When you hear the word toner, you might think of the alcohol-based astringents you used in the past to try and clear up stubborn teenage acne, but these days, more and more formulas are made to address myriad skin concerns while also hydrating and prepping your face for the rest of your routine. Below, you'll find five of the best toners on the market — from formulas made to address enlarged pores and acne to redness and inflammation, there's an option for every skin type.
As I mentioned, the toners from our most awkward years might make us think of stinging, redness, and dryness, which are all-too-common side effects of products that contain too much alcohol. I was lucky enough to bypass that phase, as my mother — weary of unpronounceable ingredients — purchased an Origins white tea treatment lotion as my first toner, which I've included in this list because, years later, it's still my dry skin go-to.
All of the options below are gentle, because no matter what your main concern is, you definitely don't want to expose your skin to potential irritants that could worsen redness, acne, inflammation, or whatever else you're dealing with. So scroll down and find out which toner is right for you.
1. The All-Around Best Toner For All Skin Types (And My Personal Favorite)
Rosewater is always my go-to toner, but when so many popular variations contain irritating ingredients like alcohol and added fragrance, it can be hard to find a formula that actually helps reap the benefits the miracle ingredient is known for. Enter Heritage Store's rosewater and glycerin spray, which can be used as a toner, freshening mist, priming or setting spray, and more. It's free of alcohol, parabens, and sulfates and is a super gentle formula whose sole ingredients are water, vegetable glycerin, and rose. Rosewater has anti-inflammatory properties that are great for folks with redness or acne, and the addition of glycerin works as an amazing humectant for folks with perennially dry skin. Additionally, this spray is pH-balancing, so folks with oily or combination skin don't need to be worried about messing with their overactive sebaceous glands, making it truly perfect for any and all skin types. I spray it as a toner in the morning AND carry it around with me for a quick freshen-up during the day. It smells amazing and helps set makeup, too.
2. Best For Dry Skin
As I said earlier, this Origins toner from the days of old is my tried-and-true go-to in the winter months when my dry, cracking skin is in desperate need of as much moisture it can get. I know the product is labeled as a "treatment lotion," but trust me, it still counts as a toner. It's rich in antioxidants from its hero ingredient, white tea, and when I splash some on my face after my morning or nighttime cleanse (who has time for facial cotton anymore?), I can see and feel an immediate difference in skin plumpness and texture after the product absorbs and fully dries. These aren't the kinds of immediate results that disappear either or the byproduct of a trick played by alcohol making skin appear tighter with smaller-looking pores because it's actually drying you out like crazy. No, this stuff is oil- and alcohol-free, and trust me, it's the real deal.
3. Best For Sensitive Skin
I feel like I never shut up about my Thayer's, but honestly, why would I? I've been using their Rose Petal Witch Hazel formula since 2014, but I recently tried out this cucumber aloe formula, and let me tell you: I have converted. This super gentle toner — like the rose petal version — is alcohol-free, but contains my go-to soothers for my sensitive skin, cucumber and aloe. They're calming hydrators that help reduce redness, inject much-needed moisture back into skin, and lessen inflammation that can be caused by acne, environmental stressors, or exposure to harmful irritants. Vitamin E and glycerin make sure skin stays moisturized and protected, while witch hazel gently clarifies skin suffering from zits or overactive pores. I'm telling you, this stuff is a cure-all for any skin-related plagues that ail you, and since it's free of alcohol, you don't need to be worried about further dryness. It's such a simple formula that it shouldn't cause any irritation to even the most delicate complexions.
4. Best For Oily, Acne-Prone Skin
Oh, Paula's Choice. How do I love thee? They make products specifically geared toward common concerns, like redness and dryness, and this balancing toner is made with oily, acne-prone skin types in mind. If you're suffering from a breakout caused by over-active pores, using this product morning and night after your cleanse works absolute wonders. Formulated with glycerin to hydrate, niacinamide to clarify and clear (though thankfully not in a concentration high enough to aggravate my niacinamide allergy) and jojoba, chamomile, and ceramides to soothe and strengthen, there's nothing this toner can't do for someone suffering from a whole host of skin maladies. Oh, and did I mention that every product from the brand is fragrance- and cruelty-free? Dang, Paula's Choice really is all that and a bag of chips.
5. Editor's Pick: A Luxurious Korean Toner For Combination And/Or Dry Skin
This fancy Korean herbal tonic is an amazing option for skin in need of some extra moisture — pat some on before applying your go-to day or night cream for the plump, dewy, skin of your dreams. It's also hydrating enough that it makes a wonderful alternative to moisturizer on too-hot days when you don't want to apply any cream at all. Though it comes with a hefty price tag, it's worth noting that this bottle is humongous, and a little product goes a long way, so it'll last you ages. Whether you want to call it a toner, balancer, tonic, or essence, this multi-tasker is a great choice for mature, dry, or combination skin types.
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