When you first hear about a product called "sour tones", you may be thrown away a bit.
In fact, you might think that it sounds more like something that a supervillain would use rather than something you release on your wonderful skin.
You may have heard of sour tones from one of your favorite beauty blogs (we know.) Caroline Hirons is a big fan) or in a novelty of your favorite magazine.
Maybe you saw some in the sidebar while surfing Ulta and wondering what they were for.
Or maybe you never heard of acidic tones, and simply clicked on this blog post because they sounded interesting!
Whatever took you here, I'm glad to have you! And I'm happy to do a deep dive in all things sour tones so you can move away from this piece feel like an expert!
We will cover the benefits of acidic tones, how to use them, when to avoid them and more!
I hope you are as excited as I am!
What are acidic tones? What do they do?
Chances are you know everything (or at least a little) about physical exfoliation and Toner – acidic tones are kind as a marriage between the two.
You may have tried one exfoliating scrub with grain, used an exfoliating sponge, or even splurged on an exfoliating brush like a Clarisonic.
These are all examples of physical exfoliants.
But have you heard of chemical exfoliants?
Essentially, there are some chemicals that will exfoliate the skin without having to scrub on the face and acidic tones are a chemical exfoliant.
Just like regular exfoliants, acidic tones will crush your pores, even your skin tone and help you clean up acne.
In addition, they will get rid of dead skin, makeup, dirt and excess oils that your face accumulates throughout the day.
Unlike physical exfoliants, chemical exfoliants will not stress your skin with all the rubbing and coarse scrubbing – which can cause wrinkles, inflammation and microcirculation in your skin (look at you, walnut shell and microbeads).
Now back to tones.
As a refreshment, toner should be used after cleaning to prepare the rest of your skin care routine and help balance the skin's pH (usually around 5.5).
Acid toner, which you may have guessed from the name, is also a toner.
So, to review, acidic tones are kind of like the best of both worlds when it comes to toning and exfoliating.
But, being "the best of both worlds" depends on what your skin needs in its world!
In the case of acidic tones, the two main types are AHA tones and BHA tones.
AHA, otherwise known as alpha hydroxy acid, derived from natural substances such as grapes, sugar cane and milk.
AHAs are made of small, water-loving molecules, which makes them good for hydration (where are my dry skin women?).
They also work to dissolve the glue-like substance that holds dirt, sebum and dead skin in your pores – leaving the skin shiny and free from gunk!
In general, AHA acid tones are good for anyone struggling with sun damage, dry skin and aging skin.
But there are also BHA acid tones, which can be just as amazing!
BHA, otherwise known as beta-hydroxy acids, are oil-bearing acids and are therefore good for those with oily and acne-like skin.
BHA can also help those who struggle with skin conditions such as rosacea because they are anti-inflammatory and antibacterial.
But acidic tones are even more specific than just AHA and BHA, which means they are even more adaptable to your skin and your needs.
In fact, there are also PHA tones (polyhydroxy acids), which are actually even more ideal for people with sensitive skin or skin conditions such as eczema.
PHA tones penetrate shallower than both AHA and BHA, and they exfoliate more smoothly.
So, let's continue talking more about acidic tones, we'll later get more specific into the world of AHA and BHA.
What is wrong with some physical exfoliants?
You may be wondering why chemical or liquid exfoliants are suddenly characterized as superior physical exfoliants, so let me sum it up for you!
Physical exfoliants primarily use small particles such as crushed walnut shells and microspheres, as I mentioned above.
You may know that microbubbles are very bad for the environment because of their ability to contaminate watercourses – they are now hard regulated – But they are not good for your skin either!
But it's not just microbubbles, it's also the walnuts!
While scrubbing of these particles in the skin can make them feel effective and clean, it can actually do more harm than good.
Unlike physical exfoliants, chemical exfoliants will not stress your skin with all the rubbing and coarse scrubbing – which can cause wrinkles and microturances in the skin.
Actually, one trial was actually raised against St. Ives Apricot Scrub.
The complainants argued that the walnut scales used in the formula to help exfoliate actually caused micro-tears in the user's skin.
I do not know about you, but I prefer my skin without micro years!
And to be honest, sometimes my hands got tired of everything that scrubbed – that's why today I'm about liquid exfoliants, so let's get back to acidic tones!
How can acidic tones benefit from my skin?
While I personally believe that we can all benefit from acidic tones, you may want to consider acidic tones if you are struggling with skin conditions that can be improved by exfoliation – think of acne, uneven skin tone, dark spots, rough spots and excess oil.
