What's standing between you and clear skin? It could be the absence of just one product in your skin care routine.
For New York City-based Dr. Hadley King, the secret weapon to healthier skin is facial toner. We chatted with the board-certified dermatologist about its benefits. Plus, we found several top-rated options for every kind of skin type to take your beauty routine to the next level.
What does face toner do?
If you're wondering what else face toner does for your skin, King outlined some additional benefits:
- It shrinks pores. Applying a small amount of toner to a soft cotton ball or pad and gently blotting and wiping your face with it will remove oil and give the appearance of smaller pores.
- It restores your skin's pH balance. Our skin is naturally acidic, typically with a pH balance of between five and six (on a scale from 0 to 14). But that balance can get out of whack after cleansing due to the alkaline nature of soap. When this happens, your skin needs to work overtime to return to its normal levels (and that may result in oil), but using a toner can help restore this balance quickly.
- It adds a layer of protection. Toners can help close pores and tighten cell gaps after cleansing, reducing the penetration of impurities and environmental contaminants into the skin. It can even protect and remove chlorine and minerals present in tap water.
- It acts like a moisturizer. Some toners are humectants, which means they help to bind moisture to the skin.
- It refreshes skin. Toner can also be used in lieu of washing your skin when it's oily or dirty. It will leave your skin revitalized even when you're on the move.
- It can prevent ingrown hairs. Toners containing glycolic acid or other alpha hydroxy acids can help reduce the number ingrown hairs you have over time, so it also aids in grooming.
In order for toner to work most effectively, King suggests not to pile on extra makeup to mask acne and oil problems. Instead, use a gentle, soothing toner to unclog pores by removing oil and traces of dirt and grime.
Best facial toners, according to shoppers
Short ingredient list, big results! COSRX's minimalist toner only includes the essentials to exfoliate, hydrate and decrease impurities like white willow bark, apple water and glycolic acid.
"This is one of the top products I have found in ~50 years of skin care," one Ulta shopper said about the quality of this find. "If you like a straightforward, ingredients-driven approach, COSRX is for you. And it won't empty your wallet, either."
Aside from feeling super refreshing thanks to a soothing combination of cucumber, aloe and chamomile extracts, this alcohol-free spritzer is supposed to assist with a more youthful appearance, according to the brand. Its anti-aging benefits stem from the toner's namesake ingredient (coenzyme Q10) that aids in diminishing fine lines over time.
"I'm used to buying harsh toners that felt abrasive and harsh on my skin. This is the perfect addition to my skincare routine after cleansing to ensure my skin is clean and ready for serums/moisturizers!" added one Ulta shopper who rated this alcohol-free option a perfect five stars.
With near-perfect reviews across retailers like Ulta, Macy's and Nordstrom, this multifunctional rose water toner uses ingredients that are equally powerful (alpha and beta hydroxy acids to unclog your pores) and refreshing (lavender essential oil that leaves a calming aroma). The result, according to the brand, is a "radiant, petal-soft complexion" that's hard to beat.
Delivering an "extra dose of luminosity" to your skin, this K-beauty fave utilizes a unique blend of peony extract, green tea extract and licorice water to balance your skin while removing leftover impurities post-cleansing.
"I have simply never put on a toner this hydrating. Ever. And one that smells this good without artificial fragrances. It makes your skin feel like a baby's skin!" summarized one verified Soko Glam shopper who rated this a perfect five stars.
This Laneige formula may have the texture of a typical moisturizer, but it's loaded with amino-acid-rich white leaf tea water to hydrate, soothe and strengthen your skin barrier.
"I get what the hype is all about. It’s like a cool drink [for dehydrated thirsty skin," summarized one Sephora shopper who gave this option five stars.
It'll smell like the tropics once you slather on this popular Glow Recipe facial toner. Utilizing vitamin- and electrolyte-loaded ingredients like cactus water, hyaluronic acid and watermelon extract, it delivers hydrating, pore-tightening effects all at once, according to the brand.
Satiate your skin's appetite with this Youth to the People exfoliant that's loaded with superfood antioxidants that work overtime to purify your pores and even your skin tone.
This affordable option touts benefits like targeting signs of aging, improving the appearance of congestion and targeting textural irregularities and uneven skin tone using active ingredients like glycolic acid and ginseng root.
With 9,800+ five-star ratings on Amazon, customers can't get enough of this hydrating toner.
"The bottle is HUGE...the product does a great job off cleansing the day off my face for a quick refresher or to help remove residual eye make-up," one reviewer raved.
Thayers' bestselling toner is not only alcohol-free, but it also is formulated with undistilled witch hazel, aloe vera and rose water to calm even the most inflamed skin.
A solid drugstore toner, this budget-friendly Neutrogena option is gentle and refreshing, avoiding any harsh or drying ingredients or additives. It also has stellar reviews across retailers like Amazon, Target and Walmart.
With 39,000+ five-star ratings on Amazon, this facial mist from Mario Badescu is refreshing and hydrating, making it great for dry skin.
To reduce pore size, blackheads and replenish combination and oily skin, this Paula's Choice toner is a popular pick. It can be used in the morning or night as part of your skin care regimen, but like other toners, should be followed with a sunscreen when applied in the mornings.
For those with oily or acne-prone skin, this La Roche-Posay toner with salicylic acid can help refine skin texture and reduce pore size without irritating your skin.
Dr. Jart's Moisturizing Toner is best for dry, combination, normal and sensitive skin. It's formulated without parabens or sulfated and packed with ceramides that help moisturize and protect the skin.
This alcohol-free formula is made with a phyto-rich blend of calendula, butcher’s broom and sage, which is great for cleansing while also rebalancing skin.
If your skin is craving serious hydration, this Dermalogica toner is for you. It's made up of a calming blend of aloe, moisture-saving sodium PCA, lavender, balm mint and arnica.
"I’m not usually a toner gal, however picked this up recently as the dry heat from having the furnace on and heat in my car on is sucking the moisture out of my skin. This is milky in texture and instantly soothes on application," added one verified Sephora shopper.
This "rose extravaganza" is an alcohol-free, deeply hydrating formula designed for dry, dehydrated skin that gently tones, reduces the appearance of pores and immediately rehydrates the complexion while it removes any traces of impurities.
For more stories like this, check out:
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- 11 hydrating concealers makeup artists swear by for dry skin
- Want glowy skin? Experts say you need to incorporate these steps into your routine
- Stop squeezing your blackheads! A derm suggests using these products instead
- Dry, itchy skin? Derms say this surprising ingredient can alleviate irritation