Skincare Novice
I only got introduced to the term acid toners a years ago or so, by the British facialist, the witty and knowledgeable woman, Caroline Hirons (visit her blog here). Before that time, I didn’t care much about skincare. However, she has given me a better understanding of all things skincare and basically redefined my skincare routine. Absolutely brilliant!

What are acid toners?
Before I blabber away about my go-to acid toners, let’s take a minute to define what an acid toner is and what it does.

Acid toners are products containing acids, used after cleansing and before moisturizing.
According to Mrs. Hirons, acid toners have four functions:

  • Creating balance: resetting the pH balance of the skin after cleansing
  • Exfoliation: A chemical exfoliation, removing flaky skin cells without mechanical exfoliation such as small grains or beads.
  • Hydration: acting as a humectant “attracting moisture from the air” and trapping it in the in the most outer layer of the skin.
  • Penetration: I can only imagine, that exfoliating and removing flaky skin cells forming dry patches, increases the access to the underlying skin, thus helping penetration of the serum and moisturizer you apply after the acid toner step.

Different acid toners and their properties
Quoted from Caroline Hirons blog, listed are below some of the acids used and their properties:

Lactic (AHA) – resurfacing, great for dehydrated and dry skin.

Glycolic (AHA) – stimulating for better collagen production, resurfacing.

Malic (AHA) – resurfacing, good for boosting collagen production

Salicylic (BHA) – best for spots/acne. Surprisingly gentle.

PHA’s (Poly hydroxy acids) – best for those in need of hydration and deep penetration of product afterwards.

So now that we’ve got that straight, let’s get cracking with my favourite acid toners, how and when I use them!
When to use an acid toner

After cleansing my face, my skin is ready for exfoliation with an acid toner. My current evnening skincare routine consists of five steps:

Step 1 First cleanse: Makeup removal 

Step 2 Second cleanse: Non-soap cleanser

Step 3 Exfoliation: Mild acid toner

Step 4 Moisture: Serum

Step 5 More moisture: Eye cream and moisturizer

Click on the different steps to read the individual blog posts.

I like to think of acid toners as a preparing step for the moisture giving products I apply next. So acid toners are in no way meant as a cleanser or a makeup remover.

Depending my skin, I like to use different toners for different purposes, as demonstrated below.
First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads

First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads

These pads are part of my everyday evening skincare routine. They are very mild on my skin, no tingly feeling at all.
So they are a good place to start, if you are a little scared of the thought of acid toner as a concept. And they are okay-affordable (compared to others on the market) around 20£/28€ for 60 pads. All in all a really good value for money. AND they are travel friendly, you could seal them in a plastic bag, saving space for other important stuff, such as more makeup, obviously! 😉
How to: I use them after I’ve cleansed my skin. Starting around my nose, where I have small areas of dry patches, onto my cheeks, forehead, chin – flipping it over, using the other side – then down my neck and behind my ears (yes, you’d be surprised what your skin looks like behind your ears).
Pixi Glow Tonic

Pixi Glow Tonic

Stepping up the acid game, this is an oil-free, alcohol-free acid toner, containing glycolic acid, that has exfoliating properties.
 I reach for this when my skin is extraordinarily dry – which is basically from October to April, or when the weather get very cold and dry. And Caroline Hirons says this is for all skin types (mine is normal to dry).
How to: I store it in my fridge, use it on a cotton pad and use it in the same manner as the First Aid Beauty Radiance Pads.

It gives me a mild tingly and tightening feeling on my skin, leaving it slightly dry and visibly exfoliated from flaky dry patches. Straight afterwards I apply a serum and then a small amount of regular moisturizer.

Because of it’s effectiveness, I only use it a couple of time a month. I havn’t tried using it daily, as I don’t find that I have the need for it.

Added fragrance
Pixi has added fragrance to their Glow Tonic. And to those of you, that follow my blog and watch my videos probably know by now: I’m not a big fan of added fragrance. To anything, really. However, the only thing I can smell is the characteristic Ginseng (see ingredients list below), for me it’s tolerable.

Acid toner and sensitive skin?
None of these acid toner triggers or worsen my rosacea. But that’s no guarantee for your skin.
If you want to try them out, make sure your skin tolerates the product, by testing it on a small area e.g. on your neck or chin. A typical allergic reaction appears within the first 24 to 48 hours. In case of an reaction, make sure to see your medical doctor.
Bye bye scrubs
So thanks to acid toner, the days of scrubbing my face are over and I’m happy that I’ve found an effective and a gentle way to take care of my, sometimes very dry, skin.
Let my know how you handle your dry patches and how you get along with acid toners!
XO Cæcilie

First Aid Beauty Radiance Pads ingredients:
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

Pixi Glow Tonic Ingredients: 
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.


  1. Laura L
    9. December 2016 / 12:10

    Hi Cæcilie,
    I’m not sure if you’ll see this comment, but I just wondered what your current position on acid toners was, one year later? I, too, have a lot of time for Caroline Hirons. I have the First Aid Beauty radiance pads (and quite like them!) and I have also tried the P50 lotion she speaks so highly of. I, too, find that they don’t worsen my rosacea unless I overdo it (obvious). I try and do it once every few weeks when I feel my skin getting congested.

    • 12. December 2016 / 17:17

      Hi Laura, I haven’t repurchased the First Aid Beauty radiance pads since I’ve used them all up. not because I don’t like them, but beacuse I get more value for money (and love the results) from Pixi’s Glow Tonic. It has fast become a stable in my skincare routine. I use it 4-5 times a week and wouldn’t be without it 🙂 XO Cæcilie

  2. Roos
    5. January 2017 / 16:48

    Hai Caecilie,

    I love your blog and video’s and find them very informative! However, I would like to react on your choice of exfoliants. I think your choice to use AHA’s is good, because you say you have normal/dry skin. But I see in the ingredientlist of your exfoliants citrus oils and fragrance, and however you might not notice any irritation in your skin, it’s slowly making your skin more sensitive! See this link for more info:

    I use an exfoliant from Paula’s choice, without irritating ingredients en with calming ingredients and antioxidants, maybe is that an option for you too?

    Keep up the good work, I love to read your blogs!


    • 5. January 2017 / 21:47

      Hi Roos, thanks for your comment. Glad you like the blog! I’m aware that the Pixi Glow Tonic (the only exfoliator I use now) contains fragrance. And fragrance can contain several hundred different molecules, all of which can be allergenic. So far it hasn’t made my skin more sensitive. However, I would LOVE if Pixi would leave out fragrance in all their products.
      But I’ll definitely have to check out the one from PC. XO Cæcilie

  3. Sarah
    8. January 2017 / 19:09

    I really liked the Clinique mild Exofoliating Lotion. They reformulated it though, and for the worse. I’ve switched to a polish chemical peel called Iwostin. I think the name of the peeling is “Purritin” or something like that. It’s a combination of BHA, AHA and Mandelic Acid. I have very sensitive skin, and rosacea, but this stuff does a great job. It even takes good care of the dry patches around my nose. 2 nights a week i use the peeling lotion, the other times i’ve used Effaclar Duo Plus, and a nivea night cream for sensitive skin (no perfume, no parabens).

    • 16. January 2017 / 21:42

      Yes, it’s great to find an acid toner that treats our sensitive rosacea skin kindly. Pixi Glow Tonic does the job for me 🙂

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