Similar… but different, ya know?
Toner. It’s one of those products you probably steer clear of unless you’re a skincare fiend. Because does it really do anything? Yes. Yes it does. It can do a lot. Especially if your skin tends to think it’s still a teenager and likes to bring more friends (aka blemishes) to the pepperoni pizza party that is your face. Unfortunately (ahem– fortunately), I’m no longer teenager, but I’ve been stuck at this pizza party for far too long. Luckily, glycolic acid has been helping me find my way out.
Glycolic acid. It’s a holy grail ingredient for anyone who wants to prolong the advent of wrinkles and fine lines. But it’s especially great for anyone suffering from blemishes since it gently exfoliates away dead & dull skin, and helps fade acne scars over time. It’s definitely a welcome ingredient in my skincare routine.
Two glycolic acid toners that are super similar (but still different!) are from The Ordinary and Pixi. The main difference is the price tag. Should you skimp on a higher quality product because of the pricier price tag? Or save the big bucks since the cheaper version is still amazing? Well, that’s why I’m here today.
The Ordinary Glycolic Toner vs Pixi Glow Tonic
The first time I used The Ordinary’s glycolic toner it burned like a mofo– this coming from someone who would voluntarily dive into a vat of [glycolic] acid a la Harley Quinn if the Joker told me clear skin was waiting for me at the bottom. My skin could tell the difference even though The Ordinary’s toner is just 2% more glycolic acid than the Pixi Glow Tonic, which has 5% GA. Luckily, after the initial use it never burned like that again. Afterwards, my skin does get the same glow the Pixi Glow Tonic gives me, and similarly helps fade and clear up blemishes when used consistently. But, the Pixi Glow Tonic does feel better on the skin. It’s more refreshing and gentle, and overall is a tad bit more pleasant to use. Is The Ordinary’s bad to use? Not at all! But if we’re being picky, it just doesn’t feel as soothing as Pixi’s.
The Ordinary’s first few ingredients are water, glycolic acid, rose water, cornflower water, and then aloe leaf water whereas the Glow Tonic’s first few ingredients are water, aloe leaf juice, witch hazel, horse chestnut extract, and then glycolic acid. The hierarchy of glycolic acid in The Ordinary’s formula explains why it initially burned a little more. And, why Pixi’s is a bit more refreshing and soothing– aloe is the second ingredient. The rest of the ingredients are also very similar, but have different concentrations. Both formulas have glycerin (moisturizing emollient), panax ginseng root extract (antioxidant to help brighten and tone), aspartic acid (skin conditioning amino acid), fructose, glucose, sucrose (sugars that are skin-replenishing), and urea (mild exfoliator). The Ordinary’s also has extra amino acids like alanine, glycine, serine, valine, isoleucine, proline, threonine, histidine, phenylalanine, and glutamic acid. It also has sodium lactate: the salt derived from lactic acid, a humectant and exfoliant.
… but which one?
Here’s a quick explanation about The Ordinary that Jessica touched on, and explained very well, in her post about the brand. The lower price tag means you’re not going to get the bells and whistles when it comes to ingredients. The low cost means you’re paying for one main ingredient and not all the “padding” ingredients that help elevate the formula so it’s pleasurable to use. Their toner is 7% glycolic acid, and it’s the second ingredient on their ingredient list. So everything that comes after it is not going to have a very high concentration. Still, they make some nice products that give results for a low cost. Bonus: they have some less expensive dupes/alternatives for higher priced counterparts (i.e. Glossier’s Super Pure vs The Ordinary’s Niacinamide + Zinc serum).
Overall, I think both are really good buys, and you can’t go wrong with either. I go for the Pixi Glow Tonic on the days I want something a bit more gentle, but still want to use a glycolic acid toner. And I go for The Ordinary’s Glycolic Toner on the days I want something a bit stronger. I do prefer The Ordinary’s packaging because it’s simpler and comes with a nozzle on the end. But packaging aside, they’re both really nice, and give very similar end results. If price is more important then I’d chose The Ordinary. If you want something a little more soothing, refreshing, and gentle then Pixi is the one for you. Are you a skincare maximalist like me? Well, then both will be in your collection– duh.
Have you tried either? What’s your fave glycolic acid product? Let me know in the comments below!
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