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Toners aren’t necessary—there, I said it. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not a good supplementary treatment to have in your skincare regimen, especially if you have chronically dry, dehydrated skin. See, the best toners for dry skin have to check off a few boxes, but one, in particular, is of the most importance: hydration. But what is a toner, anyway?
“A toner is a solution that typically contains actives and is designed to be used after cleansing and before moisturizing. Toners can balance pH, remove impurities, exfoliate, and hydrate. They are not necessary, but they can provide great benefits,” says Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, a board-certified dermatologist at Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York and clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College. For those with dry skin, “the benefits of a toner depend on the specific formulation and the ingredients it contains. Many toners contain exfoliating actives that help to improve tone and texture, reduce dullness, diminish hyperpigmentation, and bring a glow to the skin,” she adds. Toners made specifically for dry skin can “hydrate, balance pH, and remove residual oils.”
Gone are the days of the toners your mother housed in the cabinet containing strong, harsh astringents. We combed through dozens of online customer reviews and our personal stash, and polled Dr. Murphy-Rose for her derm-approved picks to find the 12 best toners for dry skin. Supple skin is on its way!
Key ingredients: hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, ceramides
Size: 6.8 oz
Those who have heavy actives in their regimen will love this soothing toner by Cerave. Your skin will drink up all its goodness, from the bursting freshness of hyaluronic acid to barrier-strengthening ceramides.
Our expert says: “Cerave Alcohol-Free Hydrating Face Toner hydrates and calms dry skin with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides. It is also fragrance-free and suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.”—Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, board-certified cosmetic at Laser & Skin NY
Skin Perfecting 6% Mandelic Acid + 2% Lactic Acid Liquid Exfoliant
Key ingredients: mandelic acid, lactic acid, yarrow extract
Size: 3 oz
I know what you’re thinking—did the OG Paula’s Choice exfoliant get a new look? No, but a new formula has been added to the brand’s exfoliant family. This iteration was made especially for those with sensitive skin looking for a gentler approach to skin renewal and luminosity. Plus, with an active-heavy formula, the yarrow extract helps to cushion the skin barrier.
Sephora rating: 4.8/5 stars
An ELLE Editor says: “Since I’m already a retinol gal, adding any new product to my routine can send my skin into panic mode. I thoroughly enjoyed how easily my skin adjusted to this toner, how smooth my skin felt after just a few days of use, and how clusters of acne breakouts flattened over time.”—Nerisha Penrose, ELLE.com beauty commerce editor
The Essential Tonic
Key ingredients: Miracle Broth, marine ferment
Size: 6.7 oz
Couple your Creme de La Mer with this calming, soothing toner that blankets the skin with moisture and hydration via La Mer's signature Miracle Broth formula, marine ferment, and more.
Sephora rating: 5/5 stars
A Sephora reviewer said: “Love this so worth the money 3 buy already. so refreshing!!!!!!!!”
Pore Therapy Daily Toner Pads
Key ingredients: salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid
Size: 50 pads
Skincare Junkie’s toner pads get cut to the chase with an exfoliant-rich formula that unveils fresh, brighter, and less-congested skin. Salicylic acid is the star here, but it doesn’t work alone; fruit enzymes and PHAs are added to the mix to improve tone and texture, while hyaluronic boosts hydration.
Amazon rating: 5/5 stars
Our expert says: “Pore Therapy Daily Toner Pads minimize the appearance of pores while preventing breakouts. They are new-generation toners that are hydrating rather than alcohol-based and drying. In addition to salicylic acid, these toner pads contain gluconolactone to hydrate while gently exfoliating. Hyaluronic acid in seven molecular weights attracts water at multiple skin levels. Skin-soothing aloe calms dry, sensitive skin. They are fragrance-free and hypoallergenic.”—Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose
Key ingredients: niacinamide, exfolactive
Size: 1 oz
We’ve all scrolled on Charlotte Tilbury’s Instagram page, coveting all the models’ dewy, smooth visage. Spoiler alert: it’s likely all credit goes to this solution. The Glow Toner couples niacinamide to improve the appearance of pores, and exfolactive, which uses extracts culled from prickly pear to address fine lines and wrinkles.
Nordstrom rating: 4.4/5 stars
A Nordstrom reviewer said: “Indulge in the luxurious experience of Charlotte Tilbury Glow Toner and treat yourself to radiant, glowing skin. This toner has completely transformed my skincare routine. With just a few swipes, it effortlessly revitalizes and brightens my complexion, leaving it looking refreshed and rejuvenated. The delicate floral scent is an added bonus that makes every application feel like a spa-like experience. Charlotte Tilbury Glow Toner truly deserves a spot in your daily self-care ritual - it’s the ultimate treat for your skin!”
Skin Recovery Essence Hydrating Toner
Key ingredients: antioxidants, amino acids
Size: 7.3 oz
As the name suggests, EltaMD’s toner is essentially rehab for irritated or damaged skin. This solution uses antioxidants and amino acids to restore the skin’s pH balance and strengthen the barrier, perfect for post-peel care or in between retinol days.
Amazon rating: 4.6/5 stars
An Amazon reviewer said: “This toner is amazing! It doesn’t dry out my skin like others have in the past. I use it right after washing my face and is my first step in my skincare routine.”
