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Toner is one of those skin-care products that is often misunderstood. You may have overlooked it since it's known for drying out the skin and having a stinging effect during application — but the truth is, toner is a staple that should be in most skin-care routines.
But what exactly is toner? Toner is a middle-ground step in a skin-care routine that helps to get rid of excess oil and dirt post-cleansing, explains Ope Ofodile, M.D., M.P.H, co-owner of Dermatology and Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta. It also helps to prep the skin for other skin-care products like serums and moisturizers.
"The great thing about toners is that there are options that work for every skin type," notes Dr. Ofodile. There are options for dry skin, ones for oily skin, and even picks that are gentle enough for sensitive skin. You'll want to choose a toner based on your skin type and concerns. Those with oily skin should look for options formulated with glycolic acid; acne-prone skin can reach for salicylic acid; dry skin types should consider toners with nourishing and hydrating ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, that won't cause irritation.
Dr. Ofodile also points out that toners should be used after cleansing the face and before serums and moisturizers. And if you apply your toner to a cotton pad first and then swipe over your face only to find a brown tint on the pad, don't fret. This is because toners are made to remove dirt, grime, oil, and debris from the skin that cleansers may not target. "Removing this extra oil and dirt helps improve the efficacy of serums and moisturizers applied to the skin after," says Dr. Ofodile.
If you're not sure if toner is right for you, you can always consult your dermatologist. But if you're interested in trying it or are looking for a new one to add to your regimen, keep scrolling for the best toners for every skin type, according to experts and customer reviews.
Best Toner for Normal Skin: Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic Exfoliating Toner
This toner has a cult-following because, well, it's that good. It's packed with glycolic acid to exfoliate and brighten skin for a lit-from-within glow, while aloe vera and ginseng work to soothe and hydrate so that you're not left with a stinging, cracked-skin feeling. It also helps to reduce the appearance of pores and reduce acne by purifying the skin. And, it's suitable for all skin types, making it a great pick for people with "normal" skin.
One reviewer wrote: "It's like some miracle face potion that has completely revamped my skin-care game. My pores appeared smaller, my skin was smoother and brighter, and the tone of my face was a nice balanced glow from chin to forehead."
Best Toner for Oliy Skin: La Roche Posay Effaclar Micro-Exfoliating Astringent Toner
If you struggle with oily skin, you probably find your pores to be more noticeable than others. That's where this pick comes into play. This is Dr. Ofodile's go-to toner for oily skin since it, "uses salicylic acid to gently unclog and tighten pores for a clear complexion." (Related: Jelly Skin-Care Products Are the New Trendy Texture for Oily Skin)
"I don't write many reviews but when something is 'life-changing' it's worth taking a minute to herald its greatness," shared a customer. "I've searched and searched for many years to figure out how to manage my oily complexion, without drying it out. I've been using Effaclar for 18 months now and have never been happier. After a thorough washing with warm water and a gentle cleanser I saturate a cotton ball with this amazing tonic and it leaves my skin refreshed, slightly dewy, and prepared for sunscreen... and the salicylic acid keeps acne away."
Best Toner for Dry Skin: SkinMedica Rejuvenate Toner
Those with dehydrated skin tend to shy away from toners since they can be drying and irritating, but Dr. Ofodile says this luxury toner is ideal for those skin types since it helps to restore the skin's natural pH balance. Because it's formulated with alpha-hydroxy acids, this toner targets the outer and inner layers of the skin by exfoliating the surface, increasing collagen production, and reducing signs of aging.
"It does a wonderful job removing the oil and dirt that builds up during the day," reported a shopper. "My skin has never looked or felt so good."
Best Toner for Sensitive Skin: Kiehl's Since 1851 Milk-Peel Gentle Exfoliating Toner
Sensitive skin types should choose products that are gentle and non-irritating. This toner is safe enough for daily use, but still has active ingredients like lipo-hydroxy acid and almond milk to gently exfoliate and moisturize the skin. In fact, after a 7-day clinical study, 93 percent of users said their skin didn't feel irritated and 96 percent felt their skin was more moisturized.
One fan raved: "I absolutely love this toner. I was a bit worried that it would be too much for my sensitive skin so I started with once a day and had zero issues. It made my skin super smooth and soft."
Best Toner for Combination Skin: L'Occitane Immortelle Precious Essential Water
When your skin is oily in some areas and dry in others, it can be a bit challenging to find products that are suitable for your face as a whole. This formula is alcohol-free and infused with hyaluronic acid and organic immortelle floral water to hydrate, soften, and smooth. Plus, there's something about this toner that just feels completely luxurious.
"This is my go-to and an absolutely an essential part of my skincare routine," said a customer. "I use it every day before using my moisturizers and it has really made my skin glow. After washing off my makeup at night it's amazing to see how much stays behind. I always put this water on a cotton pad to wipe off leftover makeup and it keeps my skin totally clean!"
Best Toner for Acne: Differin Pore Minimizing Toner with Witch Hazel
Acne-prone skin tends to be on the oilier side so toners really come in handy when trying to rebalance your complexion. This formula includes witch hazel, the tried and true astringent that reduces excess oils and helps to clear out pores to remove impurities and prevent breakouts. (Related: The Best Drugstore Acne Products, According to Dermatologists)
"It's gentle on the skin since it's alcohol-free and contains aloe and witch hazel," noted a shopper. "The vitamin B helps to minimize pores and improve the overall appearance of your skin. It's a good choice whether you have the occasional outbreak or if you have acne-prone skin."
Best Toner for Aging Skin: Alpha-H Liquid Gold Exfoliating Treatment with Glycolic Acid
When a product is called 'liquid gold' and has countless five-star reviews, you know it's got to be a keeper. Thanks to the combination of glycolic acid and licorice extract, this resurfacing treatment works while you snooze to minimize signs of aging, including fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots. It also helps to support collagen and elastin production in the skin to plump and smooth.
One reviewer wrote: "Beautiful packaging and even better ingredients! I turned 30 this year and my skin has started to show my age. This product uses glycolic acid to help combat texture, wrinkles, and sun damage. I love how this product feels on the skin when applied before bed. Skin wakes up feeling brand new!"
Best Affordable Toner: Thayers Witch Hazel Alcohol Free Toner
Adding quality products to your skin-care routine doesn't have to be expensive. This wallet-friendly pick is a great option for those new to toner, and it has more than 34,000 five-star ratings, which has helped secure its spot as the best-selling toner on Amazon. A blend of rosewater, witch hazel extract, and aloe vera helps to cleanse, tone, and hydrate the skin without causing irritation. And the subtle rose scent doubles as aromatherapy. (Related: This $7 Witch Hazel Toner Is the #1 Best-Selling Beauty Product On Amazon Right Now)
"This was my first toner and it's a lovely addition to my skin-care routine," shared a customer. "I can tell it has helped reduce the acne I do get and helps my skin retain moisture."
Best Toner for Large Pores: Biossance Squaelne BHA Pore-Minimizing Toner
The two stars of this toner are the raw white willow bark and sugar-cane derived squalane. While the former helps to remove dead skin, smooth out texture inconsistencies, and reduce inflammation, the latter gives skin a healthy dose of moisture while lifting dirt, debris and grime. Not to mention, it helps to reduce the appearance of pores, for an all-over more refined look.
"This toner has done a great job minimizing my pores," reported a shopper. "I have been using this product for almost 2 weeks and I can see the difference already!"