And unlike physical exfoliators, which can sometimes do yours winter skin more dry and spotted (or irritating skin conditions such as keratosis pilaris), acidic tones are actually extra beneficial during the dry winter months because they hydrate.
As I mentioned above, pretty much the benefits you get from a toner or an exfoliant can be found in a sour toner (without any side effects).
How should I incorporate acidic notes into my routine?
The most common way to incorporate a sour note into your skin care patient is to simply insert it for your regular notes into your nightly routine.
If your regular toner gives you some benefits that your acidic tones may not have (for example, if your regular notes are extremely moisturizing and your acidic tones are not), you can completely use both – just make sure you don't use two acidic tones.
If you did not already use a toner, it means that you should use it immediately after washing your face with your detergent.
While technically applying acidic tones to your fingertips, I recommend using a cotton pad or a cotton ball.
In this way, you can easily wipe away the dead skin cells, dirt and more so that the acidic toner helps pull out your skin.
Just like physical exfoliants, chemical exfoliants can be too harsh for daily use – especially if you just start using them.
Instead of diving directly into acidic tones, I recommend that you start once a week and work slowly up to three times a week.
If you have sensitive skin, three times a week can be your sweet spot for your skin care routine.
If you have less sensitive skin, you may be able to work up to every other day to use a sour toner – but always listen to your skin!
Ingredients to search in acidic tones
Like most skin care products, acidic tones are not "a size that fits all".
Different acid tones have different ingredients that will work well (or not so well) depending on your skin and your needs.
As we mentioned earlier, there are AHA, BHA and PHA tones.
Within the categories AHA and BHA (both more common than PHA), additional ingredients and acids are to be looked for.
Here is a list of ingredients usually found in acidic tones, and why you may want (or may not want to) look for sour tones with these ingredients as well as product recommendations.
Glycolic acid tones are some of the most popular acid tones and for good reason.
Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid that is actually derived from sugar cane – how sweet!
Glycolic acid works to stimulate collagen production in the skin, and if you know anything about it collagen, you know it means it will help your skin look more youthful and clumsy.
In addition to the collagen increase, glycolic acid can help replenish the skin, allowing you to release as a small marble!
Unlike hard exfoliants, the way glycolic acid tones work, it gently dissolves the glue-like substance that causes dead skin cells to stick to your epidermis.
The result? Your softest, freshest skin ever!
In particular, you may be interested in glycolic acid if you have oily skin because glycolic acid helps remove excess sebum (the natural oils that can clog your pores) and kill skin cells from your face.
CRAZY. Skincare Anti-Aging Glycolic Toner
You may remember lactic acid from your high school high school – it is in our bodies.
It can also be found in sour milk, beer and pickles!
The exfoliating properties of lactic acid remove excess pigment from the skin surface, which improves appearance and smoothness.
It is also good for water retention and moisture.
Say hello to softer, softer skin!
June Jacobs Pore Purifying Toner
Rhonda Allison Beta Green Tea Lotion
You can guess where citric acid is derived from its name.
You guessed it – citrus fruits!
Citric acid contains antioxidant properties that reveal lighter skin.
PCA Skin pHaze 5 nutrient tones
Osmos Clear Plus + Activating Hydration Mist
Almond acid is excellent for pigmentation, with the added benefit of helping with acne.
It comes from bitter almonds!
NuCelle 2 – Mandelic Toner
Rhonda Allison Mandelic Defense Lotion
Chances are you have seen salicylic acid before – maybe it was in your secondary facial wash?
Salicylic acid helps crush pores and therefore will work to eradicate some blackheads and whiteheads shaking your face!
It does this by dissolving the upper layer of skin cells and exfoliating the cellular structure.
Salicylic acid is related to aspirin, and it is found in some plants, such as evergreen leaves, willow bark and sweet birch bark.
It is also synthetically manufactured.
Glymed Plus Serious Action Acne Skin Astringent
Bioelements Acne Toner
Eminence Organics Stone Crop Hydrating
Other ingredients in acids
Fun Fact: Kojic acid is actually a by-product of reason (you know, the fun alcoholic drink you can get at sushi restaurants).
It is also good to help with pigmentation!
It relieves skin by antioxidant activity.
Are you trying to get rid of dark spots? Then a sour toner with vitamin A is your BFF!
Vitamin A. helps speed up the skin's cell turnover rate, which means that any scars or sun spots will fade faster and your skin tone becomes lighter and smoother.
