The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toner review: Hello, smooth skin

Radiance, fewer breakouts, faded acne marks and skin like a smooth criminal? Count me in.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution might be a beauty community favourite, but does it really live up to its cult status and bold claims?

Well, I’ve tried it out so you don’t have to – here’s my complete The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toner review!

But first things first…

What is glycolic acid, anyway?

Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid – or AHA for short. It’s derived from sugar cane. Yep. Sugar.

Anyway, glycolic acid speeds up cell turnover, which means your skin will shed those crusty old dead skin cells way quicker than it would on its own.

The result? Exfoliation without all the irritation that comes from scrubbing your face with the likes of St Ives (if you know, you know), as well as revived, smooth skin and a whole lotta glow.

Bonus points? Glycolic acid even stimulates the skin to make more collagen. That’s the stuff that makes your skin look firm and plump – but you produce less as you get older, so glycolic acid can help to keep the ball rollin’.

In other words, pass me the glycolic acid. Now.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toning Solution review

Just in case you don’t want to read the whole review, here’s my thoughts summed up in a few sentences.

I like this product. It’s super easy to use. It seems to reduce the blackheads on my nose. And it leaves my skin noticeably glowier come morning. All for under a tenner.

Would I say it’s done much for my acne? A little, but for me, it’s not exactly an acne cure. Those pesky hormonal breakouts are still there (lucky me)! For that reason, I don’t use this as an acne treatment per se, but as a skin-smoothing, acne-mark-fading glow tonic.

Plus points (and life hack) it works really bloody well on my body – and even my feet – too. More on that later!

Key product benefits & claims

Product: The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

Key benefits & claims: This 7% toning solution offers mild exfoliation for improved skin radiance and visible clarity.

pH: Approximately 3.6.

Suitable for: All skin types – except very sensitive

Price: £11.50

The consistency

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid is super thin and watery in consistency. It’s literally like pouring pure water on a cotton pad – the only difference being that the Glycolic Acid is slightly yellow (it reminds me of apple juice) in colour.

It comes with a plastic nozzle dispenser, which helps in regulating the flow of the product so you don’t end up spilling it everywhere.

The scent

This product has no added fragrance or essential oils; which is a good thing, as that minimises irritation. If anything, it smells very slightly vinegary – but I really mean very slightly. Nothing to be alarmed about.

The results

The thing I love the most about The Ordinary Glycolic Acid? You can see a difference in your skin by the very next morning. If I apply this in the evening and follow with a moisturiser, my skin is mega glowy the next day.

For that reason, I find it the perfect product to use a night or two before big events, when I want a super smooth canvas for my makeup. I also like to use it the night before I apply fake tan, as I find the tan then applies smoother and lasts much longer.

In my experience, it’s great for refining skin texture, too. If your skin is easily clogged and congested – or you have those annoying little bumps that never seem to go away – this is a great way to budge them and smooth out your skin. I often use it on my nose to keep it clear of blackheads without having to do any gross extractions!

Remember I mentioned body and feet earlier? Yep, I’m serious. Apply this product roughly over your arms and legs the night before a big event for some serious glow the day after. Same for your feet – if used regularly, it’s a great way to slough away dead skin cells and keep them silky smooth. It’s a great way to make sure your fake tan goes on silky smooth!

Did it work for acne?

Blackheads and congestion? Yep. Hormonal cystic breakouts? Nope. My acne is super stubborn and this alone just isn’t enough to clear my hormonal acne. This makes sense, as studies suggest that glycolic acid peels are most effective at improving acne when applied at concentrations between 20% and 70%. This is only 7%.

For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toning Solution as a stand alone acne treatment if you’re struggling with your skin. You’ll likely have much better results with retinol/retinoids, tretinoin or other prescription-strength acne treatments.

But if mild acne, blackheads and congestion are your issues, it’s definitely worth a try – just make sure to use it regularly! Consistently removing dead skin cells is often a simple fix for these sorts of problems.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toner review for acne

Will it cause sensitivity?

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid does have the potential to cause some sensitivity. When I first started using it, I noticed some tingling and a very slightly itchy face. However, my skin seems to have adapted, so I no longer experience these symptoms.

Deciem states that “This formula should not be used on sensitive, peeling or compromised skin.”. If you’re prone to reactions or dryness, you might find this product too harsh. I’d recommend patch testing on a small area of your skin to begin with.

If you’re looking for something exfoliating but have fairly sensitive skin, I’d recommend taking a look at The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA rather than this one.

