This is the first nighttime chemical exfoliator I ever used – and it's still the best (and only £10)

An OG is an OG for a reason

Pixi Glow Tonic - picture of Rebecca Fearn in the mirror
(Image credit: Rebecca Fearn)

Pixi Glow Tonic is incredibly nostalgic to me. It's one of the first products I added to my skincare routine when I first got into beauty at university. It's been a skincare icon for many years with the hype never waning. It's also one of the most copied and duped products about, and for good reason. 

If you're looking for an AHA toner with glycolic acid or an exfoliant in general, I implore you to consider this one – and I'm more than happy to explain why. 

Pixi Glow Tonic: the origin story

Most of us in beauty will remember the first time we heard about Pixi Glow Tonic: it  was through none other than beauty icon Caroline Hirons  blog. Back in 2012 (yes, 11 years ago), Hirons shared a post entitled, 'Pixi Glow Tonic: a new find,' in which she raved about an affordable version for her favourite acid toner, Biologique Recherce P50 Lotion. Not yet widely available in the UK and rather pricey at £89, Hirons knew that P50 was not the most accessible purchase for her legions of followers. The blogger made it clear that although Glow Tonic didn't share the exact same ingredients list to P50, it was still a brilliant purse-friendly alternative. 

"The Glow Tonic is an oil-free, alcohol-free, gentle but astringent toner," she wrote. "Heavy in aloe vera, it also contains witch hazel to tone and firm, smooth the appearance of the skin and soften the texture. Ginseng aids the natural supply of oxygen to the cells and horse chestnut stimulates the skin and circulation."

Hirons then continued: "Glycolic loosens the excess accumulation of dead skin cells and thus exfoliates. It says for normal to dry and older skins but this will help all skin types in my opinion."

I remember seeing the review and the corresponding Instagram post and knowing instantly I wanted to try it. This was back when Pixi was a small, handcrafted brand and was only available at its tiny Covent Garden flagship store. Every time I went to buy it, it seems just about everyone else I knew had also read Hirons' viral post, meaning Glow Tonic was sold out every time I visited the store. 

I did eventually get my hands on one back in the day, and still love it to this day.

Why beauty editor's love it

I instantly loved the results of Glow Tonic, which offer instant gratification as well as long term gain. 

As Hirons mentioned back then, the ingredients list includes glycolic acid to exfoliate, along with aloe vera, ginseng and other botanical extracts. It is designed to be used as a toner that can be used in the morning and at night time, but I have always used it in my evening routine, because I conscious of using skincare actives (such as AHAs or retinol) that increase sun sensitivity. With that said, remember to apply your best SPF moisturiser the following morning. 

Easy to pop on, you simply apply to a cotton pad and swipe over your skin, after cleansing and before serums/creams. 

It's excellent for anyone who experiences excess oil or enlarged pores, as it helps to reduce the appearance of both. This makes it a must-have for combination-oily skin types, or anyone who experiences blemishes regularly. 

While Hirons recommended it originally for all skin types, I'd approach with caution if you experience sensitivity or have very dry skin. You can still give it a go, but using it every day will probably be a little much, so begin a couple of times a week at night. 

This was one of the very first skincare products I ever bought, and it's still on my go-to list today, which should speak volumes. I'd definitely recommend ditching your physical exfoliant (scrubs, I'm looking at you) and exfoliating with this going forward for smoother, more radiant skin. 

Rebecca Fearn

Rebecca is a freelance beauty journalist and contributor to Marie Claire. She has written for titles including Refinery29, The Independent, Grazia, Coveteur, Dazed, Stylist, and Glamour. She is also a brand consultant and has worked with the likes of The Inkey List on campaign messaging and branded copy. She’s obsessed with skincare, nail art and fragrance, and outside of beauty, Rebecca likes to travel, watch true crime docs, pet sausage dogs and drink coffee. Rebecca is also passionate about American politics and mental health awareness.