The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toner – Review + Different ways to use it!

Hey Guys!

Many of you on Instagram asked me about how I use The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid Toner!

The Toner is available at Cult Beauty / Beauty Bay / Selfridges / Look Fantastic / Sephora / Skin Store

In this post, I will be providing a review + then elaborating on all the different ways I have used this product!!


Price: £6.80

Volume: 240ml (A nice big bottle – I don’t think you would run out really quick!)

What is it: A 7% Glycolic Acid Toner containing antioxidants + soothing ingredients (to try and ease the irritation of using an acid).

What does it do: This toner provides mild exfoliation to improve the texture + look of the skin, to ”clear” the skin with continued use.

pH: 3.5-3.7 (so quite acidic! This is why you usually get stinging / uncomfortableness when applying an acid product).

Key Ingredients: Ginseng Root Extract, Tasmanian Berry extract (Antioxidants) Glycolic Acid (The exfoliant). Glycerin, Aspartic Acid, Alanine, Glycine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Arginine, Urea (Skin-identical, so barrier-reinforcing).  Centaurea Cyanus Flower Water, Sucrose (Soothing).

Note: The derivative of Tasmanian Pepperberry as well as Ginseng root and Aloe Vera help reduce irritation + soothe the skin.


You can see the liquid itself has a tint to it – it reminds me of vinegar

Full ingredients list: 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, Tasmannia 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.

  • I wonder if people found this quite irritating (as I do on the face), and therefore The Ordinary formulated this product with the high Glycolic acid % AND also with the additional calming and soothing ingredients.
  • Also I think it’s a better idea for exfoliating products to be unscented (not have added fragrance / EO), so I like that on the part of Deciem).


What it does: Glycolic Acid is the AHA. It exfoliates the skin (causes it to shed faster). This is a 7% Glycolic Acid Toner (I would not recommend to sensitive skins when using for the face). It exfoliates the skin to improve its overall look and simply makes it look clearer and SOFTENs the skin’s texture with CONTINUED use.

Even the Ordinary state that this shouldn’t be used on sensitive, peeling or compromised skin. And of course when using AHAs – SPF must be used! There is a myth that you can’t use AHAs in the daytime – you can, you just need to wear SPF too (however Deciem state this toner should be used in the PM).

Directions: For use in the PM, no more than once a day and after cleansing the face. (Read The Ordinary Safety Advice HERE). I wouldn’t use this on the face more than 2-3 times a week (at least when I’m building up tolerance) because I have sensitive skin.

How long until you see results?: You can notice a change in one’s complexion after a few days (more glowing skin) with consistent use (especially if you’re using higher % AHAs), but it takes months to really see an anti-ageing result in terms of reducing the look of lines/wrinkles. Some people say 4-6 months and others say you should notice within 1-2 months.

Fragrance?: This has no additional fragrance / essential oils. But I do find that glycolic toners usually smell like vinegar (probably due to the low pH).

Why I like it: As stated previously – Glycolic acid helps shed the outermost layer of the skin, to reveal softer and less rough skin. Therefore it can help with clogged pores (i.e. blackheads) through shedding. It can also help reduce the chance of scabs becoming scars (so it helps with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation). With this specific product, I do like that soothing ingredients were added to try and lessen the irritation associated with acid use. The properties of glycolic acid make this product very useful for many different occasions!

What I like:

  • No fragrance / Essential oils. It’s not generally a good idea to have these included when using acids / actives due to an increased chance of skin irritation
  • Big Bottle, especially for the price!
  • Ingredients were added to try and reduce irritation / soothe the skin.

What I don’t like:

  • For me, this is quite strong. So it’s not really suited toward sensitive skins (as the company have stated). I would recommend the Wishtrend Mandelic Acid water instead for sensitive skins and for those who are starting on acids for the first time – Review HERE – Even I struggle using this on the face (my face is very sensitive), so that is why I tend to use this on other parts of the body that are seemingly less sensitive. There are other gentler AHAs that can be used on the face that I would prefer, such as the Geek & Gorgeous Cheer Up Liquid HERE (5% Mandelic acid – a weaker and gentler AHA + 1 % Salicylic Acid). I will say – those with sore acne, this will sting those kinds of pimples i.e. pimples that have been recently popped or pimples that are hurting.

