If your only experience with toner was in your high school days, chances are you remember the harsh, alcohol-infused liquid that always seemed to make your skin worse. Thanks widely in part to the rise of Korean-inspired beauty routines, in which toning is an essential step, toners are bigger than ever, and they've majorly improved by nixing the alcohol in favor of gentler exfoliating and skin-soothing ingredients. Finding the best alcohol-free toners comes down to determining exactly what kind of results you're looking to achieve.
If you're looking for extra hydration for your dry skin, keep an eye out for a toner that includes several moisturizing and smoothing ingredients like rose water, glycerin, vitamin B5, and hyaluronic acid. On the opposite end of the skin care spectrum, excessively oily types should look for your classic astringents like witch hazel, or a gentle pore-clearing exfoliant like glycolic acid. Sensitive skin types can also benefit from these alcohol-free toners — especially if you look for a formula that's free of common irritants, like synthetic fragrances, and instead includes skin-soothing ingredients like aloe vera and chamomile.
When it comes to application, toners are meant to be applied just after cleansing to get rid of any excess dirt and oil before moving onto your serums and creams. This will also make any products you use afterwards more effective, since a clear, clarified surface will allow them to more easily penetrate the skin.
Ahead, you'll find five of the best alcohol-free toners on the market, for all skin types and concerns.
1. The Best Alcohol-Free Toner For Most
Putting its own spin on a traditional astringent toner, Thayers rose petal facial toner added aloe leaf juice and rose water to its witch hazel formula. While the witch hazel helps temporarily shrink pores and calm inflammation, aloe leaf juice and rose water are both full of vitamins and antioxidants that help soothe and moisturize skin. Rose water also helps further remove any trapped pore-clogging dirt and oil that your cleanser may have missed, and it helps protect the skin from environmental damage as well.
This toner is also an Amazon favorite, with over 3,700 five-star reviews. Fans say it has helped them with everything from cystic acne and redness to perioral dermatitis, calling it a "skin care staple" and "God’s Gift to all skin types!"
2. Another Great, Affordable Choice
Simple's pH-balanced soothing facial toner combines the astringent witch hazel with several soothing ingredients. Vitamin B5, chamomile, and allantoin work to keep skin moisturized and smooth, while also providing anti-inflammatory benefits that help stimulate your skin's healing process. This basic-in-a-good-way toner doesn't contain any harsh irritants like alcohol, fragrance, or dyes, and is suitable for all skin types.
3. A Cult-Favorite Toner & Exfoliator
For a toner that chemically exfoliates your skin, Pixi's Glow Tonic has been a longtime favorite among beauty insiders. To accelerate skin cell turnover, Pixi included 5 percent glycolic acid, which is used to treat sun damage and shed dead skin. The formula also includes aloe vera to hydrate and soothe, as well as ginseng, which helps brighten skin and boost collagen production. The result? A clearer, more even, and more radiant looking complexion.
"This has changed my life," one reviewer writes. "It helps with my surface acne. This helps calm the redness without drying out skin ... It helps with flaking as well. Feels clean, no harsh smells." Another says, "It's like some miracle face potion that has completely revamped my skin care game."
4. A Gentle French Toner For Dry Skin
This French pharmacy brand uses their own thermal spring water as the main ingredient in their hydrating toner to soothe and calm dry, sensitive, or irritated skin. The Avène gentle toning lotion is also hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, and oil, soap, soy, and gluten-free, in addition to being alcohol-free.
Despite containing fragrance in the formula, many Amazon users note that the toner is particularly gentle. "I have sensitive skin, and this is the only toner I can use that will not dry out or irritate my skin," writes one reviewer. Another sensitive-skinned user shares, "It leaves my skin feeling dewy and moisturized without the heavy feeling of a cream."
5. A Balancing Toner For Oily Skin
Oily skin types will love this skin balancing pore-reducing toner from Paula's Choice. The brand is known for their efficacious formulas that are backed by cited scientific research, and this daily toner uses a mix of antioxidants, plant extracts, and niacinamide to keep skin hydrated without leaving it feeling or looking oily. In addition to balancing and refreshing the skin, it also works to reduce the appearance of enlarged, congested pores.
"Within a week, I noticed a pretty significant difference," writes one Amazon user. "My skin is smoother, fresher, more even-toned, and my pores are noticeably smaller." Another adds, "Really cleans out my pores without drying out my skin, and [there are] no harsh additives from other ingredients."
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