skin week

I Buy This Pixi Toner Dupe in Bulk (and Check a Suitcase to Bring It Back to Berlin With Me)

The skin care I use is focused on bringing out a natural glow and evening my complexion, rather than preventing acne. Photo: NATHAN MA

I’ve always had a (mostly) hands-off approach to skin care. Occasional spots come and go without intervention, and the skin care I do use is focused on bringing out a natural glow and evening my complexion, rather than preventing acne. However, my face has become a battleground in recent years: Record-breaking heat waves and a gradual buildup from Germany’s hard water have led to a persistent rash of prickly heat across my forehead and jawline every summer, and in the winter, my regular arsenal of face masks and micellar water was ineffective in clearing my clogged pores.

So as a muggy Berlin summer turned into a balmy early autumn a few years ago, I turned to Pixi Glow Tonic, on the recommendation of a handful of friends. It offered a brief respite from clogged pores for a few months, but its price point had me measuring out each night’s dose as if it were liquid gold. Around six months later, I noticed a passing Twitter thread that suggested an unlikely competitor: Superdrug Naturally Radiant Glycolic Tonic. With a trip to London on the horizon, I eagerly added a stop at the nearest Superdrug to my weekend itinerary, and I’ve been refilling my order ever since.

At £7 for 100ml, the tonic is about half the price of Pixi but just as effective. It peels away dead cells and dirt from a long day of sweating, which means it clears the root cause of my heat rash from the inside out, and leaves my face fresher, brighter, and visibly renewed. It’s a skin-care staple in the colder months, too: As my summertime tan fades every autumn, the tonic gives my face a healthy glow and even tone (without lightening my complexion) well into winter. I used to pair Pixi with a vitamin C serum for a soft, uniform brightness, but the serum gradually left my face dewy but pale. Since switching to the Superdrug Tonic, I’ve phased out the vitamin C serum — without leaving behind the healthy glow. The kiwi-fruit extract in the tonic’s formula is rich in vitamin C, so it adds a slight gloss and brightness to my skin and evens out my colouration. The tonic works with my natural skin colour, not against it.

Each night, I dash a generous splash of the Tonic onto a cotton pad to douse my face, then rub it in with a manual exfoliating brush for around a minute. While other tonics leave a sticky or viscous residue, Superdrug’s secret weapon feels thin and light. I like to live simply, and I pack my luggage accordingly. Unless I’m on my way back to Berlin from London — in which case, you’ll find me at Stansted with a handful of bottles from the Dalston Superdrug rolling around in my checked luggage.

Some other skincare products I like

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I Buy This Pixi Dupe in Bulk (and Bring It Back to Berlin)