Yup, Your Face 100 Percent Needs a Toner (Sry, Not Sry)
Courtesy Image I'm of the very strong belief that toner is the most underrated beauty product out there. And, TBH, I totally get why it doesn't always get the street...
- Oct 5, 2020
I'm of the very strong belief that toner is the most underrated beauty product out there. And, TBH, I totally get why it doesn't always get the street cred it deserves: Facial toners of our ~youth~ were often filled with drying, irritating alcohols, and they can kinda seem like an unnecessary—or straight-up harmful—step in your skincare routine. But the toners of today? They're actually pretty magical and can minimize the appearance of your pores, zap zits and excess oil, soothe redness and irritation, and even up your overall glow.
Also important: A quick swipe of toner after cleansing is a foolproof way to soak up any tap water residue or grime before you start the rest of your skincare routine, so if you’re after, IDK, really good skin, it’s time you find your perfect match. Ahead, the 17 best toners for every skin type and concern—plus tips and tricks for using 'em.
Best Toner for Dark Spots
Rosen Tropics Toner
A blend of hydrating hyaluronic acid and vitamin C-packed pineapple extract give this cute little toner its dark-spot-correcting powers. It's especially great for folks with acne-prone or oily skin, and it's v easy to apply—just dab a couple drops on a cotton round and smooth it over your clean face in the AM (and, obvs, don't forget to follow with a minimum SPF 30).
Best Soothing Toner
Renee Rouleau Elderberry Soothing Toner
This toner from celeb esthetician Renee Rouleau is one of my all-time favorites—and for good reason. It's spiked with soothing and hydrating ingredients, like elderberry fruit extract (an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties) and sodium PCA, which help leave my skin noticeably softer and smoother. I like to use this bb in the P.M. after cleansing and before moisturizing.
Best Toner With Coconut Water
Alaffia Purely Coconut Face Toner
Coconut water is the hero ingredient in this hydrating toner from Alaffia, but it's also got a handful of anti-aging and exfoliative properties from natural extracts (hi, neem and papaya). The coolest thing about this toner, though? It's housed in a super-convenient spray bottle for easy application.
Best Exfoliating Toner for Sensitive Skin
The Inkey List PHA Toner
I get it: It's tough to find an exfoliating toner that's gentle enough for sensitive skin, but this genius formula from The Inkey List definitely makes the cut. That's thanks to the formula's poly-hydroxy acid (aka PHA), which helps exfoliate the skin without any of the harsh side effects of alpha-hydroxy acids (like redness, dryness, or inflammation). It's also got brightening niacinamide and soothing aloe for good measure.
Best Toner-Essence Hybrid
Shani Darden Skin Care Sake Toning Essence
Smooth this celeb-favorite toner from Shani Darden along clean skin and you'll immediately fall in love with the silky texture—it's almost like an essence or serum. The formula features a smart combo of sake water (to soften your skin), rose fruit extract (to minimize oil) and niacinamide (to even your skin tone), so there's no doubt your face will love it just as much as you do.
Best Antioxidant Toner
Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner
The star ingredient in this toner—CoQ-10—definitely sounds a little science-y, but what it does is actually quite simple: It helps hydrate, soothe, and protect your skin every time you apply it. The formula also has a nice dose of hyaluronic acid and aloe vera for even more moisturizing and soothing. Win-win.
Best Toner for Dull Skin
Youth to the People Kombucha + 11% AHA Exfoliation Power Toner
A powerful dose of AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids, including 8 percent lactic acid and 3 percent glycolic acid) gives this toner its skin-brightening abilities. Smooth it over clean skin 3-5 times a week, and the formula will help plump and smooth your dull, tired-as-hell skin over time.
Best Toner for Acne-Prone Skin
OleHenriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner
Meet the toner that definitely deserves a spot in your acne-fighting regimen. The formula’s combination of glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids targets zits, excess oil, and clogged pores, while its ultra-gentle neem-seed oil keeps your skin nice and hydrated.
Best Toner for Dry Skin
Paula’s Choice Resist Advanced Replenishing Toner
If your skin feels dry AF regardless of how many moisturizers you layer on, try throwing this hydrating toner into the mix as your first step. Its hero ingredient—hyaluronic acid—helps your thirsty, thirsty skin retain moisture.
Best Toner for Clogged Pores
Peach & Lily The Good Acids Pore Toner
PSA: Unless you want to f*ck up your skin barrier, you should stay far away from physical exfoliants (i.e., those gritty face scrubs that can create micro-tears in your skin). Instead, look toward an AHA toner—like this one from Peach & Lily—to gently exfoliate your skin, minimize the appearance of pores, and smooth rough patches.
Best Toner for Sensitive Skin
Avène Gentle Toning Lotion
Sensitive skin types will love this calming toner from Avène, which soothes irritation and dryness every time you use it. Oh, and it’s dermatologist approved and hypoallergenic, so no need to worry about further irritating that precious little face of yours.
Best Drugstore Toner
Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner With Aloe Vera
This drugstore toner is formulated with witch hazel—a natural astringent—making it gentle enough for all skin types, especially those with excess oil or acne. Bonus: It’s also spiked with hydrating aloe vera and rose water to help calm inflammation.
Best Toner for Combination Skin
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence
Made from 90 percent Pietra (SK-II’s proprietary fermented yeast that’s rich in vitamins, amino acids, and minerals), this cult-favorite toner leaves your skin noticeably smoother and brighter. Using your fingertips, pat a few drops across your face and neck twice daily.
Best Toner for Oily Skin
Lush Cosmetics Tea Tree Water
Packed with zit-fighting tea tree water, complexion-balancing juniper berry water, and exfoliating grapefruit water, this lightweight formula helps minimize excess oil (meaning your T-zone doesn’t stand a chance). Spritz it on clean skin every morning or when you need a quick refresh in the afternoon.
Best Glow-Enhancing Toner
Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic
It’s no secret that dark spots come hand in hand with acne-prone skin—and they definitely aren’t easy to treat overnight. That’s where this toner comes into play: It sloughs away dead skin cells and promotes cell turnover with the help of 5 percent glycolic acid. It also contains soothing aloe vera and collagen-boosting ginseng for a true glow-up.
Best Makeup-Removing Toner
Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel Toner Hydrating
This alcohol-free toner has a cocktail of hydrating ingredients, like vitamin E and hyaluronic acid, along with witch hazel to tighten your pores without drying you out. Bonus: It also moonlights as a gentle makeup remover—just run a soaked cotton pad over your skin and lashes.
Best Toner With Glycolic Acid
Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner
An impressive blend of glycolic acid and grapefruit extract works to promote cell turnover, minimize fine lines, and ward off zits and discoloration in this cult-favorite toner. As an added bonus, it also looks pretty freaking cool in your bathroom cabinet.
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