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The Best AHA Toners (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) for Different Skin Types

The Best AHA Toners (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) for Different Skin Types

Jump to: Editor’s Choice: The Best AHA Toners

The Best AHA Toners (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) for Different Skin Types – 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 work 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.

The Benefits of Using AHA Toners

  1. AHA toners prepare your skin to accept active ingredients from your skincare products, like AHA serums. 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.
  2. Exfoliates dead skin cells that are blocking your pores as well sweep away any remaining residue that is 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.
  3. Increases your skin’s resistance to a 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 into your routine.
  4. Can be used as your 2-week skin prep before doing any type of chemical exfoliation.

Jump to: Editor’s Choice: The Best AHA Toners

Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Skin Sensitivity

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 the efficacy of other topical products by removing barriers to the skin on a cellular level

Jump to: Editor’s Choice: The Best AHA Toners

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 skin care 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.

  1. Cleansers
  2. AHA TonersYou can use facial cottons to sweep off 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.
  3. Serums or other corrective products with active ingredients
  4. Moisturizers – Or products with thicker consistencies and/or are oil-based.
  5. 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.

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Editor’s Choice: The Best AHA Toners

We’ve chosen the best aha toners based on formulation, our experiences, specifications, efficacy, value for money, and consumer reviews.

Jump to: Product Comparison Chart – The Best AHA Toners

For best results, make sure to choose a product that is suited for your skin type and skin issues.

MIZON Aha & Bha Daily Clean Toner

Best for: All skin types; Introductory AHA or BHA product; pH adjuster; Prep for chemical peels

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 have 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 discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

AHA! 100% Natural Skin Tonic

Best for: All skin types especially Sensitive & Dry skin; As aftershave; Vegans

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.

Active ingredients:

  • Grapefruit Seed Extract – antiviral, antifungal, antiseptic, and antibacterial; a natural preservative.
  • A 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 discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

PCA SKIN Nutrient Toner

Best for: All skin types especially Dry & Dehydrated skin

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 & anti-aging ingredients.

Check for discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

Tres Belle Organic Brightening Toner with AHA & Skin Superfood

Best for: All skin types especially Photodamaged & Dull skin; Vegans

Tres Belle Organic Brightening Toner with AHA & Skin Superfood

Contains a knockout blend of organic extracts and five types of AHAs.

Active Ingredients:

  • 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 maintenance

Check for discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

Vivant Skin Care 9% Mandelic Acid 3-in-1 Toner

Best for: Oily & Acne-prone skin (Severe acne), Hyperpigmentation, Melasma, Dark skin tones, Combination skin

Vivant Skin Care 9% Mandelic Acid 3-in-1 Toner

This is a potent AHA product for those already acclimated to using acids in their skincare. This 3-in-1 toner promotes exfoliation, refines skin texture, and lightens discoloration. It’s a treatment booster for acne, hyperpigmentation, and aging skin. One of the best exfoliating toners for combination/oily skin or dark skin tones we’ve tried.

Active Ingredients:

  • Mandelic Acid – naturally derived from the extract of bitter almonds. Mandelic acid is one of the few AHAs that has antibacterial properties used to treat acne. It is also an excellent alternative to those that have sensitivities to glycolic acid, as well as those that have dark skin tones and irregular hyperpigmentation from salicylic acids.
  • Witch Hazel – natural plant-derived astringent that helps clear and tighten the look of pores while eliminating excess facial oil

This toner mainly serves as a booster for severe acne treatments, as well as melasma and any fine lines.

You should expect a mild exfoliating and astringent effect. The aim is to help fade discoloration and blemishes while smoothing out the skin’s tone and texture.

Quick tip: During the warmer seasons, leave in the fridge for a cooling effect. If it’s also a tad too strong, use once every other day until you build up resistance to twice a day.

Cons: A potent formula that can cause dramatic peeling to skin that’s not used to acids. It’s also way too drying for sensitive skin. You can try the lower 3% formula but personally, it’s the 9% solution that made the difference. Another option is to build up a tolerance to acids. You can try by starting with their Mandelic Acid 3-in-1 Exfoliating Cleanser (with beads, for extra exfoliation) or Mandelic Acid 3-in-1 Wash (without beads, gentler).

Best for: Acne-prone skin, Melasma, Oily and combination skin, Dark skin tones; acne spots or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, Sensitivity to glycolic acid, skin already acclimated to AHAs

Check for discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

Peter Thomas Roth 8% Glycolic Solutions Toner

Best for: Acne-prone, Oily & Combination skin; Hyperpigmentation, Dry patches

Peter Thomas Roth 8% Glycolic Solutions Toner

This product contains the highest amount of concentrated AHA in this list. The formulation is quite strong for sensitive skin, at 8% strength. The addition of soothing ingredients like aloe vera and chamomile extracts, however, helps to manage any potential irritations.

One of the best glycolic acid toners we’ve tried.

