Ishtar Skinlights Prep & Glow Polyhydroxy Acid Exfoliating Toner vs. The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution: A Review

Happy 2019! Hope everyone has had a great start to a new year. I know this blog has been a little neglected, but I’m hoping to be able try out more products and review them now that things have settled a bit for me. In 2018, I graduated from university and thought I would finally have the time to devote to this blog until a bunch of personal issues popped up over the summer and I applied (and got accepted) to an esthetics program starting September. It was a whirlwind of a year and I learned that you can’t keep delaying things because the timing isn’t right, you just have to deal with it, so without further ado, on to the review!

Acid Toners

I was first introduced to Ishtar Skinlights Prep & Glow Polyhydroxy Acid Exfoliating Toner through the Asian Beauty subreddit. They made a post in search of reviewers for their products, and I was lucky enough to be selected, so they sent the me toner and Lip Plenish Line Renewal Serum. I used it consistently for around 2-3 months until The Ordinary launched the Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, which is when I decided to stop using the Prep & Glow one so I can compare it to the glycolic acid one. However, it was consistently sold out each time I wanted to buy the glycolic acid toner. Fortunately I was able to borrow a bottle from a friend, yay! I tested both products out for 6 weeks, 2 times per week (I had very little Prep & Glow left), with the Prep & Glow on the right side of my face and the glycolic acid toner on the left. Overall, I like them both, I received a lot of compliments about my skin while I used them! They are effective at exfoliating my skin, fading hyperpigmentation, and keeping my face clear for the most part, but Ishtar Skinlight’s come out slightly on top. Keep reading for more details!

Prep & Glow uses gluconic acid, a type of PHA. PHAs work the same as AHAs, but are gentler because their molecule size is larger. So you will get all the exfoliating and brightening benefits of an AHA, but much less irritation. This toner contains 7% gluconic acid, making it even easier to compare to The Ordinary’s glycolic acid.

Here is the list of ingredients from Ishtar Skinlight’s website:

Aqua, D-Gluconic Acid, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Lactate, Populus tremuloides (Aspen) Bark Extract, Glycerin (and) Water (and) Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Sodium Benzoate, Litsea Cuba Fruit Oil, Potassium Sorbate, Allantoin, Aloe Vera Leaf Powder.

When I used it for the first time, it stung my face like crazy and my face would be tomato red and hot for hours. It did cause purging in the first few weeks I used the toner, but it helped keep my skin clear and really helped fade acne scars and hyperpigmentation on my skin. Eventually, I worked it up to use as a daily toner, and the stinging became extremely mild. However, the redness stayed. What surprised me the most about this toner was the scent, it smelled like ginger to me despite not having ginger in the ingredient list. After some quick googling, apparently Litsea Cuba fruit has a citrusy scent, which might explain the gingery smell when combined with the aspen bark extract.

After several months of not using the toner, I was afraid of my skin going through the same stinging pain (it was VERY strong) and tomato redness, but I was pleasantly surprised when I used it again. At first use there was no stinging pain(!!), but the entire right side of my face was bright red and didn’t fade for a couple hours, which I expected. However I think I was just lucky that night, the next time I used it, there was strong tingling that faded quickly. During weeks 2-4 I did experience light purging. My pore size reduced more, I produced less oil during the day, some hyperpigmentation was reduced, and pimples healed quickly. Overall, there was mild tingling that diminished in strength and faded even quicker with every week I used the toner. The redness also lessened with each week, but did take some time to completely calm down.

I do not mind the stinging and redness, it’s a side effect of acid toners that I expected. I really liked how smooth my skin was while I used this toner. It also kept the acne I get from where my glasses sit on my face at bay. My favourite part of this toner is actually the scent, I love the gingery scent, which is the only reason why I like this toner more than The Ordinary’s glycolic acid. At £10 it is affordable, but since I live in Canada, I won’t be buying the toner since I have to take in account the exchange rate and shipping fees. This is a great toner otherwise, and I am so thankful for Ishtar Skinlights for sending me this product!

3/5, I like it, but won’t repurchase due to cost.

Since The Ordinary launched the Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, I was very interested in trying it, but it was always sold out every time I wanted to buy it online (and I didn’t live anywhere near a Deciem store). I didn’t know what to expect when I used this product, I heard very mixed reviews from various skincare subreddits and other blogs.

Here is the ingredients list from Deciem’s website:

Aqua (Water), Glycolic Acid, Rosa damascena flower water, Centaurea cyanus flower water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Propanediol, Glycerin, Triethanolamine, Aminomethyl Propanol, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Aspartic Acid, Alanine, Glycine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glutamic Acid, Arginine, PCA, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Urea, Hexyl Nicotinate, Dextrin, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Gellan Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Hexylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

When I used it for the first time, I was surprised by three things: the lack of redness, the mild tingling, and the smell. I expected my skin to be a lot more red because my skin reacted very strongly to the gentler PHA used in the Prep & Glow. I also knew that Deciem added Tasmanian Pepperberry to the formula to help reduce irritation — I just didn’t know the extent of its effectiveness. So it was such a pleasant surprise when my skin didn’t react too much at all. However, the smell is unpleasant. It has a slightly sweet yet metallic scent that really took the enjoyment from my experience.

At around week 3, I began to purge quite a bit on the left side of my face where I applied the glycolic acid. The breakouts would quickly heal and disappear, but the area where my glasses sit on the left side of my face was like an active volcanic zone — it just never stopped. I found that it also made the hyperpigmentation under my left eye and my nose worse. I am prone to freckling in that area and it was worsened during the testing period despite the fact I used sunscreen daily, I used it in the middle of winter, and I didn’t leave my house too much. In terms of fading acne scars, it was about the same as the Prep & Glow. On the bright side, it did make the left side of my face super baby soft and smooth.

2.5/5, most likely won’t repurchase, but where else would you find an acid that beats The Ordinary’s in price?

Final Thoughts:

Prep & Glow Pros:

  • Fades hyperpigmentation
  • Exfoliates skin well
  • Reduces oil production and minimizes pore size
  • Ginger scent

Prep & Glow cons:

  • Price and shipping cost
  • Can cause extreme redness and pain if using acids for the very first time

Glycolic Acid Pros:

  • Cost effective
  • Fades hyperpigmentation
  • Exfoliates skin well
  • Tasmanian Pepperberry does mitigate irritation well
  • Reduces oil production and minimizes pore size

Glycolic Acid Cons:

  • The purging doesn’t stop
  • Can be very photosensitizing
  • Unpleasant smell

As I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed the Prep & Glow more than the glycolic acid because of the smell. In the end, it is up to you which trade-offs you prefer in your actives. It is also important to note that my skin is really sensitive (something I recently learned since I started my esthetics program) so my experience may be vastly different from yours. Thank you for sticking around for such a long review, I will be posting another review very soon!


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