This New £3.49 Aldi Toner Is Clearing Up My Acne-Prone Skin

Photo by Jacqueline Kilikita.
Since its launch a few years ago, Aldi's budget beauty brand Lacura has been the talk of the beauty industry. From skincare, which boasts buzzy ingredients like collagen and retinol, to hair products that are good enough to rival the most high-end versions, pretty much every Lacura drop has achieved sell-out status — and for good reason.
Not long ago, I discovered the incredible Pineapple Face Serum, £4.99, which is packed with brightening vitamin C and made my skin visibly more dewy and radiant in next to no time. Then there was the Colour Shampoo (a serious bargain at 85p), which added shine and reduced fade better than the expensive version recommended to me by a top colourist. This month, there's another addition to the Lacura family: The Healthy Glow Salicylic Acid Tonic.
At £3.49, it's the currently the cheapest product in my skincare routine, but it's turning out to be one of the most effective on my spotty skin. So what's in it? The label touts chemical exfoliator salicylic acid (a BHA or beta hydroxy acid) as the star ingredient. Extremely effective for skin prone to acne and blackheads, salicylic acid exfoliates the outer layer of skin and inside pores, where it prevents dead skin cells, oil and dirt from sticking together and causing a spot. It's known to be most effective in concentrations of around 2%, and is gentle on skin. What's more, salicylic acid helps bring down inflammation, so can help alleviate the redness and swelling typically associated with breakouts.
While the percentage of salicylic acid isn't specified on the packaging, it comes 12th in line on the ingredients list, which suggests it's relatively weak. However, it seems to be carried by a handful of other exfoliating acids known to be beneficial for acne-prone skin. First up, lactic acid. This is an AHA (or alpha hydroxy acid). Consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto explains that lactic acid exfoliates by dissolving the upper layer of dead skin cells. As a result, it smooths skin texture, can help prevent breakouts and may improve skin staining left behind by spots. It comes fifth in line in the ingredients list. Then there's glycolic acid. This is another alpha hydroxy acid, says Dr Mahto, which also reduces comedones (small flesh coloured bumps under the skin) and inflammatory (red, swollen) acne. It can help improve pigmentation changes, too.
While dermatologists want us to be aware that using AHAs and BHAs together may cause sensitivity and irritation, a handful of brands are combining them in very low concentrations so that they can work in synergy to exfoliate skin and put a stop to spots without upsetting skin. This is one of those products. Exfoliating toners can be used during the daytime, but it's usually recommended to use them at nighttime when your skin tends to renew and regenerate. Using it is easy: after cleansing, apply just as you would a toner, either patting it in with your hands or decanted onto a cotton pad, which you can swipe all over your skin. The texture is like water, so it's not moisturising enough on its own. For two weeks, I've been following it up with a hydrating moisturiser (The Organic Pharmacy Rose Diamond Face Cream, £290) but something non-comedogenic (less likely to clog pores) is a great option. Try The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA, £6.80, the First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Coconut Water Cream, £30, or CeraVe Facial Moisturising Lotion, £13, which is a favourite among skin pros.
Depending on what your skin can handle, you can use the toner every other day in the evening until you build up a tolerance. My skin is well acquainted with acids, so I use this every evening, and the results are impressive to say the least. In a short space of time, the larger flesh-coloured bumps under my skin have almost disappeared, I don't have to contend with any little whiteheads and it's helping clear my blackheads, too (thanks, salicylic acid). On top of that, my skin is a lot smoother to the touch and any skin staining left behind by previous spots is fading quickly (that'll be the glycolic acid). Sometimes I even skip foundation and concealer for Supergoop's Glowscreen SPF30, £31, which enhances skin's glow.
In terms of how it holds up against the industry's most popular exfoliating toners, such as Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, £29, Pixi Clarity Tonic, £18, and the Alpha-H Clear Skin Tonic, £39.95, it's a lot more gentle. It doesn't sting or tingle when I apply it, nor does it smell potent (some acid exfoliators tend to smell very strongly of vinegar or tea tree) or feel sticky. It dries very quickly and you can follow with moisturiser immediately to lock in as much hydration as possible.
At £3.49, it's a beauty bargain and it has already racked up 5 star reviews online. "Little gem of a product," wrote one buyer. "I usually use this as I'm prone to blemishes, but I pay well over 10 pound for it." Another said, "It's very very good [...] I use this on a cotton pad in the morning before the Q10 serum and at night before a couple of drops of Rose Oil. The difference is noticeable. Skin clean and clear."
Lastly, if you're using any exfoliating acids (no matter how gentle they are touted to be by brands) it's important to wear SPF during the daytime, as acids can make skin sensitive to sunlight. Try Thank You Farmer Sun Project Water Sun Cream SPF50, £18, which is lightweight and won't clog pores, or Heliocare Mineral Tolerance Fluid, £31, if you prefer mineral formulations, which deflect rather than absorb UV rays. Ultra Violette's Clean Screen Fragrance Free Sensitive Facial Skinscreen SPF 30, £32, also pairs well with Aldi's toner, which is available both in store and online.
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