The Best Salicylic Acid Toners
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Though salicylic acid is most commonly sought after by those with acne-prone skin, anyone can experience breakouts and clogged pores — which means, the best salicylic acid toner for you will largely depend on whether your skin tends to lean oily or dry. People with oily and/or acne-prone skin may want to pick an oil-free toner with witch hazel or tea tree along with salicylic acid, while those with dry skin should opt for alcohol-free toners that contain calming or moisturizing ingredients like glycerin, aloe vera, and niacinamide. If you have sensitive skin, tread lightly, and be sure to do a patch test first (and start by using your toner just once a week in the beginning to allow your skin to adjust).
In case you need a refresher, toner should be applied after cleansing and before slathering on any serums or creams, in either the morning or evening. Be careful not to overdo it with your salicylic acid toner, especially if you’re already using other products that contain chemical exfoliants (of which salicylic acid is one). Over-exfoliating will likely do more harm than good, so if you’re intent on using a salicylic acid toner, you may want to take a closer look at the other products in your routine.
Scroll on to shop five great salicylic acid toners for every skin type, including a pick that comes recommended by a derm.
1. The Overall Best Salicylic Acid Toner
La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner employs 0.5% salicylic acid for deep-level pore clearing and pairs it with 2% glycolic acid for surface-level brightening and exfoliating. Rounding out the oil- and fragrance-free formula is the brand’s signature thermal spring water, which contains skin-soothing minerals. Overall, this is a popular and effective toner among people with blackheads, breakouts, and other acne-related concerns, and is a part of the brand’s best-selling Effaclar line, which is a favorite with derms.
2. The Best Salicylic Acid Toner Under $10
When speaking with board-certified dermatologist Jennifer Chwalek on the topic of toners, she said that Neutrogena Rapid Clear 2-in-1 Fight & Fade Toner is one of her favorites, explaining, “This is a great toner for acne-prone skin, especially in darker complexions prone to PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation). The salicylic acid helps with the breakouts and the glycolic acid can help to fade [unwanted] discoloration.”
Neutrogena’s budget-friendly pick contains a relatively high percentage of salicylic acid — 2% — so it’s great for treating breakouts on your body (like your back or chest), since the skin there is less delicate than that of your face. (And note that if you have sensitive skin, this strong toner probably isn’t the best option for you.)
3. The Best Salicylic Acid Toner & Serum In One
This innovative toner and serum from Bliss has a gel-like consistency and a convenient pump-top dispenser, and serves as both a toner and serum at once. Made with salicylic acid, the AHAs lactic and glycolic acids, breakout-busting botanicals like witch hazel and tea tree, and several calming ingredients (including centella asiatica, niacinamide, and zinc PCA), this two-in-one product tackles a whole host of skin concerns — most notably, congested pores — without being too harsh.
4. The Best Salicylic Acid Toner For Dry Skin
Across the board, Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow Toner is an excellent pick for acne-prone skin, but it’s especially good for acne-prone skin that’s also dry. There’s nothing in this alcohol-free formula that will clog your pores, and the tea tree oil and willow bark, which is a gentler form of salicylic acid, will take care of your blackheads and breakouts. At the same time, those purifying and exfoliating ingredients are balanced out by the addition of hyaluronic acid, glycerin, cucumber, cactus water, and watermelon extract, which work in tandem to hydrate, nourish, and soothe your skin. This also has a satisfyingly thick texture, kind of like a hyaluronic acid serum, but don’t worry: it’s not at all sticky.
5. The Best Salicylic Acid Toner Pads
Aveeno’s Clear Complexion Daily Cleansing Pads, which contain 0.6% salicylic acid, are especially handy for travel (and/or people who can’t be fussed with cotton pads). They’re oil-free, alcohol-free, and balanced out by moisturizing glycerin, and the pads themselves offer benefits beyond the toner: one side is smooth for that first swipe to remove leftover makeup and oil, while the other side is textured to gently exfoliate your skin. For less than $10, you’ll get 28 pads, and these, too, are convenient for applying on your body, like on your chest or upper arms, if you’re prone to bumps there, or on your legs to prep them for shaving.