The Best AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) Toners for Your Skin Type – Did you know that if you’re using products with active ingredients on it without prepping your skin beforehand, you may only be getting a fraction of its benefits?
This is especially true if you have an arsenal of serums or creams with active ingredients or other topical products in your routine.
AHA toners works as a booster so your more expensive products can be absorbed much more efficiently into your skin.
They can also help your skin build resistance and condition it to accept higher, more effective concentrations of products.
AHA toners can be the step in your routine that will maximize your skincare to its fullest potential.
- 0.1 The Benefits of Using AHA Toners
- 0.2 Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Skin Irritation
- 0.3 How to Incorporate AHA Toners in Your Skincare Routine
- 1 The Best AHA Toners
- 1.1 MIZON Aha & Bha Daily Clean Toner
- 1.2 AHA! 100% Natural Skin Tonic
- 1.3 PCA SKIN Nutrient Toner
- 1.4 Tres Belle Organic Brightening Toner with AHA & Skin Superfood
- 1.5 Peter Thomas Roth Glycolic Acid 10% Toning Complex
The Benefits of Using AHA Toners
- AHA toners prepare your skin to accept active ingredients from your skincare products. They lower your skin’s pH, which is an essential step in helping the rest of your topical products penetrate your skin at a much deeper and faster rate.
- Exfoliates dead skin cells that are blocking your pores as well sweep away any remaining residue that are interfering with your skin’s ability to fully absorb your products. If you use a cotton ball, this process is one of the gentlest ways to incorporate daily physical and chemical exfoliation.
- Increases your skin’s resistance to higher concentration of acids and other active ingredients by giving your skin daily doses of hydroxy acids. This is especially useful if you’re just starting to incorporate peels in your routine.
- Can be used as your 2-week skin prep before doing any type of chemical exfoliation.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Skin Irritation
AHAs induce shedding of dead skin cells, also known as exfoliation. By doing so, they stimulate the appearance of new skin, resulting in a fresher and younger looks complexion.
Other benefits of AHAs to the skin include:
- helping diminish the appearance of fine lines and hyperpigmentation (acne spots)
- rejuvenates dull, lifeless skin
- smoothens out skin texture
- evens out skin tone
- combat mild acne, blackheads, and whiteheads
- maintain proper moisture levels in the skin
- increases efficacy of other topical products by removing barriers to the skin on a cellular level
The higher the concentration of the acid and the lower the pH (measure of acidity) of the product, the more effective it will be. However, the strength of the formulation is also related to its ability to cause skin irritations.
One way to minimize this is by raising your skin’s tolerance to acids and lowering your skin’s pH levels through AHA toners.
Once the skin is conditioned enough, you can deliver higher concentrations of acids in the form of serums or chemical peels for more dramatic benefits.
How to Incorporate AHA Toners in Your Skincare Routine
Below is a general skincare routine you can follow, applicable for all skin types. If you have several products that you layer, you can insert them between your serums and moisturizers.
One quick rule in layering products: apply them on from the thinnest to the thickest consistency. Make sure to also give them a few minutes to absorb. This technique will make sure that all your products are in full effect and work in synergy.
- AHA Toners – You can use facial cottons to sweep of any excess dirt left by your cleanser. If you do a double cleanse or you’re confident with your cleansing routine, you can just gently tap the toner onto your skin to save product.
- Serums or other corrective products with active ingredients
- Moisturizers – Or products with thicker consistencies and/or are oil-based.
- Sunscreen (AM) or Night Cream (PM) – Sunscreen is crucial if you have exfoliators in your regimen. They help protect your skin from any photosensitivity that AHAs bring.
Our recommendations for the best AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) toners are based on our comprehensive analysis of the product’s formulation, claims, value for money, and consumer reviews. We make an effort to be as objective as possible and give advice in good faith; however, our reviews may still contain conjectures and opinions based on our research and personal experiences.
It’s important to know that as with any product (especially cosmetics), what may be perfect for you may not be right for the next person. So as much as we want to guarantee that these will be everyone’s next holy grail, results can still be affected by individual factors like your current skin condition, the environment you’re in, use of the product, reaction to your other skincare, and so on. For best results, make sure to choose a product that is suited for your skin type and skin issues.
This website is for informational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Product or service details are collected directly from the manufacturer and other reputable sources during the time of this review, and cited in the Resources section. We try to keep on top of new formulations when we can, and update our data accordingly.