– So overall, This is a great product for the price I think! It’s just not really suited (on the face) for those who have reactive skins, sensitised skin barriers and who generally can’t use acids on the whole. However I think it’s great for many other uses, I love the product dispenser (i.e. the thin, twisting nozzle), and I think this is a great body product!


A QUICK TIP: MAKE YOUR OWN PAD TUB. So you know how COSRX have Cica Pads and Exfoliating Pads in Tubs? Well if you have an empty tub, simply place cotton pads (even the very thin 1/2 Asian ones (like these), so it saves space/product, or you can squash fat cotton pads so they become thinner to waste less) in that tub and then pour some of this glycolic acid toner into the tub. Let it soak into the cotton pads (so make sure you put enough – but not too much that it becomes soup). And then you have DIY, easy to travel with AHA pads to use anytime (i.e. on a plane etc).

NOTE: With these pre-soaked pads, you can do all the uses down below (or simply apply the Glycolic toner straight onto a cotton pad and then swipe the skin (or just drip onto the body part you want, rub in and leave to dry!


How I use it / The Many Different Uses for this Solution!

Use 1: Obviously, as a toner!

  • First and foremost, this is a toner – so you can use this (ideally in the PM), and no more than once a day as it’s quite strong (The Ordinary don’t encourage over-acid exfoliation and neither do I). Please check the website for the full cautionary message HERE.
  • HOWEVER – I will say for those with acneic skin / skin that has wounds/cuts, this will sting – so please be careful. If you have a fresh pimple, or a freshly picked pimple on the face – it may irritate!

Saturate a cotton pad and swipe across the face + neck (and do not wash off). But you must be able to withstand 7% Glycolic Acid on the face – I am not, so I do not use this product as a face toner, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use it! there are many other tougher/rougher patches of skin all over the body that isn’t as sensitive as my face….so here are the other ways I use it!:

Use 2: To tackle Armpit Smell (Acid deodorant):

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  • Certain Bacteria causes your sweat to smell under the armpit, and Glycolic acid has a low pH, which disrupts these bacteria and hinder their growth – SO it reduces the under armpit smell.

I like to apply this under the armpit after a shower (BUT NOT ON DAYS WHEN I HAVE SHAVED, unless you want your armpit to stinng!) either with a pre-soaked cotton pad, a freshly saturated cotton pad, or simply just rubbing a bit of the toner in with my fingers. It does take time for this product to do its work, so you must be consistent. Once again my skin is quite sensitive, so I use this twice a week (if your skin can tolerate it then this can be applied on more days), And this requires continued use.

(ALSO!!! Doing this also helps with ingrown hair bumps! + Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) under the arms due to shaving / rubbing).


Use 3: As a ”hard skin” softener!

– As this is an exfoliant, AHA helps to reduce hard / rough / textured skin by increasing cell turnover and shedding the outermost layer of the skin (in this case, the hard – tough layer) to reveal softer, smoother skin. So, I apply this to the harder areas of skin around the body.

  • Swiping with a cotton pad (or just applying with your fingers) is how you can do it. HOWEVER I definitely urge you to make sure you moisturise the area as well! you can have a double-whammy effect of skin softening by using an exfoliating acid AND a moisturiser to soften the hard skin. What you can also do, is simply mix some of the toner with a moisturiser / lotion, and then apply it to the skin just like that (reduces the wait time).

a. On the Knees: I use this to soften and reduce the ashy look of the knees! The knees are quite tough, so I can use this 3 times a week (but this depends on your sensitivity). But it once again, takes about a month to see some good changes (but make sure to moisturise for the effect to be even more visible!).

