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Best Pick: NeoStrata Toning Solution Level 2

NeoStrata Toning Solution Level 2

Behold, one of my best kept beauty secrets! I love this product. It’s one of my most favourite skin treatments. Ever. Each bottle lasts me at least 6 months and I’m more than half way through my third bottle!

NeoStrata Toning Solution Level 2 is a liquid skin treatment with 10% glycolic acid (AHA) and 2% salicylic acid (BHA), both are chemical exfoliants and the strongest strength available without a prescription in Canada (where NeoStrata is based). The salicylic acid exfoliates the top layer of the skin and inside to the pores to treat and keep away skin congestion and acne. It is also an anti-inflammatory agent so it helps calm redness. In addition, it has been shown to be able to rebuild sun-damaged skin collagen ¹. Glycolic acid, on the other hand, exfoliates the skin’s surface to make skin looks more evenly tone, bright, and smooth. It also increases skin’s own production of hyaluronic acid and collagen ². It’s like the skin’s equivalent of full-on workout session followed by a healthy, refueling meal.

We can do nothing and gracefully accept our body changes but it’s much better in the long-run to be doing some regular workout sessions, no? Especially when the only actual effort required for the skin’s ‘workout’ involved smoothing some liquid over your face!

I had been using this regularly since the product debuted in 2010, and here are my results. Keep in mind that I had good skin to begin with — I’m not boasting, just being frank. My usage: applied on clean, bare skin alternate nights using my hands — cotton wool pad was too wasteful as it absorbed a lot of the solution — 3 drops for face and 2 drops for neck and chest area. There was a slight tingling feeling upon application but nothing uncomfortable. The outer packaging clearly stated that was to be expected. Very smooth, bright skin morning after treatment. Long-term results are that my pores look smaller, my skin looks clearer, firmer, and brighter, and I have been almost entirely blemish-free. I have hardly needed to use any foundation or concealer.

My skin has always benefited from regular exfoliation of the non-mechanical kind. I’m not talking about scrubs or Clarisonic here, I’m referring to enzymes and other exfoliating agents that remove dead skin cells without having to physically ‘scrub’ them off. I have always used some sort of chemical exfoliants, including AHAs and BHA — whether in the form of a mask, a cleanser, serum or a moisturizer. The difference with NeoStrata Toning Solution Level 2, is that it’s a straightforward formulation of the 2 acids together in an effective pH — no fillers to dilute the effects.

Some important things to note:

1. The product is supposed to tingle but it should not be painful! This product contains a high dose of acids and first time users need to slowly build up tolerance. There is also the NeoStrata Toning Solution Level 1 with 8% glycolic acid in the same formulation but no salicylic acid.

2. I don’t use any other form of exfoliation the day that I’m using the solution. Over-exfoliation is not a good thing — chemical burn is painful and not pretty!

NeoStrata Toning Solution Level 2, 100ml, is Canadian-exclusive and it’s retailed for CDN$29 from (HERE) — shipping available to Canada and USA only.

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21 Comments on Best Pick: NeoStrata Toning Solution Level 2

  1. Are you still using this toner?
    I was looking for them and realised that they are repackaged/ reformulated???do you have any thoughts on the new level 2?

    • It’s now called Acne Clear Clarifying Solution but igredients are still identical as far as I know. I haven’t used it for over a year now.

  2. Hi! I have dry to combination skin which breaks out maybe 2-3 times a month and I have a few blackheads around my chin and nose area. I’m currently using the Pixi Toner with 5% AHA but I don’t really see any improvement on my skin and I also really hate the amount of fragrance in the product. The next product I would like to try out is the Paulas Choice line with 1% or 2% BHA but I’m not quite sure. Can you recommend a good exfoliating product to me? Thanks much! ^.^

    • BHA is usually recommended over AHA for dealing with breakout/blackheads as it’s oil soluble (AHA is water soluble). I personally prefer Paula’s Choice Resist 2% BHA over her regular 2% BHA Liquid in the white bottle as it feels much more lightweight.

      • Would you even recommend to use anything else other than chemical peel for blackheads, like comedone extractor or something? I noticed I have less problems with blackheads since I started using Luna mini (1), but the issue is still present though, maybe Luna mini 2 would suit me better as you can set it to a stronger intensity, not sure heh.