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The Best AHA Toners
We’ve chosen the best aha toners based on formulation, our experiences, specifications, efficacy, value for money, and consumer reviews.
Below is a ‘cheat sheet’ so you can have a quick overview from mildest to strongest acid strength. Click on the ‘Read More’ button for a detailed review of each product.
Make sure to choose a product that is suited for your skin type and skin issues for best results.
MIZON Aha & Bha Daily Clean Toner
One of Korea’s cult skincare products. This is a gentle toner that combines AHA and BHA for a dual purpose exfoliation.
The AHAs and papaya enzyme work on the surface of the skin to slough off dead skin cells while BHAs go deep to unclog pores. This leaves your skin smoother and clearer.
Active Ingredients: The AHAs used in this toner are glycolic acid and lactic acid, while the BHA used is salicylic acid. Papaya enzyme adds to the exfoliation factor. Korean skincare has gentler formulations compared to its western counterparts, making their products ideal for those with sensitive skin.
Perfect as a skin prep or pH adjusting toner for those whose skincare routine includes regular chemical peels.
Also an ideal supplementary addition to those who has AHAs and BHAs in their routine.
Cons: The AHA/BHA formulation is very gentle and not strong enough for those with moderate to severe acne, as well as oily skin. For these skin types, it’s best to use this product just as a pH adjuster to complement higher concentrated acid products like serums or peels.
Best for: All skin types especially sensitive skin, dull complexion; those who are new to acids and looking for an introductory AHA or BHA product; those who already has skincare with acids or active ingredients in their routine and is looking for a product booster; those looking for a product to prep the skin for chemical peels.Check for current discounts & other customer reviews
AHA! 100% Natural Skin Tonic
100% all natural and organic toner, with AHAs extracted from fruits that aren’t processed with pressure, heat, or additive chemicals.
– Grapefruit Seed Extract – antiviral, antifungal, antiseptic, and antibacterial; a natural preservative.
– Mix of Citrus Oils (lemon, grapefruit, orange, bergamot, neroli) – an intense dose of vitamin C, which helps protect and heal. It also has potent properties for brightening, detoxifying, and rejuvenating the skin.
– Organic Apple Cider Vinegar – contains malic acid, a type of AHA derived from apples. Aside from the usual benefits of alpha hydroxy acids, it also has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Apple cider also helps balance your skin’s pH levels, helping regulate sebum production.
AHA benefits from the gentle formulation include smoother skin, visible reduction in fine lines, and an even complexion.
Gentle enough to use around sensitive areas like around the eyes and the neck. Also an effective and soothing aftershave that helps get rid of irritation.
Suitable for vegans and vegetarians, and has a fresh citrus scent.
Con: As with any natural product, shelf life may be limited if not carefully stored. It’s best to be kept away from direct sunlight and in cool, dry storage. There may also be discoloration in the product in its mid-life.
Best for: All skin types especially sensitive skin; those looking for all natural organic, vegan products.Check for current discounts & other customer reviews
PCA SKIN Nutrient Toner
Active Ingredients: Pumpkin enzyme based toner formulated with lactic acid, and aminoguanidine.
Personally, I am a massive fan of the PCA line as their formulations are always effective and can rival any number of high-end skincare.
– The nutritional benefits of fermented pumpkin include amino acids (nourishes skin), antioxidants, vitamin A (potent anti-aging, improves hydration, repairs skin) and vitamin C (brightening, anti-aging).
– Lactic acid is a type of AHA known for its moisturizing properties so it won’t dry out your skin. This is not an astringent, but a hydrating and skin conditioning toner. Lactic acid is tagged with the usual benefits of AHA as well: refines pores, smoothes skin texture, etc. This is perfect for dry and dehydrated skin.
– Aminoguanidine is an anti-aging ingredient that supports skin elasticity and suppleness.
This toner is fragrance-free, but there is a natural pumpkin smell coming off it which is quite interesting. Sweet smelling, reminiscent of autumn.
Cons: Avoid if you have extra sensitive skin as the active ingredients in this can be quite irritating.
It’s advertised as fragrance-free, but that refers to it not having synthetic fragrances and not literally. This product comes with the natural smell of sweet pumpkins (which is not all bad but you may prefer the literal version of fragrance-free.)
