of the three toners I have mentioned by far, a 250ml bottle (also available in 150ml) of this costs AUD$132.00 from Laguna Day Spa in Melbourne but the results are well worth it. It is harder to find as Biologique Recherche do not sell online, but US reader, try ShopRescueSpa as I believe you can order online from them if you sign up. 

Overall, I have found that acid/exfoliating toners have worked wonders for my complexion and I do use all three different toners on different days, depending on my skin and what other products I plan to incorporate into my routine that day. I try to be very wary of over exfoliation and do keep acid toning at an absolute minimum if my skin is starting to feel sensitive for whatever reason. I feel that exfoliating the skin on a regular basis is important as it does help stimulate cell regeneration and most importantly that radiant lit within glow. 

Do you use acid/exfoliating toners? Do you use more than one in your skincare stash? What ones are your favourite? 



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