One super important thing to note: Don’t use this on any popped pimples or open sores/wounds. I’ve learnt from experience that it hurts and makes the leftover hyperpigmentation so much worse in the long run. Don’t do it!

The packaging

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toner comes in a transparent plastic bottle with screw-shut metal lid. However, it comes with a plastic nozzle dispenser (is that the right word?!), which slows down the flow of product so it doesn’t spill absolutely everywhere.

It’s not exactly fancy packaging, but I love The Ordinary’s simple branding and personally think it looks lovely sitting on my bathroom shelf!

It’s a pretty large bottle – 240ml to be exact – and literally lasts forever. I’ve had it for 6 months now and still have half a bottle or so left, despite using it at least once a week and slathering it on my feet and arms.

The price (and where to purchase)

Bargain alert. The Ordinary Glycolic Acid costs just £11.50 for a big ol’ bottle that’ll probably last you 6 months or so if you’re using it 2 or 3 times a week. Obviously, if you’re slathering it over your body to benefit from its skin-smoothing effects, it might not last so long. Regardless, it’s still a bargain considering the amount of product you get!

My go-to places to purchase The Ordinary are:

And if you’re in the US, take a look at:

What I like…

It brings instant results to the skin – come morning, you’ll notice a major increase in glow. It seems to speed up the fading of post-acne marks… and I’m totally here for that. It improves my blackheads and small clogged pores slightly. It keeps my feet super smooth if used on them regularly; especially in the summer, when the sandals come out to play.

What I’m not so keen on…

It doesn’t seem to be very effective at tackling hormonal acne, at least in my case. It can sting if used on sensitive areas or if your skin is a little dry/dehydrated (avoid it in these cases).

Good for, bad for…

I’d say this could work for anyone with normal, combination or acne prone skin, but don’t expect it to clear up your acne entirely if it’s as stubborn as mine.

I suspect this might be a bit on the harsh side for those with sensitive or drier skin types, but if you really want to try it, just make sure to do a patch test first.

If you have a compromised skin barrier (think red, sensitive, flaky skin), keep this off your skin at all costs and focus on hydration and moisture instead.

How to use The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toner

I’d always follow this up with a moisturiser if you can – it’d probably be pretty drying on its own. If you want to increase its effectiveness, just leave it on for 5 minutes before applying your moisturiser to give it some time to get to work without being buffered.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 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, 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.


The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toner: Glow? Yep. Acne cure? Nope.

Would I recommend giving this a try? Absolutely. For the price, you really can’t go wrong with its subtle glow boost and skin-smoothing effect. But don’t expect it to cure your hormonal acne. If yours is as stubborn as mine, you’ll probably need to pair this with stronger treatments, such as retinol or tretinoin, for stronger acne-busting power.

If you do give it a try, make sure to let me know how you get on in the comments. And before you go, make sure to follow me on Instagram and check out a few more of my recent skincare reviews.

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4 responses to “The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toner review: Hello, smooth skin”

  1. zidane says:

    thank you for the article

  2. Cindy Madrid says:

    Hi Alice, I’ve recently started incorporating the toning solution into my skincare routine, and I’ve noticed my skin becoming smoother. I’m dealing with stubborn acne, so I’ve also begun using The Ordinary’s Acne Set. I’m quite new to The Ordinary products and eager to learn more about them.

    Here are the products I have:

    Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
    Acne Set, including:
    Glucosid Foaming Cleanser
    Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
    Natural Moisturizing Factor – Beta Glucan
    My daily routine is as follows:

    Morning Routine:

    1 Wash my face with Glucosid Foaming Cleanser
    2 Apply Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
    3 Follow with Natural Moisturizing Factor – Beta Glucan
    4 Apply makeup directly.

    Night Routine:

    1 Wash my face with Glucosid Foaming Cleanser
    2 Use Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
    3 Apply Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
    4 Finish with Natural Moisturizing Factor – Beta Glucan

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on my skincare routine or any suggestions you might have.

    • Alice says:

      Hey Cindy, thanks so much for your comment 🙂 I also love The Ordinary as a brand, so it’s definitely a good starting point.

      I’m not a dermatologist, so bear in mind that this opinion is from personal experience only. My only criticism of your routine is that it might contain too many active ingredients used at once (i.e. glycolic acid and salicylic acid in the same night), which can be stripping. Stripping your skin can actually lead to more breakouts, as your barrier can become compromised.

      I’d suggest rotating these and also making time for a night entirely off actives to ensure your skin barrier is healthy. For example:

      Night 1: Use Glycolic Acid
      Night 2: Use Salicylic Acid
      Night 3: Rest

      And repeat 🙂 Let me know if that helps/how it goes.

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