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b. On the Elbows: The elbows are also quite dark and rough, so I would also repeat the same actions with the knees, to the elbows. The Acid should help soften the skin, remove the hard, dead skin cells and also help brighten the area. Once again, I recommend moisturising as well and with continued use, to get good results.

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c. On the toes: My toes get rough skin / darkness due to rubbing in shoes/ trainers – SO, what I do is saturate a cotton pad and swipe the skin with Glycolic Acid. It’s kind of hard to moisturise the toes / feet for me without slipping and sliding all over the floor, so I depend on the acid to keep the skin in check. Once again this requires continued use – I do it about once every three days.

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Use 4: On the back of the arms! – Keratosis pilaris is a condition where you get what looks like, chicken bumps on the skin. They’re a dead-skin build up which form bumps. But I know that I get them confused with in-grown hair bumps sometimes.

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I find that Lactic Acid is very effective too! (My Review of the Ordinary’s Lactic Acid Serum is HERE).

HOWEVER Lactic acid is weaker and suited for more sensitive skins, or for first-timers, so perhaps using the 5% Lactic Acid for the bumps on the back of arms (KP), and then moving onto 10% LA, and then the 7% Glycolic Acid Toner because Glycolic acid is a stronger acid exfoliant – although it is more potentially irritating, it should give visible results quicker. But I think working up to a higher % can be beneficial for those who are easily irritated.

So what I do for the bumps on the back of the arms, I simply swipe with a cotton pad after a shower and leave the product to absorb / dry. I also like to follow with a light weight moisturiser (to help reduce the dry bumps). I do this every other day or once every 3 days depending on the skin’s sensitivity. Requires continued use – I didn’t get visible result until about 3-4 weeks.

ALSO this can be used on one’s backside if you have Keratosis Pilaris on the buttocks, which can happen!


Use 5: Where there are ingrown hairs OR BUMPS i.e. the bikini line / buttocks / shaving bumps:

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  • For any pesky ingrown hair and bumps – using an exfoliator really helps, due to increasing the shedding of dead skin, it can help reduce clogged hair follicles and thereby reducing bumps. Also one can use a higher % acid like this 7% glycolic acid in areas where they don’t get sun exposure (so you don’t need to worry about applying SPF on these areas) – which means it can be used a bit more frequently. It can reduce the look of ingrown hairs / bumps, brighten the skin and improve the overall texture. If you have ingrown hairs due to shaving (even on the face, but please use an SPF and I don’t recommend acid exfoliation straight after shaving as that would hurt!), just apply a cotton-soaked pad to the area and let the product dry down.

This definitely takes dedication and continued use, but you need to be in touch with the skin and make sure you’re not over-exfoliating, it’s not also stinging when you’re shaving, otherwise you’ve overdone it. I don’t moisturise when I use this product on in-grown bumps, but I use moisturiser on KP (because that involves dry skin and ingrown hairs are less about dry skin and more about skin clogging up hair pores).

I’d do this once every 3 days (but it depends on people’s preference as the skin can feel sensitive if over-exfoliation occurs, especially if you’re applying this on the bikini line – underwear could rub against the sensitised skin, so take it slow!), I think one could see a difference in a month with continued use.

Use 6: In the Ears!:

  • I wear earphones a lot, and earphones rub, collect sweat, dirt and earwax. If you listen to music while working out, you also sweat and that rubs with the earphones and dirt collects and can cause blackheads to appear in the ear (see the images below).
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  • So what I do here is, I soak a cotton ear bud with Glycolic toner (not too much, otherwise the product will simply drip into the ears), and then swipe the ear where the blackheads are. This should help also reduce any bacteria that thrives off of the sweat incurred when exercising and earphones rubbing. The toner should basically help decongest the pores through exfoliation / shedding – reducing the look of the blackheads.

I do every 3 days and then when it looks better, I ease up to once a week.


Use 7: The Scalp! – Dandruff is due to a dry scalp, so to help alleviate this – some good old acid exfoliation can help by lifting that dead layer of skin cells and reducing itching. I find this a good alternative to scalp scrubs (which can remove dry skin from the scalp, but it can also leave the scalp still looking flaky).

