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With all of the components in a seven-step skincare routine — from face washes and serums to eye creams and retinol creams — it can feel like your bathroom is housed in Sephora with all your lotions and potions.
Luckily for us, we review products and research skincare ingredients — with the help of board-certified dermatologists — so you don’t have to (which means, our bathrooms are literally akin to Sephora locations). And, in so doing, we find the quest to find the best toner is sometimes a struggle.
“Toner is good for younger patients because they don’t have as many ingredients,” Marina Peredo, MD, a board-certified dermatologist specializing in aesthetic dermatology and associate clinical professor at Mount Sinai Hospital — with 31 years of experience — told The Post. “As you get older, serums and creams are more important.”
However, that’s not to say toners aren’t great for middle-to-older beauty lovers. As an often overlooked product, a toner is one worth investing in, especially if you’re looking to amp up your skin’s hydration levels and help minimize the appearance of pores.
Not to mention, not all toners are created equal. “Some toners have alcohol, which you should avoid if you have sensitive skin,” Dr. Peredo adds. “If you have oily skin or acne-prone skin, it is ok to use an alcohol-based toner.”
Some toners include hyaluronic acid and retinol, too, helping to make the skin more hydrated and youthful-looking, respectfully.
To help you find your sworn-in favorite toner, our dermatologist experts answered some FAQs about what to look for in a toner, along with recommending the 20 best toners for every skin type — yes, every single one.
Click to jump to a specific toner:
“A toner is a fast-penetrating liquid that hydrates the skin and removes dead skin cells,” Dr. Peredo explains. “It acts like water but can contain hyaluronic acid, glycerin, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.”
Not to mention, a good toner will help to make your skin feel more balanced. “Toners are skincare products that were originally made to balance the pH after cleansing,” Candace Marino, a 15-year licensed esthetician — known as the L.A. Facialist — with more than 47K Instagram followers, told the Post. “Since most cleansers are already pH balanced nowadays, toners can be formulated with specific ingredients to target an array of skin concerns.”
“One of my favorite benefits of toners is that they allow you to apply your serums into damp skin,” Marino adds. “I find that my skin feels more hydrated and soft with a toning step.”
What’s more, toners are lovely for removing oil, dirt, bacteria and makeup, according to Dr. Peredo (check out the best makeup removers, according to experts, for more). They “give the appearance of smaller pores, refreshes skin, moisturizes, and closes and tightens cell gaps,” Peredo said.
Whether you suffer from acne flare-ups or cystic acne, there’s still a toner that’s specially designed for your skin type.
“Look for a toner with witch hazel as it has anti-inflammatory properties and soothes the skin,” Dr. Peredo suggests. “It helps prevent breakouts and reduces oil. Salicylic acid and beta hydroxy acids will also help with acne.”
Ugh, the infamous T-zone. We don’t love how it’s prone to oiliness all the time (not to mention the rest of the face) but still, a good toner remains.
Dr. Peredo recommends looking for a toner with antibacterial and exfoliating properties as it will absorb excess oil, remove dead skin cells and prevent breakouts. “Salicylic acid and witch hazel are great to look for because they can help with breakouts,” she adds. “Salicylic acid and lactic acid — as well as alcohol-based toners — are also great ingredients to look for as well.”
After reviewing the best dry skin products, we can attest that a solid, effective product boils down to the ingredient makeup.
“Look for a toner with amino acids to hydrate and nourish the skin,” Dr. Peredo advises. “Glycerin or hyaluronic acid are great ingredients to look for because they provide hydration.”
For the Goldilocks skin type, Dr. Peredo recommends looking for a toner with rose water. “It’s a great ingredient to look for because it can help prevent excess oil production and has soothing properties that won’t dry out the skin,” she notes.
Whether your skin is prone to eczema or rosacea (or simply put, plain ol’ sensitive to begin with), it’s especially important to read a product’s ingredients list.
“Look for a toner that has skin-calming properties and botanicals,” Dr. Peredo said. “Toners that have aloe vera or chamomile will help soothe the skin. Use a toner that is alcohol-free so it won’t irritate the skin.”
Plus, hyaluronic acid is a good ingredient to look for in a toner, per Peredo.
Just like a mathematics equation, your skincare routine has an order of operations, too. Dr. Peredo shared it’s best to use a toner “after you cleanse and exfoliate the face.” It’s best practice to apply toner before a serum or moisturizer, too.
According to both dermatologists, a toner can be used daily — once in the morning and once at night. Or, you can opt to only use it in the AM or solely in the evenings (whatever floats your boat).
“Apply toner by sweeping it on a cotton pad or, [depending on the formula] spray it directly on the face,” Dr. Peredo said.
However, be sure to note sensitive areas of the face such as your eyes and any area you may have acne or dry patches.
“PrimaSkin is one of my favorite toners and mists because of the innovation of its nanotechnology and that it’s formulated with glutathione, which is one of the best anti-inflammatory antioxidants,” Dr. Peredo shares.
