Pixi Glow Tonic Review: A Holy Grail Exfoliant For Senstive Skin
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A gentle but effective glycolic acid product, which despite some claims out there does exfoliate the skin. More about that in a bit.
Let’s start out by examining the ingredients.
Table of Contents
- 1 Ingredients and Benefits.
- 2 Does the Pixi Glow Tonic exfoliate the skin?
- 3 Application, Feel, and Scent.
- 4 How to Use the Pixi Glow Tonic.
- 5 The Takeaway.
- 6 Want to Subscribe for Updates?
Ingredients and Benefits.
Check out this hot stuff.
Aqua, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Leaf Extract, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract, Glycolic Acid, Ammonium Glycolate, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Urea, Dextrin, Alanine, Glutamic Acid, Aspartic Acid, Hexyl Nicotinate, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Biotin, Polysorbate 20, Fragrance.
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice
What the non-skincare-addicts slater on their sunburns after a long day at the beach. Of course, that doesn’t apply to us because we’re diligent about our sunscreen use. Right? 😉
Aloe vera is an ingredient as old as time, with its skin uses dating back 3,500 years! It has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, skin lightening, and healing properties. (1 2, 3, 4, 5) A couple studies have also confirmed it’s an effective treatment against psoriasis. (6, 7, 8, 9) I can confirm this.
Yes, I’ve dealt with psoriasis in the past, and it blooooows. Here’s what it looks like in case you’re wondering.
Hamamelis Virginiana Leaf Extract
Or more simply put, Witch Hazel. A strong antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties that scavenges free radicals to reduce damage to skin cells. (10, 11)
Studies have also shown it can regenerate vitamin E (another antioxidant), reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL), protect skin against irritation, and prevent the formation of erythema (redness).(12, 13)
Glycolic Acid (AHA)
The chemical exfoliant inside the Pixi Glow Tonic. Glycolic acid is a water soluble alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that can be found naturally in the cane sugar of fruit juices like grape and orange. (14) It has the lowest molecular weight of all the AHAs (e.g. acetic, mandelic, lactic), which makes it potentially more irritating because it penetrates the skin easily. (15)
It increases cell turnover rate, exfoliates the surface of skin, decongests closed comedones and clogged pores (though less effectively than Salicylic Acid), reduces the appearance of wrinkles, acne scarring, and helps treat hyperpimentation. (16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21)
In also increases collagen production and the hyaluronic acid content in skin. (22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27)
Every time I use the Pixi Glow Tonic I definitely see a reduction in pore size and some pretty drastic skin brightening, which is to be expected when using a glycolic acid product. Funnily enough, I thought I was the only one that noticed, but a friend of mine said I looked “refreshed” about a month after I started using it. He asked me if I had been sleeping more (LOL). Definitely not the case.
BUT GET YOUR BEAUTY SLEEP! It’s very important for overall health and skin. :p
Related reading: Best Glycolic Acid Products: Top 5 Picks From A Skincare Junkie
Horse Chestnut Extract
Soothing ingredient that helps calm rosacea and skin redness.
A humectant that draws water from the environment to moisturize the skin.
Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose
These are all natural sugars. There has been some preliminary studies showing that similar sugars (e.g. xylitol) can help dissolve pathogenic biofilms and balance the skin microflora (in other words, the healthy bacteria and yeast that live on our skin). (28, 29)
A biofilm is simply a group of sticky cells made up of microorganisms that adhere to the skin’s surface. Think of it as a thin layer of bacteria stuck on the skin. Biofilms have been implicated in skin diseases like atopic dermatitis (eczema) and seborrheic dermatitis, and are linked to approximately 80% of all human infections. (30)
A non-pH-dependent exfoliant and powerful keratolytic agent. (31, 32) Keratolytic, just being the fancy science term for saying it detaches and sloughs off dead skin.
Studies have shown Urea helps dry itchy skin, increases the water content of the stratum corneum (outer most layer of skin), and reduces the irritation of harsh detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). (33, 34)
It’s a commonly prescribed treatment for atopic dermatitis (eczema), and may be a suitable alternative to anti-fungals. (35, 36)
Ginseng Root Extract
Inhibits melanogenesis which might help lighten dark spots. (38)
Now to answer the question on everyone’s mind….
Does the Pixi Glow Tonic exfoliate the skin?
Yes. And don’t underestimate its ability to do so!
There’s been some confusion thrown around regarding whether the Pixi Glow Tonic is considered a chemical exfoliant or an “acid toner” — in other words, a product simply intended to drop the pH of skin back to a healthy equilibrium after cleansing.
The whole controversy started after someone noted that the Pixi Toner’s pH is around 4-5. AHAs, like glycolic acid, require a pH of “4 or lower” to effectively exfoliate the skin. While that is true, it doesn’t capture the whole picture. Let me explain.