        • Are you sure they’re not just sebaceous filaments? You can’t get rid of sebaceous filaments as they’re normal and will always come back. All you can do is minimise them.

          Personally, I’m not a fan of comedone extractor. While it does work, you also run the risk of scarring, hyperpigmentation and broken capillaries. It aso pushes bacteria deeper into the skin.

          • Hey, yep, I googled and you’re right – it’s sebaceous filaments, no brainer actually as I have this problem on almost all of my skin surface :/ I should probably use Innisfree volcanic clay more often around the nose/cheek area as it also helps a bit. Hopefully my skin will calm down a bit in terms of oil productions with aging..

  3. Hello! I have dry to combination skin which breaks out maybe 2-3 times a month and I have a few blackheads around my chin and nose area. I’m currently using the Pixi Toner with 5% AHA but I don’t really see any improvement on my skin and I also really hate the amount of fragrance in the product. The next product I would like to try out is the Paulas Choice line with 1% or 2% BHA but I’m not quite sure. Can you recommend a good exfoliating product to me? Thanks much! ^.^

  4. hi, I’m a “skincare” newbie, I’ve been 8 months in japan, and now I start thinking to take care of my skin, due to “4 seasons” here, I wasn’t have any trouble on my face before I come here. I found my face become dull since i got here (I have oily type), I’m using allie whitening sunscreen (as I read your review it should be suit my skin type) since this summer,and know I have blemishes every where (please explain what is the diferent between acne and blemish), I blamed the suncreen, but after read your article about ‘double cleansing”, I realize it must be the way I clean my face. My face now is such a messy, it still look dull, blemished, white headed, I want to do “Japanese skincare routine”,though i think the steps is too much for someone lazy like me, but I want my- old bright blemish free face-back. And after read this review, I’m interested with this product (for its blemish free and brighted skin), but I was wondering, is there any Japanese brand similar with this product?second, could you suggest me products for each my skincare routine, to brighten and make blemish free? I really appreciate your opinion. Thank you_S

    • Difference between acne and blemish? I know a lot of people consider acne to be something more serious (i.e. visible) — “I don’t have acne, I just sometimes get clogged pores and a pimple or two.” — but, acne is a general term that includes pimples, clogged pores, blackheads, and whiteheads. If all you get is blackheads, that’s still acne.

      As Helena Rubinstein once said, “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones”. I don’t think following a set number of skin care steps is crucial, but taking the time to properly care for your skin every day is essential to keep skin in optimal shape long term.

      This contains 8% glycolic acid and 2% salicylic acid, a combination not commonly found in skin care products in Japan and even in North America. Cleansing Research Acne GP Lotion contains both but there’s no way of knowing the percentages, and its formula isn’t as straightforward.

  5. Hello! Thanks for the review. How do you incorporate this product with other skincare products (do you use it before you put on anything else? can it go under make up? etc;) and how often can you use it? Thanks

    • I apply on clean, bare skin (just like using Japanese lotion) and at night only. Wait a few minutes, then apply my normal skincare products. I personally use it every other night. This contains a high concentration of exfoliating acids so if you’ve never used a similar product before and your skin is sensitive, you will need to slowly build up a tolerance to avoid irritation — or a chemcial burn.

    • The product is only available in Canada. The only site I know that stocks it and will ship to the States would be the company’s website through

  6. Which one would you suggest for 1st time user of this product? Level 1 or level 2? I’m mostly blemish free but I tend to breakout before my period.

    • They have the same formulation except Level 1 lacks BHA. I prefer Level 2 because it contains both AHA and BHA, which give skin well-rounded benefits. Both versions contain a high amount of skin-exfoliating acids in a non-emollient base, so they’re more suitable for resilient skin.

      Topical treatments won’t do very much for hormone-induced acne as they cannot target the root cause — hormones.

  7. What is the difference between level 1 and level 2? Have you tried other products in this acne line?

    • Level 1 contains only 8% AHA with no BHA whereas Level 2 has 10% AHA and 2% BHA. Both are in the same base formulation.

      I’ve tried sample packets of the Clarifying Gel Cleanser. I liked it but not so much that I would purchase a tube for regular price.

      • Thank you very much for the quick response, I will definitely be trying out this product in my next skin care batch.

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