Though its downside is that it’s not as accessible at a Sephora or Ulta retailer, it’s an effective spray that can also be spritzed onto your neck for even more hydration.
“Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is formulated with salicylic acid to help clear acne and green tea to help soothe the skin,” Dr. Peredo said. Plus, it won’t dry out the skin, which is key to helping the skin look more supple and refreshed.
Not only one of Dr. Peredo’s favorites but one we always resort to, Caudalie’s Vinopure Toner is one to consider.
Notably, this toner contains salicylic acid which “helps clear acne” along with integrating antioxidants to “decrease oil production,” she adds. And, if you truly want to rev up your skincare routine, check out Caudalie’s dreamy peel-off masks that are ah-mazing.
As a crowd-favorite and Amazon No. 1 bestseller, Dr. Peredo stands by Thayers’ Toner through and through for acne-prone skin.
“It has antioxidants to soothe the skin,” she notes. “The witch hazel helps tighten pores and maintains oil production while still moisturizing the skin.”
Marino recommends Biologique Recherche’s Lotion (which is actually a balancing toner, despite the name) for acne-prone skin, specifically. It’s great if you’re experiencing large pores or breakouts and is noncomedogenic, so it’ll help unclog the skin (as odd as that may sound).
As one of Dr. Peredo’s favorites for oily skin, Ole Henriksen’s Balancing Force Oil Control Toner “helps reduce oil production while exfoliating the skin.” It also has salicylic acid to help fight acne.
As the most affordable option in this edit, Neutrogena’s Pore-Refining Toner is a blessing for oily skin. Namely, “it has alpha and beta hydroxy acids that help reduce excess oil production while exfoliating the skin,” Dr. Peredo said.
According to Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, a dual board-certified dermatologist and founder of NYC’s Mudgil Dermatology PC, Glow Recipe’s Toner is one of his recommended hyaluronic acid skincare products.
“This is a unique product — a combination of a moisturizer and exfoliant,” he explains. “It’s best for oily skin types.”
“Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Toner is alcohol-free so it won’t dry you out,” Dr. Peredo explains. Plus, it has avocado oil to soothe the skin and is super gentle upon application.
As the brand name suggests, we want fresh-looking skin. Dr. Peredo recommends the Rose & Hyaluronic Acid Deep Hydration Toner as it’s “formulated with rose flower water to hydrate the skin.”
Not to mention, Marino also enjoys Fresh’s toner as one of the best for dry skin.
While Dr. Peredo recommends any of Mario Badescu’s facial sprays to help soothe dry skin, this blend of aloe, herbs and rosewater remains a personal favorite. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a refreshing spritz for just $12.
“They help moisturize and refresh skin and can be sprayed throughout the day,” she notes.
As a dermatologist-approved hyaluronic acid pick, the Paula’s Choice Advanced Replenishing Toner is one of the brand’s most popular formulas and makes your skin refreshed and more youthful-looking simultaneously.
“This product is an excellent moisturizer, containing both H.A. and fatty acids,” Dr. Mudgil shared. “It’s also rich with antioxidants and great for those with dry skin.”
Marino recommends this toner as one of her favorites for dry skin, namely because it contains salicylic acid to decongest pores and promotes brighter skin. It also feels a bit tingly on the skin. Plus, the less-than-$50 price point is great.
For combination skin, Dr. Peredo stands by Ole Henriksen’s Glow2OH Dark Spot Toner. “It works great for dark spots and dull or uneven skin,” she notes. “It’s great for combination skin and is cruelty-free, paraben-free and lightweight.”
We love a good vitamin C-infused product (just check out our serums guide for more) and conveniently, so does Dr. Peredo.
“Murad’s Essential-C Toner helps fight free radicals,” she notes. “And, licorice root extract tones and brightens the skin.”
If you’re experiencing redness and dryness above all other problem areas, consider Dermalogica’s Multi-Active Toner. Dr. Peredo says it “hydrates the skin” while helping reverse these two concerns.
“This product is great for sensitive skin as it helps reduce redness and dryness,” Dr. Peredo suggests. Plus, this mushroom- and basil-infused skincare product is the first of its kind (a delicious find, at that) we’ve seen.
We adore First Aid Beauty for its cult-classic Ultra-Repair Cream ($38) and, according to Dr. Peredo, its Ultra Repair Wild Oat Hydrating Toner is just as effective for sensitive skin, especially.
“It’s alcohol and fragrance-free so it won’t irritate the skin,” she said. “And, hyaluronic acid soothes.”
“Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Calming Toner is filled with antioxidants to calm the skin and is lightweight,” per Dr. Peredo. Not only that, but it has a milky consistency that’s like a honey bath for your skin.
Another spotlight on Kiehl’s Since 1851, its Milk-Peel Gentle Exfoliating Toner is a favorite of Dr. Peredo’s for being formulated with almond milk and LHA “to remove dead skin cells and reduce dry skin.”
Not to mention, almond milk as it has a hydrating texture so you will experience luscious nourishment upon applying.
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