Black Rice Hyaluronic Toner for Sensitive Skin
Key ingredients: rice extract, hyaluronic acid
Size: 5.1 oz
Of all the beauty corners out there, K-beauty is one that has been growing rapidly—and for good reason. With calming, soothing yet effective ingredients, most formulas don’t irritate the skin, they only help. Haruharu Wonder’s Black Rice toner was formulated to treat sensitive skin types via nutrients, fermented black rice extract, hyaluronic acid, and more.
Soko Glam rating: 4.3 stars
A Soko Glam reviewer said: “SO healing and nice. It is gentle and I use it as my last step or toners/essences and it is so moisturizing and great. I put it on my hands too and such a difference.”
Fat Water Niacinamide Pore-Refining Toner Serum with Barbados Cherry 5.0 oz / 150 mL Fragrance Free
Key ingredients: niacinamide, acerola, Australian lemon myrtle
Size: 5 oz
Skin prep makes all the difference ahead of makeup application. To achieve a Rihanna-esque flawless beat, go in with the Fat Water toner. This is a lightweight formula that brightens, controls oil, and refines pores so your skin appears smoother, dark spots and pores less visible.
Sephora rating: 4.1/5 stars
A Sephora reviewer said: “Love love love this product! My skin is so soft, it has never looked better. My skin has been so dry and this stuff has definitely fixed that. I definitely recommend it!”
Ceramidin Skin Barrier Serum Toner
Key ingredients: ceramides, panthenol
Size: 5.07 oz
Whether sensitive or not, skin can easily be compromised when too many actives or strong retinols come into play. Dr. Jart+ has the remedy: ceramides. The Ceramidin Skin Barrier Serum Toner fights the skin’s battles so you don’t have to; nourishing ceramides arm the skin barrier to build up a defense and prevent further damage.
Sephora rating: 4.6/5 stars
A Sephora reviewer said: “Obsessed!! 10 out of 10!!! My skin has been suffering in this winter weather and my regular winter routine was not doing it for me but I tried this and instantly hydrating & nourishing! I almost cried!! lol This will be a staple!”
Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner
Key ingredients: hyaluronic acid, rose fruit extract, angelica leaf extract
Size: 8.4 oz
Few toners have a cult following quite like the Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner. Gorgeous rose petal packaging aside, this toner is supercharged with hydrating ingredients that reverse dryness, seal in moisture, and improve the look of pores. Plus, the faint rose scent is an added bonus.
Ulta rating: 4.6/5 stars
An ELLE Editor says: “I'm obsessed with the entire Rose line from Fresh. As someone who hates scented skin care, this one is faint and doesn't irritate my sensitive skin. I palm a bit of the solution in my hands and massage into my face for an early morning pick-me-up; the hydrating formula feels like a parched skin's dream.”—Nerisha Penrose
Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer
Key ingredients: ceramides, peptides, white tea leaf
Size: 1.6 oz
Hydration is the purpose of every product Laneige offers. This milky, lightweight liquid doubles as a toner and a moisturizer, imparting nourishment via ceramides and peptides.
Amazon rating: 4.6/5 stars
An Amazon reviewer said: “This product has done wonders for my dry, dull winter skin. I receive compliments on the glowiness of my face daily after applying at night, in the morning and periodically throughout the day when my skin feels dry.”
Ultra Repair Wild Oat Hydrating Toner
Key ingredients: colloidal oat, hyaluronic acid, honey
Size: 6 oz
When your skin sends out an SOS, this is the toner to help restore balance. The MVP of this recipe is colloidal oat, a soothing, calming ingredient that cushions agitated skin; hyaluronic acid and honey offer a surge of moisture and plumpness.
Ulta rating: 4.6/5 stars
Our expert says: “First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Wild Oat Hydrating Toner contains colloidal oatmeal, honey, and hyaluronic acid to soothe and hydrate. Honey has inherent anti-inflammatory properties and is a natural humectant, attracting moisture.”—Dr. Murphy-Rose
Meet the Experts
Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose is a board-certified cosmetic, medical, and surgical dermatologist specializing in facial rejuvenation at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York and clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College.
How can toner help dry skin?
Toners aren’t always necessary, but they do have great benefits for those with dry, dull skin. It’s all in the formula. “Hydrating toners often contain humectants that attract moisture to the skin’s surface to hydrate,” Dr. Murphy-Rose states. If your skin is parched, look for toners with hydrating properties over exfoliating ones.
What types of ingredients should you look for in a toner for dry skin?
Hydrating ingredients will yield the results you're looking for. “Look for humectants like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, aloe, and certain hydroxy acids, especially gentle polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) like gluconolactone,” Dr. Murphy-Rose adds.
Can you use toner every day if you have dry skin? What about oily/combination?
“It really comes down to what ingredients are in the toner. Some are designed for dry skin or oily and combination skin and can be used daily, while others are too strong to be used that frequently,” she explains. Carefully examine the ingredients to see what makes sense for your skin type. Hydrating toners can be used more frequently than those packed with AHAs or enzymes.
Why Trust ELLE Beauty?
As a leading publisher of fashion, lifestyle, and beauty content, ELLE.com is committed to highlighting the best products in various categories by personally testing the latest and most innovative products, interviewing countless experts, and vetting customer-loved items. For this piece, ELLE.com beauty commerce editor Nerisha Penrose personally tested toners and poured over customer reviews to find the best ones for dry skin. She also spoke to a dermatologist to learn about its benefits and purpose.
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