Youth to the People Kombucha + 11% AHA Exfoliation Power Toner Review

One brand that’s quickly made their mark on the skincare community over the past two years in Youth to the People. Somehow they’re able to meet the market demands of new, new, new by offering up a stream of fresh, new products without diluting their brand. Over the past year, they’ve released a new sleeping mask, moisturizer, oil, and now exfoliating toner. Asides from the oil which I have yet to try, I can say that every other release was a hit! I’ve been using this toner 2-4x a week for over a month so I’m finally confident in sharing my thoughts with the internet!

All their products are made locally in California. They’re focused on sustainability and are completely vegan + cruelty free. I received this toner in a PR mailer from the brand, but as always, all thoughts are my own.

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$38.00 for 4 oz/ 118 mL via Sephora, Nordstrom, & Youth to the People


Comes in a glass bottle with screw on lid and stopper. I’ve had issues with it leaking so I make sure to store it upright. It comes packaged in a simple cardboard box which can easily be recycled as there’s no plastic on it.

Product Claims

The product claims are clean cut— it’s an exfoliating toner that’s meant to help smooth and firm the skin while also minimizing the appearance of pores.


Water, L-Arginine, Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Pentylene Glycol, Glycerin, Betaine, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Water, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Water, Saccharomyces/Xylinum/Black Tea Ferment, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Pichia Ferment Lysate Filtrate, Caramel

Star Ingredients

L-arginine: An amino acid + antioxidant that helps repair skin damage.

8% Lactic Acid + 3% Glycolic Acid: I appreciate that the brand is upfront about the % of actives in the formula, so us consumers can gauge how our skin will react to it. Both ingredients are AHAs which help smooth and brighten skin in texture and tone.

Betaine: In my humble opinion, betaine is a totally underrated skincare ingredient. It’s light and hydrating and helps skin regulate its moisture levels. If you’re dehydrated, like me, it’s an ace ingredient.

Phenoxyethanol: Not a “star” ingredient per se, but I’m happy to see a green beauty brand use safe and efficient preservatives instead of touting unfounded fear-mongering nonsense! I’m assuming this product is formulated according to international standards, so phenoxyethanol will have a max concentration of 1% which is safe for skin while also preventing unwanted bacteria and pathogens from growing in the toner. The toner also uses tetrasodium glutamate diacetate which is plant-based + biodegradable and helps boost the effectiveness of preservatives like phenoxyethanol. 3 cheers for properly preserved green beauty products!!

All the ferments and extracts are listed after phenoxyethanol, so I’m going assume they’re present in concentrations less than 1%. I’m not exactly sure just how effective they’ll be in such teeny amounts. There’s ginger, black tea ferment aka Kombucha, tree bark ferment, and citrus bioflavinoids.


Sort of like lemon kombucha? It’s not a very strong scent as the toner doesn’t include any synthetic fragrance.


Thin, watery, liquid that I applied with a cotton pad. It would make my skin sticky afterwards and even if I waited 15 minutes, the stickiness wouldn’t dissipate. But it didn’t have any effect on the skincare steps I applied afterwards.

How I Used It

As just mentioned, I would pour some out on a cotton pad and then wipe it up and across my face + neck. I used it as my first step after cleansing my skin, 2-4 weeks a night. The first few times, I noticed a slight tingle but after consistent use, that feeling subsided.

ALSO, sunscreen is a daily necessity anyways, but it’s extra necessary when using AHAs as they make your skin more photosensitive. It doesn’t matter if you apply your toner at night, your skin will still be more photosensitive the next morning.


I am acne prone, especially in the summer time when the weather is hot and humid. It’s the perfect storm for sweat and sebum and clogged pores. SO I like to rely on a chemical exfoliant to help keep my skin calm and clear. Additionally, I have plenty of scars from past breakouts so chemical exfoliants also play a role in expediting the healing and fading of those.

After a month of consistent use with this toner, I definitely noticed it helped at fading my old scars. This promised to help brighten and even skin and it delivered 👏 Unfortunately, I still got a number of new breakouts along my jawline.

At this point in my skincare journey, I’ve tried countless chemical exfoliants from basically useless fruit “acids” to burn your skin off chemical peels. I am a seasoned user and know what I want out of any chemical exfoliant I’m using. 1) It has to help fade old scars. 2) It has to prevent an onslaught of new breakouts. 3) It has to be gentle and soothing while doing all that.

I would say this definitely delivered on demands 1 and 3. As mentioned above, it helped fade my scars. After application, I didn’t feel any tightness or dryness. Last week for the sake of “science,” I decided to use it 5x within the week to see how my skin would react and even then, I didn’t peel or have sensitized skin. But it still missed the mark on demand 2. Despite using it almost every night, I still had 3 pesky pimples pop up.

When I look at my favorite chemical exfoliants, one thing they all have in common is that they contain both an AHA and a BHA. While this contains AHAs in the form of lactic acid and glycolic acid, it lacks a BHA (the most common is salicylic acid.) I find the combo works best for me as AHAs tend to brighten my skin while BHAs are oil soluble and help clear out clogged pores and help prevent future breakouts.

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Comparison vs. Biologique Recherche P50V

Any skincare enthusiast worth their salt knows about the holy grail of holy grails: Biologique Recherche’s P50. And if you don’t, I’m sorry to inform that your skincare enthusiast card has been revoked!! Just kidding, if you’re not familiar with the product, it’s a chemical exfoliant by french spa brand Biologique Recherche— it’s been around, in various iterations, for over 40 years and is considered by most to be the crème de la crème of chemical exfoliants.

There are almost ten different versions on the market at the moment— I personally use P50V which is targeted towards drier skin types. Farah’s post lists out the ingredients of every version sold in the US. But at their core they all contain 4 main ingredients: Lactic Acid, Niacinamide, Salicylic Acid, and Vinegar. All but P50V 1970 also contain Sulfur. This quintet of ingredients is brightening and anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and effective against acne, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, sun spots, and Satan himself.

I see literal overnight results with P50V. My skin is luminous the next morning and whatever breakouts I have are flatter. I also notice that my acne scars don’t darken as much and heal a lot quicker when I use P50V consistently.

Of course, there’s a significant price difference between the two. The Youth to the People Kombucha Power Toner retails for $38 for 4 oz, making it about $9.50 per ounce. In comparison, Biologique Recherche’s P50V (and every other version asides from PIGM 400) retails for $68 for 5.1 oz making it about $13.33 per ounce. BUT if I compare it in regards to price per cost, P50V is similarly priced in the long run. To get the results I want, I can use it 2-3x a week. Meanwhile, with the Youth to the People toner I need to use it 4-5x a week and add in an additional BHA.

One of my favorite weekly skin rituals, is to apply P50V and follow it up with Biologique Recherche’s Masque Vivant. The combo brings me major glow, clears out blackheads and clogged pores, and kills zits. I tried replacing said ritual with the Youth to the People toner and the results were good, but not as good. My skin still had glow but it didn’t annihilate all my zits.

Final Thoughts

I like the toner and think it’s one of the best, relatively “affordable”, chemical exfoliants you can buy at Sephora (I say relative because most of the good ones at Sephora are in the $50+ category.) It’s gentle and can be used by people with oily, normal, or dry skin types. It has a significant amount of active ingredients and despite being “green”, it’s still properly preserved. I also enjoy the brand’s philosophy as a whole and appreciate that everything is recyclable.

But as much as I enjoy it, it’s not replacing my Biologique Recherche P50V which delivers superior results (albeit with a higher price tag)!