Chemical exfoliants have something called a free acid value (FAV), which tells you the true strength of its exfoliating prowess. The FAV is the amount of acid in a solution that will freely exfoliate the skin. When the pH of a product is below 2, it means the entire acid in that solution is “free.”
For example, say we have a 5% salicylic acid product with a pH of 2. That would mean, the entire 5% is “free” to exfoliate the skin. However, when the pH is raised slightly, less of that 5% will actually work. At neutral pH (7), the salicylic acid would essentially be rendered useless as far as chemical exfoliation goes.
With that said, the Pixi Glow Tonic has a pH around 4-5, meaning there is still some active acid that will exfoliate. Trust me on this, don’t underestimate this product just because it’s a “weaker exfoliant.” The first time I bought it I stupidly began using it twice daily because I heard it doesn’t exfoliate — BIG MISTAKE. I had glassy over-exfoliated skin within a few days.
Keep in mind though, that my skin is fairly sensitive. Just use this bad boy as tolerated and you should definitely see a reduction in skin discoloration, and increased skin brightness (a.k.a. glow).
Related reading: Why the pH of Skin and Products Are Crucially Important
Application, Feel, and Scent.
The Pixi Glow Tonic goes on and feels exactly like water. You probably wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference if it weren’t for the scent.
It’s so watery I had a hard time trying to get a few drops to sit still as I took a photo. It dries fairly quickly; I’d say it’s completely gone within 2 or 3 minutes. Once it’s evaporated it’s not noticeable on the skin at all, but it definitely leaves it softer and smoother. I’ve found that it layers really well under other products too.
Be warned: this bottle is pretty small, so compared to something like Paula’s Choice AHA Gel, it wont last that long. It doesn’t help that it has minimal slip because of its water consistency, meaning it will take more product to spread across the skin.
Pro-tip: don’t use cotton balls; they waste product. Simply apply it into the palm of your hands before spreading it across the face. That’s how you’ll get the best bang for your buck.
As for the scent — very simply put, it smells like a “rose lipstick.” Yeah, just took another whiff… it’s like a clean lipstick with a tinge of rose in it. I quite enjoy the smell to be honest. But then again, I’m a sucker for roses. Haha :p
How to Use the Pixi Glow Tonic.
Because this is a pH dependent product, the order of it in your routine matters. You want to use it right after cleanser and before other exfoliates, serums, or moisturizers. To give you a better understanding of where to place it, here’s a sample routine taking into consideration many steps. I’m sure not all of these will apply to you, so just make sure to adjust it accordingly.
- Oil cleansing method, or oil cleanser.
- Gentle pH-balanced cleanser (5.5 or below)
- Use the Pixi Glow Tonic here.
- Low pH serums like ascorbic acid. Wait approximately 25 minutes.
- Salicylic Acid (BHA). Wait approximately 25 minutes.
- Stronger AHAs. Wait approximately 25 minutes.
- Retinoids (for example, tretinoin).
- Spot treatments, creams, or other gels like Azelaic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide.
- Occlusives (for example, CeraVe healing Ointment, Vaseline, Aquaphor etc.)
- Ingredients: 5/5
A fantastic and gentle ingredient list that includes aloe vera, witch hazel, 5% glycolic acid, glycerin, fructose, glucose, sucrose, and urea.
- Benefits: 5/5
Exfoliates gently, soothes the skin, brightens skin tone, reduces hyperpigmentation, and provides a little bit of hydration.
- Application: 5/5
Feels like water, dries matte, and smells like rosy lipsticks.
- Packaging: 5/5
No real complaints here. I wish the bottle was slighter bigger, but I enjoy it so much I’ll leave the 5 star here.
- Value: 4/5
Just a tad too expensive for the amount of product you get, but it’s still on the cheaper side of things so I can’t complain. Just make sure to not use cotton balls (saves product) and it will be worth the price!
Overall: 4.8/5 (highly recommend)
All in all, a lovely little glycolic acid product, that’s both soothing and mild, and an excellent option for those with sensitive skin in need of some chemical exfoliation. My skin is stupidly sensitive, and I can get away with using this almost daily without irritation.
That does it for this review. Hope you’ve enjoyed it!
Tell your friends about this Pixi toner magic!
