The 5 Glycolic Acid Toners a Dermatologist Recommends—and the 5 We'd Try, Too

I have to admit: I'm not one to stray too far outside my well-honed skincare routine, and I barely ever read about the ingredients that help keep my face clear and protected. It was only recently—and I won't admit how recent—that I learned about alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids, and even then, I was still weary about switching things up. That was until I learned about a certain alpha hydroxy acid that's been generating its fair share of attention: glycolic acid. "It's used as a chemical exfoliant," Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologic surgeon, says. Glycolic acid, which is derived from sugarcane, is the smallest acid in size, so it's the molecule that can get deep into the skin."

Don't worry, this isn't going to turn into a science exam about your pores, or even a pop quiz on all of the acid-related knowledge I can share. If anything, the basis behind how glycolic acid works can be summed up quickly, thanks to Dendy's straightforward explanation: "Chemical exfoliants work to break down cellular bonds so that dead skin cells can be removed from the top layer of the skin," she says. "Glycolic acid weakens the lipids that bond the top layer together, removing dull and dead skin cells."

Glycolic acid makes it possible for skin to stay hydrated and smooth because it "boosts collagen production and elastin production with the removal of waste and dead skin cells," Dendy notes. Therefore, it's an ideal ingredient to introduce into your skincare routine, even if you're a creature of habit like me. We've asked Dendy to recommend five glycolic acid toners worth a small adjustment, which she says should be used once to twice a week before becoming a daily habit. And since it's easy to try something new with a little extra support, we've also gathered the recommendations of Sephora and Dermstore reviewers, too.