Even though acid toners are popping up everywhere these days, their formulas and ingredients remain as confusing as ever. Case in point: BHAs. But what are they exactly, and how do they help your skin? By boosting skin cell turnover, the best BHA toners work to balance out unevenly-textured complexions, clear and prevent blemishes, and make your skin more receptive to the oils, creams, and serums you apply after.
BHA, in case you aren’t a scientist, stands for beta hydroxy acid. The most common type of BHA is salicylic acid, but citrus fruit extracts fall into the category as well. In general BHAs are great for acne-prone skin, but they work on all skin types, because in terms of chemical exfoliants, they're pretty gentle. BHAs work by cutting through and removing sebum (the oil that comes out of our sebaceous glands) that clogs pores and contributes to acne. They also have bacteria-clearing and skin-calming properties.
When deciding on a BHA toner for you skin and its needs, look for products that suit your skin type (like an all-natural option for sensitive skin), or that come in formula you prefer (like pre-soaked cotton pads for frequent travelers). If you're still having a hard time deciding, the five choices listed below are a great place to start. With regular use, they will all make your skin smoother, clearer, and healthier.
1Best Overall: A Does-It-All BHA Toner With A Huge Cult-Following
Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is the best overall BHA toner because, unlike other formulas, it gets straight to the point. With a bit of Googling, you'll soon find that the product has a major cult-following, with many considering it to be the brand's hero product. It's pretty game-changing, and seemingly does it all: banishes blemishes, reduces redness, sloughs off dead skin cells, unclogs pores, and makes skin appear even and radiant. Plus, it's pretty gentle, and is recommended for most skin types (oily, combination, normal, and dry). People with sensitive skin might want to be careful, as with any exfoliating product.
2Best For Breakouts: A Maximum Strength Salicylic Acid Toner That Clears Pores And Minimizes Acne
To clear existing acne and prevent new breakouts from forming, do yourself a favor and incorporate Proactiv+'s Re-texturizing Toner into your routine ASAP. This oil- and alcohol-free toner is formulated with maximum strength salicylic acid and glycolic acid, which together work to remove dead skin cells and unclog pores. Even though it's designed for acne-prone skin, it's gentle enough for most skin types (those with sensitive complexions should use caution, as usual). Use twice a day for smooth, evenly-textured, and blemish-free skin.
3Best All-Natural Option: An Exfoliating And Hydrating Face Tonic Made With Willow Bark And Aloe
It's a little odd to pair the words acid and natural in the same sentence, but surprisingly, ingredients like willow bark and citrus fruit pack some serious BHAs. Ursa Major's Essential Face Tonic, for example, contains these ingredients — in addition to birch sap, aloe, and sugarcane — all of which act as natural exfoliators that, with daily use, will make you skin clearer and smoother. This formula, which effectively removes oil and grime without drying out your skin, is also free of parabens, sulfates, and fragrance, and it's great for all skin types including, sensitive complexions. As a bonus, it's cruelty-free and smells delicious (like orange, lavender, and fir).
4Best For Dry Skin: A Soothing, K-Beauty Toner That's Infused With Snail Mucin And Aloe
With aloe and snail mucin as its main active ingredients (besides BHA), Benton's Aloe BHA Skin Toner is the best option to soothe and hydrate sensitive skin while also exfoliating gently. It can be used daily and is a great 'beginner' acid. Overall, this toner will reduce the production of excess sebum, relieve redness, and balance out unevenly textured skin with its hard-working exfoliating and anti-inflammatory properties.
5Best For Travel: Pre-Soaked Cotton Pads Made With Witch Hazel, Salicylic Acid, And Tea Tree Oil
If you're looking for a better way to exfoliate your skin on-the-go, these First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Blemish Patrol Pads will make your life a whole lot easier. With salicylic acid for exfoliation, witch hazel as an astringent, and tea tree oil to clear bacteria, these pre-soaked cotton rounds will keep blemishes and excess shine under control. Great for oily and acne-prone skin, the pads are a gentle, non-irritating alternative to spot treatments. One jar contains 60 pads.
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