If I were to mention Aldi, it's highly likely your mind would turn to the supermarket's wealth of affordable beauty products before the iconic bakery or the bizarre middle aisle. That's because its cosmetics brand, Lacura, is best known for serving up a collection of beauty dupes.
In the past year alone, R29 tried Lacura's Olaplex-inspired haircare range, lipstick and eyeshadow palette à la Charlotte Tilbury and a handful of designer-esque perfumes, which took their cue from brands like Thierry Mugler and Tom Ford. But Lacura's skincare collection is arguably the biggest winner among the beauty community, editors and TikTokers. It makes sense, then, that the brand has just lifted the lid on yet another addition to the collection: Lacura 2% BHA Exfoliating Toner, £4.99.
Skincare obsessives will take one look at the bottle and know that this exfoliating acid toner was likely inspired by the longtime favourite Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, £34. The grey label is instantly recognisable and, much like the Paula's Choice version, Lacura's enlists 2% BHA (beta hydroxy acid) in the form of salicylic acid.
Consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto told R29 that salicylic acid is safe to use on all skin types (though not recommended during pregnancy or while breastfeeding). The BHA is an anti-inflammatory ingredient that also works to break down (or exfoliate) the outer layer of skin, making it an effective treatment for acne and blackheads. "Even at low concentrations (for example 2%), [salicylic acid] can help speed up resolution of acne and comedones," said Dr Mahto. Comedones are basically small, flesh-coloured, raised spots, which may appear under the skin.
If you're an R29 regular, you'll know that the Paula's Choice toner has been a firm fixture in my acne skincare routine for a while now. I've found that using it nightly (before a lightweight moisturiser) helps to unclog my pores, minimise the appearance of blackheads and stave off the little whiteheads that often set up camp on my cheeks. It's gentle and effective — everything I want my skincare to be. But at £34, it's one of the more expensive products in my bathroom cupboard so I was intrigued by Lacura's latest launch, which is 85% cheaper than the real thing. I couldn't wait to put it on my face.
Before I get into it, I like to caveat reviews like this by acknowledging that dupes will always divide opinion. From one point of view, they are seen to pass off the work of bigger, more established brands as their own. On the other hand, dupes offer a much more affordable alternative to products with higher price tags — and with living costs continuing to rise, it's no wonder they are often met with such excitement. For this reason, we won't judge where a person chooses to spend their money.
I've been using Lacura's 2% BHA Toner twice daily for a week: in the morning under my sunscreen, L'Oréal Revitalift Clinical SPF50+ Invisible Fluid, £19.99 (a must if you're using exfoliating acids), and in the evening before my moisturiser (currently e.l.f. Pure Skin Moisturiser, £12). My skin is looking great and the main thing I've noticed is that it's a lot smoother and brighter. As I write, I'm only wearing concealer and bronzing drops, rather than foundation. On close inspection in the mirror, I've noticed fewer blackheads, though I'm still waking up with the odd tiny whitehead. I think that continuing to use this will help clear those pores. I like to decant the product into my hands and apply it like a serum, rather than waste it on a cotton pad.
Texture-wise, I can't tell the difference. Both products are clear and watery, typical of most exfoliating toners on the market. The Paula's Choice toner does have a slight vinegary smell, which disappears after a while, but Lacura's 2% BHA Toner doesn't smell like anything at all. So how do the ingredients lists compare? Salicylic acid is the fourth ingredient in the Paula's Choice toner, while it's number six in Lacura's version, though at 2%, the concentration is the same. Both products also harness methylpropanediol, which the Paula's Choice website says boosts the absorption of ingredients like salicylic acid. Only Lacura's 2% BHA Toner contains moisturising glycerin (adored by dermatologists). The Paula's Choice version also enlists antioxidant green tea, while Lacura's doesn't.
It's safe to say I'm impressed by Lacura's 2% BHA Toner and I plan to continue to use it. In all honesty, I can't really tell much difference. The Paula's Choice toner is available in various sizes (30ml, 118ml and 236ml) whereas Lacura's comes in just the 100ml bottle. One thing that gives Paula's Choice a leg up is its website, which is a treasure trove of helpful, trustworthy knowledge about pretty much every skincare ingredient you can think of. This is really useful if you need a little more guidance when using active ingredients like exfoliating acids.
All in all, I can't fault Lacura's 2% BHA Toner, which is available in Aldi stores now. It's an absolute steal at £4.99 and, like Lacura's past skincare products, I predict it's going to be a hit.
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