When it comes to toner, people either love it and swear by it or aren’t really sure what it is or if it’s even necessary. To which we say, it’s not a necessity, but it’s certainly a nice addition to your skincare regimen—especially if you’re dealing with acne or skin that’s drier than usual. When used correctly (that is, directly after cleansing but before any serums or creams), the right toner can add an extra layer of moisture that soothes your skin and makes it soft and plump to the touch.
Now you’re probably wondering what to look for in a toner. First and foremost, make sure that it’s alcohol-free, as alcohol is drying. Instead, look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, rosewater and glycerin, which are hydrating.
But we’ll do you one better. Here’s a rundown of the best toners for dry skin that you can try this winter.
1. Best Value: Versed Skincare Baby Cheeks All-In-One Hydrating Milk
This multipurpose toner is a good pick for those of you who are always on the go. With algae extract, bamboo extract and coconut water, it removes all traces of makeup and restores the pH balance in your skin in a few swipes—without leaving behind any greasy residue. Just make sure to give the bottle a quick shake before dispensing the milky formula onto a cotton round. Tip: Toss it into your gym bag for a pre- and post-workout cleanse.
2. Most Lightweight: Primera Alpine Berry Watery Toner
Quick: Have you ever heard of the 7 Skin Method? In case you haven’t, it’s a K-beauty skincare practice that involves applying thin layers of your toner (or essence) to increase its absorption. The key is to find a formula that isn’t too thick and to pat it gently into your skin, rather than swiping over it (though you can swipe with a cotton round for the first layer). This lightweight pick is ripe for the task: It features a potent blend of wild strawberry sprouts and blackberries to help tackle dehydration and dullness. Add to that hyaluronic acid to trap in moisture and artemisia extract to help strengthen the skin barrier and you’ve got yourself one soothing tonic.
3. Fan Favorite: Obagi Nu-Derm Toner
A longtime crowd favorite, this calming formula uses sage and witch hazel to tone your skin, while borage extract and aloe vera calm things down. It’s a refreshing follow-up to washing your face that gently removes any remaining oils and residues without stripping your skin. In fact, it just makes everything feel softer and more balanced.
4. Cleanest Formula: Eminence Organic Skin Care Birch Water Purifying Essence
This Hungarian import is one of our favorite clean beauty products. Completely free of phthalates and parabens and packed with deeply hydrating ingredients like birch water, reishi mushrooms and snow mushrooms (which have a high concentration of polysaccharides for optimizing hydration and improving skin barrier function, respectively), it’s essentially a tall glass of (certified organic) water. Pat it onto your face and watch those dry patches disappear.
5. Best for Beginners: PCA Skin Hydrating Toner
If you’re new to the world of toners, this is a good place to start. It has all the moisturizing ingredients you’d want (like watermelon, apple and lentil fruit extracts, as well as evening primrose oil, which is rich in omega-6 fatty acids), and it features a nifty dispense top that ensures you don’t waste any product. It’s the easiest, breeziest way to pump up the hydration in your skin.
6. Most Indulgent: Fresh Rose Deep Hydrating Facial Toner
You see those rose petals floating around inside the bottle? They’re not just for show. This decadently floral formula of rosewater and rose fruit extracts is as pleasing to behold as it is nourishing to dry skin. Douse a cotton pad and sweep it all over your face and neck to leave your skin feeling (ahem) petal soft. And the scent? It smells like a bed of, well, you know...
7. PRO PICK: RENÉE ROULEAU MOISTURE INFUSION TONER
If Renée Rouleau puts her stamp of approval on something, chances are pretty high that it’s a damn good product. After all, she is one of the top aestheticians to celebrities and editors alike. This alcohol-free, serum-infused toner is formulated with natural botanicals to comfort dry, irritated skin and give you a dewy glow. One of its star ingredients? Propanediol, which is a corn-derived humectant that helps retain moisture levels. In short: It’s a godsend for winter.
8. Most Efficient: Peach & Lily Lazy Day’s All-In-One Moisture Pad
We love the efficiency of these moisture-soaked pads, which you can think of as souped-up wipes that deliver a host of hydrating benefits. Drenched in ceramides, hyaluronic acid and bamboo extract, it leaves your face feeling refreshed and dewy all at once. Plus, you don’t have to reach for the cotton rounds, which makes them a great travel companion to toss into your suitcase.
9. Most Clarifying: True Botanicals Clear Nutrient Toner
For the breakout-prone, this clarifying toner helps regulate excess oils and unclog pores without being astringent or stripping in the slightest. Black willow bark extract (a natural source of salicylic acid) clears up any acne-causing offenders, while sandalwood and olive leaf extract calm and soothe skin.
10. Most Soothing: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Wild Oat Hydrating Toner
If you have sensitive skin, we suggest giving this soothing toner a try. The alcohol-free formula uses colloidal oatmeal and wild oats to calm and soothe irritation that might be caused by the weather or drying treatments like benzoyl peroxide or retinol. Redness, begone.