I promised a few of you to do a review on this. I've been using it for almost 3 weeks now, and I thought I might as well do a review now because I think I'll feel the same way about this toner in a week (which will be a month since I'd be using it).
I bought the toner at my local Ulta for $18 after reading really good things about it on both Amazon and Nordstrom (Nordstrom also sells this line of products). It comes in a bottle that holds 8 fluid oz of this stuff and is alcohol free. The ingredients are as follows: Deionized Water (Aqua), Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice) Gel, Grapefruit (Citrus Grandis Fruit) Extract, Glycolic Acid (2%). I think it's pretty awesome that Mario Badescu products only use a few ingredients, and we can usually decipher what they are.
The product is mainly aimed for pigmentation, smoothing out skin, and for wrinkles. However, I bought this product because I heard that it was good for cystic acne. The bottle itself says that the product shouldn't be put on erupted (aka fresh, exposed) acne, probably because it would sting or be harsh for the skin, but I didn't follow that. I'll talk about that later. Also, something to note: this particular toner is for combination or dry skin. They don't sell a toner for oily skin, but they do sell a cleanser version of this that is okay to use on oily skin.
How does glycolic acid work? I watched this video to get a sense of what glycolic acid does that makes it supposedly effective. Basically, glycolic acid acts as a chemical exfoliant. We're all probably used to exfoliators such as scrubs, Clarisonic, etc. The difference between this type of exfoliant is that it doesn't irritate the skin the same way that scrubs and whatnot might do.
How I Used It
I dabbed this on to the entirety of my face once in the morning, once in the evening after I had washed my face and let it dry. I guess if you only have a few problem areas, you can just use it on specific problem areas on your face. However, pretty much my whole face is one big problem area, haha.
I read a tip somewhere that mentioned that instead of using a cotton bud, if you want to extend the longevity of using this product, just pour some on your fingers and rub it on your face that way. That's what I have been doing, and it works fine since the product comes out of a small spout.
I believe some people's reviews mentioned that this product burns. I don't really think it has burned very much for me. It might have slightly burned a bit the first 2 or 3 days I used it, but not anymore. Also, as I mentioned, I rubbed this product all over my face and even on my acne (although they advise you not to), and the burning wasn't anything that was really painful.
I love this stuff! No really, I'm so pleased with it—at least with how it has helped with my acne. I get cystic acne around my jawline, chin, and cheeks, but they don't come in clusters or anything. I also get whiteheads from now and then in the same areas. I find that this product has helped halt existing erupted acne from growing bigger. Usually, my acne gets to the point that it feels really painful and swollen. I feel like this product helped reduce the size and the swelling of the existing acne.
For whiteheads, it helped stop them from getting to the point that they were really painful for me. Usually, my whiteheads get pretty large and will be present for days. With this product, I find that it stopped the head from getting bigger and dried it out within a day or two.
Also, I feel like I've gotten less acne in general since I started using this. Usually, I can tell when I get acne because a certain spot will itch or tingle on my face. If I put this on, it seems to keep the acne from "growing." And if the acne does appear, it hasn't been anywhere near the size or redness of what I've had before.
It is a bit drying, but not significantly so. However, that will obviously be different depending on the person and their skin type and skin sensitivity. The directions do advise you to follow the application of this toner with moisturizer.
The downside—I can't really tell you if this has helped my pigmentation. I have a lot of scarring (both pigmentation and some deeper scars), so I would need to give this product more time to figure that out.
Another downside: for $18, you do get a lot of product. However, it's only 2% glycolic acid. There are products out there with a higher percentage, so if you have really bad cystic acne or bad scarring (mine isn't too bad), you might want to look into a product that has a higher percentage (I believe they go up to 10%).
Okay, Wrap it Up
I can't say if this is my miracle product, but I am really impressed with it. I'm almost scared to think that this is really working because I don't want to be disappointed. I haven't been to a dermatologist for about 3+ years now because I was just always disappointed with the one I had. She was always pretty much telling me to just deal with it. My cystic acne is hormonal and is affected by the food I eat (nuts wreack havoc on my face). Therefore, most products that weren't prescription-based didn't work. I took antibiotics (doxycycline) for years, but I felt like they were useless after a while. I also used topical clindamycin with similar results. Retin-A was good, but it was expensive. Also, I've been taking the BC pill since I was 16 to help with acne.
Anyway, I say give this a try if you're dealing with stubborn acne. Transition it into your daily facial routine and see how it works for your acne or your scarring or your wrinkles! It won't hurt to try :)
Sorry if this was super long, but I hope it helped some of you! Let me know if you have questions.