Chemical exfoliants help remove a build-up of products (i.e. dry shampoos and creams etc) which can also cause those painful bumps on the scalp (by blocking pores). Alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid are very good at removing dead skin cells from the skin’s surface and have numerous beneficial properties for the hair and scalp.

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I use this on dry hair before a shower. I use the tip of the bottle (it has a nifty, easy to use nozzle with this particular bottle), and apply all over the scalp. I massage this with the fingers. I typically do this every 2 weeks – it depends how my scalp is feeling.

I leave this on for about 10~15 minutes, and this product does tingle on the scalp. Then I wash it off in the shower. I then move onto my shampoo + conditioner. Also, my scalp doesn’t feel sore afterwards (my advice is to not do this treatment too much as it may cause the scalp to feel quite sensitive).


From Geek&Gorgeous, The Smooth Out Exfoliating liquid:  HERE

This is a strong exfoliant, containing 12% AHA (so 5% stronger than this toner) So I would say definitely be careful when using (i.e. perhaps twice a month if you’re very sensitive).

Or for more Sensitive Skins – Mandelic Acid (a gentler AHA) to exfoliate the skin:

From Wishtrend, the Mandelic Acid Solution: My Review HERE

Yesstyle Purchase Link: HERE (Discount Code: CVQFZA)

Stylevana Link: HERE / UK Website HERE (Discount Code: SAHANNAH)

(I will say that I still find this Wishtrend Solution quite strong, so I would definitely space out the use of this AND I would not recommend to those with acneic skin / open sores, because it will sting).

The Geek and Gorgeous Cheer Up Exfoliating Liquid: HERE

This contains Mandelic Acid + Salicylic acid but still provides gentle exfoliation (I’ve been using it and have been enjoying it as it doesn’t sting when I apply to the skin. I apply every 3 days).

My Skin Type: I am acne prone and have slightly dehydrated combo skin. My skin is usually tight where the cheeks and eye area is and the outer parts of my face. My T zone is oily. My skin isn’t a fan of thick/heavy formulas so I opt for lightweight formulas to prevent it from clogging up. My skin doesn’t like essential oils either and I try to avoid fragrance when I can.

Disclaimer: I am a skincare enthusiast and not a skin expert. I am not qualified to give out dermatological advice. This type of advice should only be given by a medical practitioner. Upon trying / using any of the reviewed products on the blog, please follow the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings and please seek medical advice if needed.

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9 thoughts on “The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toner – Review + Different ways to use it!

  1. This is a great list, I didn’t even consider half of these!! I was wondering what amount of glycolic acid and moisturizer would you mix together?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! Honestly because the Ordinary Glycolic Acid is so high in %, you can get away with a few drops and still get some good effects. It’s better to have a ratio that’s Moisturiser:Toner, simply because then you’ll still be left with a nice cream-like texture that’s easy to spread along the skin instead of a higher Toner:Moisturiser ratio and it becomes quite drippy/messy over the fingers. I find because my body is less sensitive than my face, I can get away with adding more Toner:Cream ratio – so it is really about testing out what works for you in terms of both texture and making sure it’s not stinging/tingling too much which may signal you’ve added to much, depending on where you’re applying the product i.e face or body!


  2. Thank you so much for this informative review. I recently bought this as a saw a YouTuber using it but she didn’t mention anything about sensitive skin. I have very sensitive skin so after reading a bit more online I realized I should not use this product and was a bit upset as I had just bought a brand new bottle. Your article is so helpful because now I can use it on my body which is not sensitive like my face so that is really helpful. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the lovely comment! I’m so pleased it could at least help you not waste the product (I have the same issue too!) If there are any other things you’d like me to write in terms of tips and tricks then do let me know 🙂 xx


  3. Thanks for the information, please if someone stop using the glycolic acid toner would the face or skin go back to the way it was before


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