People on TikTok have found innovative ways to use products, some clever, others risky. Recently, The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toner ($13) has been making its rounds on social media, with people using it just about everywhere but their faces. While this might sound alarming, dermatologists say it’s actually not a bad hack. “Using glycolic acid on the body is nothing new, but probably gets reinvented every couple of years for different things,” says Delray Beach, FL dermatologist Dr. Janet Allenby.
People are using this glycolic acid toner on their underarms and in their bikini area to combat odors, ingrown hair and hyperpigmentation. Some have even completely swapped deodorant for the toner. If someone is looking to improve the texture or coloring of skin on the body, there’s nothing wrong with trying this trend, says Dr. Allenby, just be careful with more delicate areas. However, experts are unsure about using it as deodorant.
Using the toner on ingrown hairs and hyperpigmentation
The gentle chemical exfoliation of the skin that comes with this toner is actually great for these issues, says Houston dermatologist Jennifer Segal, MD. “Glycolic acid can definitely help with ingrown hairs and hyperpigmentation as it normalizes the skin turnover and are definitely useful in skin discoloration,” says Dr. Allenby. “Glycolic acid works by gently exfoliating the outer layers of skin—this can help to prevent hairs from becoming trapped in layers of skin and could also help to fade away areas that have become discolored,” explains Melville, NY dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD.
Using the toner for odor reduction
Dermatologists agree that odor elimination is a questionable claim. “They may change the skin bacterial flora, which may cause changes in the odor,” says Dr. Allenby. However, “I don’t know if it’s going to be positive or negative honestly.”
Nanuet, NY dermatologist Heidi Waldorf, MD says, “It might reduce odor by improving exfoliation if the cause is a buildup of dead skin cells,” but it won’t reduce sweat, she warns.
Expert tips on trying the trend
“Before starting a new product, it’s always best to try it in a small area for several days to make sure that you don’t have any sensitivities or potential allergies,” says Dr. Papantoniou. She also notes that those using glycolic acid need to be mindful of sun exposure as it can result in severe sunburn.
Dr. Papantoniou advises against applying glycolic acid to skin right after shaving. There can be little micro-breaks in the skin barrier, which can cause dermatitis from the glycolic acid, she explains. Additionally, Dr. Segal suggests practicing caution, especially when using on body folds, since they’re more prone to irritation. Dr. Waldorf recommends that anyone using the toner start it gradually once or twice a week.
Is it safe to use these ingredients on areas of the body outside the face?
Dermatologists reviewed the ingredient list and gave us the all-clear. “The ingredients are safe to use in these areas for most people. The product includes glycerin as a humectant and other moisturizing and calming ingredients to offset the irritation from the glycolic acid,” says Dr. Waldorf. However, Dr. Allenby notes areas like the groin and underarms may be a bit more sensitive than the face, so monitor skin’s response.