It also prevents the skin from drying out and keeping it firm and even.
Vitamin A is a major ingredient in many fish and vegetable oils.
All Organic Skin Care Rosehip Toner
All Organic Skin Care Sour Cherry Toner
I'm a big fan of hyaluronic acid because I love a good glow!
Hyaluronic acid sets up the store on the top layer of the skin and grips and keeps moisture.
Fun Fact: The Hyaluronic Acid molecule can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water!
This results in skin that is softer, fuller, more hydrated and more "awake" in appearance.
Rhonda Allison Gurka Spritz
Epicuren Update Aloe Cucumber Mist
Skin Script Cucumber Hydration Toner
"Okay, Alana, it was a lot, I still don't know what ingredients are right for me!"
I know, I know, sometimes there are too many options!
I recommend that you talk to your aesthetist about which acidic toner is right for you.
If it's not an option, one lactic tones is a good, gentle place to start – you definitely don't want to assume that the strongest option is better, because it actually just irritates your new-to-acid toner skin.
We are all such unique (and beautiful) individuals with different skin care products, and the wrong acid donor can lead to more damage than good!
Acid Toner vs. Liquid Exfoliants vs. Regular Toners: Is There A Difference?
Okay, so we mentioned that acidic tones are a chemical exfoliant, giving you the benefits of exfoliating without any damage from scrubbing.
Chemical exfoliants are a type of liquid exfoliant.
Liquid exfoliants look like an unassuming tone, but they actually have ingredients that work hard to penetrate deep into your skin and pull out dead skin cells, dirt, and any pore stuffing material.
So how are acid tones different from regular tones?
Let's talk tones first.
Usually, most acid tones contain all the benefits of regular tones (balancing your pH and hydration), but with a range of added benefits and goodness (such as cleaning out your pores and wiping off dead skin).
While ordinary tones can help remove makeup and dirt on surface level, acidic tones go much deeper.
This is partly because ordinary tones are not chemical exfoliants, while acidic tones are.
In addition to the fact that acid tones will make additional cleaning and detoxification of your pores, the extra depopulation means that the rest of your products can seep deeper into your epidermis and therefore work more efficiently.
Are there any disadvantages of using acidic toner?
As I mentioned above, you definitely want to see how often you use an acidic toner.
You should probably not use acidic notes if you are under the age of 20 unless your dermatologist prescribes it.
Some signs of over-exfoliation include redness, irritation, increased dryness / flakiness, acne and increased oil production.
If you notice signs of over-exfoliation, you should definitely take a break from exfoliation for at least a week.
When you get back to it, try starting from once a week again, and work your way up.
Meanwhile, try a hydrating sheet mask or soothing cream to ensure that your skin is moistened and able to build itself in a jiffy!
You also want to make sure that as soon as you start using a chemical exfoliant as an acidic toner, you stop using other exfoliants (including physical ones).
While you are sure you already have a daily SPF (right?!), It is important to be aware that acidic tones can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage.
When in doubt, always use more sunscreen – you will never regret it!
As is the case with most new skin care trends, there are surely people who argue against acidic tones and believe in them maybe not as big as everyone claims.
Some of their main arguments are that using the wrong acid tones can cause more damage than if you didn't use a sour toner at all.
Therefore, it is important to talk to your aesthetist or dermatologist about which product suits you – and always listen to your skin!
There is also the issue of overuse of acids, which leads to similar effects of over-exfoliation.
It is very easy for us to believe that a product does its job if our skin feels tight, or maybe even if it burns a little, but it is not the effect you should desire when using acidic tones.
In fact, it probably means that you are using them, or the formula you are using is too harsh for your skin.
Although you do not necessarily exceed acids, the addition of products such as retinoids and antioxidants can lead to similar effects. Therefore, you should always look at your skin care system as a whole before adding or subtracting anything!
In fact, skin care expert Renee Rouleau believes that an exfoliating acid space is actually more beneficial than an acidic toner.
She argues that the effects of an acid space are longer lasting and that the effects are less harsh (and therefore better for sensitive skin).
Sour tones do not sound so scary, after all, do they now?
Keep your skin smooth, spotless and glowing without rubbing any coarse scrubs or wash cloths with an acidic toner.
Because of the different acid tones, you can choose the right one for you based on the ingredients (or with the help of your aesthetist) – just make sure you take it slow and work up to any frequency for your skin and routine!
Do you use acidic tones? What was your experience with them? I would love to hear about your trip in the comments below!