Seriously, this is one of those ‘Drop the Mic’ kinda posts. It was just so informative and well written that I kinda giggled to myself thinking, guess we really don’t need to hear anything else about the Pixi Glow Tonic …ever. You pretty much just killed all other blogs on the subject. Really looking forward to the rest of your content. Be well :0
Hi f.c.! I just bought this product. If I’m just using a cleanser, the pixi glow and plain ol’ moisturizer (my face freaks out sometimes if i attack it with too many products so I usually try to keep it simple), should i wait 25 minutes before applying my moisturizer or is it not really necessary? thank you 🙂
thank you for this review- it’s so helpful! i do have a few questions though.
when did you start to see results? i have been using this for about a month but honestly don’t notice much of a difference. then again i started using it only twice a week, then every other day. and previously i was using it on a cotton pad so i don’t know if i even had enough product on my face to begin with! if you put it the palm of your hands, as you suggest, how much do you apply? it’s so thin/watery that when i put it in my hands, i was worried that i applied too much product.
also can i ask, what your science background is? because it sounds like you know your stuff! =D
Hey 🙂 first of all…thank you for your wonderful and informative posts ..I love to read them, since I also figured out I have malassezia. I purchased the pixi glow toner about a month ago (europe) and today I saw it has castor oil in it and polysorbate 40. I’m not sure if I should throw it away or not..for now I’m not reacting on it but on the other hand I want to get rid of my annoying micro-friends. Just wanted to mention, maybe its a european version 🙂
Is it safe for fungal acne? I had fungal acne a few months back and now I have cleared it. But still cautious not to use any products that have malassezia feeding ingredients. Pixi glow tonic has polysorbate 20. Since my fungal acne is cleared now can I use this?
You really clarified a lot with this post. I just bought the toner and was worried. Is it okay to use a lactic acid serum after using the toner?
What do you think of Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid toner? It has 2% glycolic acid at 2.5-3 pH (very low thanks to the deionized water). So almost the same amount of free acid as the Glow Tonic, or even more. (I multiplied Glow Tonic’s 5% glycolic by its pKa [40.34% at 4 pH, 6.33% at 5 pH], I got 2.017-0.3 free acid). I wanna know if you’ve tried it. I err on Badescu’s side more because of the low pH and it’s cheaper. I’m on a tight budget so… you know 🙂 thanks. I enjoy your blog
Thank you very much for this post, very interesting and didactic. I was looking for information about this tonic and its pH and all this information is very useful for me 🙂
Ops, I just wait 20 minutes between my acids!
Ciao!, un saludo
Am thinking of getting this but i saw it contains Polysorbate 20, which in your fantastic article on fungal acne, this ingredient is bad. Does it worsen in your case?
Hi! Can i use pixi toner without serums? My routine are cleansing, toning, and moisturizing. Is it still effective for fading hyperpigmentations? Oh! i forgot i also exfoliate using a scrub twice a week after cleansing. is it just okay?
Thanks for writing on this glow tonic, I read reviews on other websites too. It seems a good product to me.
You wrote the best article ever. It was so informative and well written. Please continue to do more of these. I just started to use this product and I love it!
I bought this product but was disconcerted to find that it includes castor oil. Does this affect the order of applying it? Will the oil reduce the absorption of serums applied over it?
Hi! Just want to ask, is it okay to use the COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid with this product? If yes, in which order should the two products be used? 🙂
I have to start by saying I LOVE YOUR blog! I’ve learned SOOOO much!
One thing I would love to ask is – for example, your “sample” routine above – is it okay to use something LIKE pixi glow tonic after cleansing the same night using tretinoin?
I love pixi! But recently now being introduced to Benzaclin from my dermatologist for AM and use Tretinoin in the PM – and unsure how I can incorporate! I would love to use PM after cleansing before Tretinoin! I find a hard time finding articles if it is SAFE and okay to do!
My evenings i have much more time to wait in between layers too!
Would LOVE your input!
Thank you so much! 🙂
another informative post would just like to make a few corrections (don’t want to be shady just want to help where I can 😉 I noticed u wrote your skin was fairly skin at the second to last line of if the tonic exfoliates and also I wouldn’t give the glow tonic a 5/5 on ingredients because it’s VERY heavily scented but anyways love your posts bin binge reading them through the holes lol
Hello! Great article 🙂 I had a quick question: I use Differin on Wed/Fri and Cosrx Lightening Serum on Tue/Thu. I was thinking of using this on the days I use the Cosrx Lightening Serum. Do you think this would pose any issue since the Cosrx doesn’t have any AHA/BHA? For clarity, I don’t use any acids on Mon/Sat because I do an acid peel on Sundays.
Thanks for any help you can provide! 🙂
This is the best review I’ve seen for this product! All my questions answered! Thanks!
Just curious, you wrote not to apply it with a cotton ball. How do you recommend application of this toner?
Hi I have combination skin in which my t-zone is oily and u-zone is dry .I wanted to know if this is good for my skin type and if it is do I need an exfoliater after using this ? And how can i use this ? Can you help? Thank you.