Active Ingredients:

  • 8% Glycolic Acid (AHA) – easiest type of AHA to penetrate the skin, the high concentration makes this formulation a potent and effective exfoliator
  • 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

The 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. 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 & 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 discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

Product Comparison Chart: The Best AHA Toners

wdt_ID Brand / Product Name AHA + BHA + Other Acids Included Added Benefits Best for (Skin Type & Condition) Product Image Jump to Review
1 MIZON Aha & Bha Daily Clean Toner Papaya enzymes; Glycolic, Lactic, and Salicylic acid AHA+ BHA very gentle toner. All skin types especially Sensitive skin; Introductory AHA or BHA product; pH adjuster; Prep for chemical peels.
3 AHA! 100% Natural Skin Tonic Malic acid 100% all natural & organic. A mix of citrus oils (intense vitamin C). All skin types especially Sensitive & Dry skin; As aftershave; Vegan
4 PCA SKIN Nutrient Toner Pumpkin enzyme, Lactic acid Amino acids, Aminoguanidine, Vitamin A, & Vitamin C (anti-aging, brightening, hydrating) All skin types especially Dry & Dehydrated skin
5 Tres Belle Organic Brightening Toner with AHA & Skin Superfood Malic, Tartaric, Glycolic, Lactic, & Citric Acid Organic AHAs, Superberry extracts (antioxidants, anti-aging), All skin types especially Photodamaged and Dull skin; Vegan
6 Vivant Skin Care 9% Mandelic Acid 3-in-1 Toner Mandelic Acid Mandelic acid has unique antibacterial properties for severe acne. For dark skin tones prone to hyperpigmentation. Witch Hazel (pore minimizing, sebum control). Oily & Acne-prone skin (Severe acne), Hyperpigmentation, Melasma, Dark skin tones, Combination skin
7 Peter Thomas Roth 8% Glycolic Solutions Toner Glycolic Acid Aloe Vera, Allantoin, & Chamomile Extract (soothing, anti-inflammatory). Sodium PCA (hydration). Witch Hazel (pore minimizing, sebum control). Acne-prone, Oily & Combination skin; Hyperpigmentation, Dry patches




  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids | All Natural Skin Care Products by Nonie of Beverly Hills. (2018).
  • GARG, V., SINHA, S. and SARKAR, R. (2009). Glycolic Acid Peels Versus Salicylic–Mandelic Acid Peels in Active Acne Vulgaris and Post-Acne Scarring and Hyperpigmentation. Dermatologic Surgery, 35(1), pp.59-65. [PubMed]
  • Jartarkar, S., Gangadhar, B., Mallikarjun, M. and Manjunath, P. (2017). A randomized, single-blind, active-controlled study to compare the efficacy of salicylic acid and mandelic acid chemical peel in the treatment of mild to moderately severe acne vulgaris. Clinical Dermatology Review, 1(1), p.15. [Clinical Dermatology Review]
  • Kornhauser, A. (2010). Applications of hydroxy acids: classification, mechanisms, and photoactivity. Clinical, Cosmetic And Investigational Dermatology, 135. doi: 10.2147/ccid.s9042
  • Kornhauser, A., Coelho, S. and Hearing, V. (2012). Effects of Cosmetic Formulations Containing Hydroxy acids on Sun-Exposed Skin: Current Applications and Future Developments. Dermatology Research and Practice, 2012, pp.1-6. [PubMed]
  • 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. 
  • Mizon Beauty Door. (2018).
  • Moghimipour, E. (2012). Hydroxy Acids, the Most Widely Used Anti-aging Agents. jundishapur Journal of Natural Pharmaceutical Products, 6(2), pp.9-10. [Source]
  • Organic Skin Care | Natural Luxury Skin Care | Sweetsation Therapy | Best Organic and Natural skin care, Simple Spa grade Antiaging products, Baby and Kids sunscreens, body butters and moisturizers, Skin care tips, recommendations, reviews and recipes. (2018).
  • Skin Care Products. (2018). PCA Skin.
  • Home – Peter Thomas Roth Clinical Skin Care. (2018).
  • Vivant Skin Care. (2018).
  • 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. [Source]


The Best AHA Toners (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) for Different Skin Types Overall rating: ★★★★★ 4.7 based on 9 reviews
5 1

Great list

5 5 1
Awesome selection, thanks. I've been looking for an organic toner and the Tres Bell one looks very promising. Do you have a list for serums too?
Solid advice. Not many people realize how essential toners can be in a skincare routine!
I've used the Mizon toner before and that worked pretty well. But my skin has outgrown that level of acid now so I'm looking to upgrade. Do you know the strength of Tres Belle Organic? Thanks!

Results with Peter Thomas toner!

5 5 1
My skin is smoother after a few weeks and some of my acne started drying up. I'm also flaking in some parts so I need to moisturize more often now. But I'm very happy with it overall!

Avoid near the mouth and around the nose

4 5 1
I used the PCA toner and my skin started to peel around the mouth and near the nose. Avoid those areas,, the skin is thinner and more sensitive there.

Damp vs dry cotton

5 5 1
Started to see results with the Peter Roth toner but my face began stinging after a while. I figured it's too strong for me to use daily so I dilute it now by using a damp cotton instead of a dry. It worked! My complexion is better with everyday use but it's not too harsh anymore. I can also stretch a bottle for months with this technique.

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