My Face Hates Glossier Solution - But My Bacne Loves It


Are you a slave to the hype machine? I kind of am. As soon as Glossier’s new product, Solution, was available for purchase, I bought in. The before-and-after pics were compelling and the packaging was so cute and I just want to be a makeup-free-and-somehow-still-flawless Glossier girl!

Almost as soon as it arrived in the mail, beauty industry veteran Caroline Hirons wrote a brutally honest review of Solution saying she wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Whoops.

The question became, To try or not to try? I decided to go for it–after all, everyone’s skin is different and some people react well to things that would absolutely destroy another person’s skin...that’s why there are so many skincare products out there, duh!

Here’s the deal with Solution: It’s an acid-based exfoliator formulated with AHA, BHA, and PHA. Those abbreviations might sound really technical and scary, but acids are derived from nature and totally safe to use on your face.

AHAs are derived from fruits, nuts, milk, or sugars and help break down the bonds between skin cells. BHAs come from willow tree bark, wintergreen oil, or sweet birch, and they’re amazing at penetrating oil and clearing out your pores. If you’ve used a salicylic acid spot treatment before (and I’m willing to bet you have), you’ve used BHAs–they’re primarily found in acne treatments. PHAs are used less often, but they essentially function as less-harsh AHAs and are better for sensitive skin.

Solution goes on like a toner–you soak a cotton pad in it and pat it all over your face–but it’s not a toner. The acids in it actually exfoliate your skin by detaching dead skin cells from the healthy cells beneath, uncovering your glowiest, clearest skin. Or at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

I timidly swiped a Solution-soaked cotton pad over my face at night, and followed it with a soothing hyaluronic acid serum, Biossance Probiotic Moisturizer, and gentle jojoba oil–I didn’t want to  mix it with anything that would irritate my skin further.

My immediate reaction was that Solution was very drying. Almost too drying. Even though I followed it up with lots of hydration, I still woke up in the morning with some slight redness around my nose and chin (the areas of my face that tend to dry out first). I can’t say it was because of Solution for sure, but it was enough to make me discontinue use, stat.

My reaction makes sense based on Caroline Hirons’ analysis of the ingredients: “I have no doubt that the problem with this formula is the incredibly high % of sodium hydroxide… when mixed with acids, SH makes salt. That is why this formula is no doubt good at drying out spots. It’s acid, a lot of sodium hydroxide and a salty solution. Of course it’s going to dry out your spots. It will also potentially aggravate your acid mantle, and not in the way acids are supposed to.” 

She went on to say that teenagers with super oily skin and active acne might find this to be a Holy Grail product, which got me thinking…the skin on my chest and back has been behaving like a teenager’s, erupting with angry red pimples and whiteheads for no apparent reason. Maybe I should give Solution a shot at my bacne?

Even though Solution dried out the sensitive skin on my face, I felt OK about using it on my chest and back, since the skin in those areas is thicker and less prone to irritation. And it worked! I’ve been using Solution 2x a day on my chest and back (and following it up with a super-soothing coat of Ayoni Safiya’s Organic Body Butter), and I’ve seen significant improvements in just a week. 

Glossier Solution definitely has a place in my bathroom cabinet. I don’t think I’ll repurchase it once I run out, but I’ll remember it fondly as the Solution to all my bacne problems. 

If you’re still interested in trying out an acid exfoliator for your face, check out Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 (I’ve been using this for a week and LOVE it, review to come), Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, or Pixi’s Glow Tonic.