The most annoying thing for me personally though is that the bottle tends to leak, so heads up especially if you plan to travel with it.
Best for: All skin types especially dry skin and dehydrated skin, perfect for winter use, and those who are looking for a toner with an extra kick of skin vitamins and anti-aging ingredients.Check for current discounts & other customer reviews
Tres Belle Organic Brightening Toner with AHA & Skin Superfood
Contains a knockout blend of organic extracts and five types of AHAs.
– Superberry extracts (blueberry, bilberry, pomegranate, cranberry) – a large dose of antioxidants to protect the skin from harmful free radicals (which causes rapid aging).
– A blend of all organic AHAs (Malic, Tartaric, Glycolic, Lactic, Citric) – combines all the benefits of different kinds of alpha hydroxy acids to deliver exfoliating, moisturizing, antibacterial, and brightening effects on the skin.
Cons: Though it may look like an all-powerful exfoliator with its blend of AHAs, the formulation is quite gentle. It’s not highly concentrated enough to quickly address hard-hitting skin issues like dark pigmentation and acne. This product is best for skin maintenance instead of as a corrector.
Best for: All skin types, photodamaged skin, those looking for an all natural AHA toner with anti-aging vitamins, those looking for a gentle toner for skin maintenanceCheck for current discounts & other customer reviews
Peter Thomas Roth Glycolic Acid 10% Toning Complex
This product contains the highest amount of concentrated AHA in this list. The formulation is quite strong, with a mix of several acids including glycolic, citric, and lactic acid.
– 10% Glycolic Acid (AHA) – easiest type of AHA to penetrate the skin, the high concentration makes this formulation a potent and effective exfoliator
– Lactic & Citric Acids (AHAs) – gentler form of AHA, with lactic acid having moisturizing effects and citric acid having brightening effects
– Aloe Vera, Allantoin, and Chamomile Extract – helps hydrate and soothe skin irritations
– Sodium PCA – helps lightly and naturally hydrate skin.
– Witch Hazel – natural plant-derived toner helps to clear and tighten the look of pores while eliminating excess facial oil
Texture is very watery, which makes it easily absorbed by the skin. This type of consistency is perfect for oily and combination skin. If you use a cotton ball, there will be some excess product left so it may seem wasteful. However, the bottle is large and even with regular use, can last for as long as 6 months.
Very good in helping clear and prevent acne. Though not marketed primarily as such, reviews from acne-prone users have been very positive.
The high amount of acids can give you the full benefits of AHAs: improved skin texture, fades hyperpigmentation, smoothens fine lines, exfoliates dull skin, evens out skin tone, improved hydration, and elasticity. If you have moderate skin issues, this toner may carry enough AHA to address your skin problems.
Cons: Strong formulation, not ideal for those who are new to acids or have sensitive skin. Quite pharmaceutical looking (If you like pretty things in your vanity, this one’s a party pooper). If you have staple acids in your routine, using this on top of those might be too much so tread carefully and see what works for you.
If you have sensitive skin, it’s best to start with a lower percentage toner and work your way up to this. (Higher concentrations are usually more effective, but it’s crucial that your skin has built tolerance for acids first to be able to use it properly.)
Best for: Acne-prone skin, oily and combination skin; acne spots or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, dry patches; those with moderate skin issues looking for an all-in-one AHA product.Check for current discounts & other customer reviews
Kornhauser, A., Coelho, S. and Hearing, V. (2012). Effects of Cosmetic Formulations Containing Hydroxyacids on Sun-Exposed Skin: Current Applications and Future Developments. Dermatology Research and Practice, 2012, pp.1-6.
Michalun, N. and Michalun, M. (2001). Milady’s skin care and cosmetic ingredients dictionary. 1st ed. Australia: Milady Thomson Learning.
Maier, L. (2014). AHA 2013, Dallas – AHA – Scientific Sessions. Aktuelle Kardiologie, 3(01), pp.2-3.
Moghimipour, E. (2012). Hydroxy Acids, the Most Widely Used Anti-aging Agents. jundishapur Journal of Natural Pharmaceutical Products, 6(2), pp.9-10.
VORARAT, S., AROMDEE, C. and PODOKMAI, Y. (2002). Determination of Alpha Hydroxy Acids in Fruits by Capillary Electrophoresis. Analytical Sciences, 18(8), pp.893-896.