There are three things we'd rather not associate with our skin: dryness, buildup, and dullness. But according to experts, if you're using an alcohol-based toner, you might be hurting your skin more than helping it—welcoming all the above. Yikes. And though there are some forms of alcohol skin will thirstily lap up (think retinols, tocopherols, cetyl alcohol, oleyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, and propylene glycol), there are others (SD alcohol 40, denatured alcohol, ethanol, and isopropyl alcohol) you couldn't make us touch with a 10-foot pole. Dramatic but true. And what with toner being a vital step in our nightly regimen (it's the all-important gateway between our cleansers, serums, and moisturizers, after all), it's one of the most important products to make alcohol-free.
Elderberry is a medicinal plant rich in vitamin A and has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antiviral properties. It may fade age spots, combat acne, and protect skin from environmental damage.
More than one of our editors swear by this ultra-soothing alcohol-free toner from Renée Rouleau. Loaded with antioxidants, which contribute to enhanced radiance and skin-health, it features elderberry fruit extract as a starring ingredient to help ease inflammation and re-balance the skin with moisture and renewed vitality.
Alcohol-free and 100% affordable, this drugstore pick from Garnier is thoughtfully formulated to be easy on the skin while it removes stubborn makeup, dirt, and grime. And though it also makes for a smart cleanser or makeup-remover, we're fans of using it as an in-between toning step for a pristinely clean finish.
This alcohol-free toner from Indie Lee is an under-the-radar favorite chock full of skin-saving pinch-hitters rallying for smoother, healthier, all-around brighter skin. Here's the lineup: CoQ10, hyaluronic acid, papaya, chamomile, sage, and cucumber extracts.
We have a special place in our heart for any skincare product boasting results as luxurious as the application itself, and Tammy Fender's heavenly tonic knocks both standards out of the park. Concentrated with antioxidants, vitamin C, and indulgent pH balancers, this botanical blend is an olfactory sensation and complexion-improving must.
This alcohol-free toner is 97.5% organic and fortified with flowery fare steeped in ancient Korean beauty rituals (oat kernel, aloe vera, and fermented dandelion and argan oil), so it will transform tuckered skin for the better. Plus, it handily maneuvers every skin type, whether you lean oily, dry, or in-between.
Sometimes our skin craves a back-to-the-basics approach, and this iconic alcohol-free toner from Thayer's satisfies the itch to a T. Enriched with prettifying botanicals like aloe vera, witch hazel, rose, and grapefruit, it's like a cool drink of water for the complexion. Praise be.
Not only does this alcohol-free toner from Murad boost skin with an adrenaline rush of antioxidants, but it also addresses other skin woes like dehydration, dullness, and lost elasticity. It's especially perfect for those exposed to lots of environmental stressors (in other words, if you live in a big city or love being out in the natural elements).
There are only two ingredients (aside from the nitrogen) in this 100% organic alcohol-free spray toner: grape water and grape juice plucked directly from the hills of Bordeaux, France. Intrigued yet? Multifaceted in ability and application, spritz it anytime, anywhere to decrease redness and pigmentation while increasing hydration and luminosity. Consider it our obsession du Jour.
Manuka honey is derived from the nectar of manuka flowers and has antioxidant and antibacterial properties. It fights acne, reduces inflammation, and removes dead skin.
If you happen to fall into the oily and acne-prone camp, consider this alcohol-free toner from Sunday Riley sent from the heavens. Not only is the gel-to-water formulation incredibly novel (and addicting to apply), it's also a super-effective way for the toner's ample skin helpers (cucumber, tea tree oil, manuka honey, green tea) to penetrate deeply into the pores for an out-of-this-world glow.
American Academy of Dermatology Association. 10 skin care habits that can worsen acne.
Lin P, Hwang E, Ngo HTT, Seo SA, Yi TH. Sambucus nigra L. ameliorates UVB-induced photoaging and inflammatory response in human skin keratinocytes. Cytotechnology. 2019 Oct;71(5):1003-1017. doi: 10.1007/s10616-019-00342-1.
McLoone P, Oluwadun A, Warnock M, Fyfe L. Honey: a therapeutic agent for disorders of the skin. Cent Asian J Glob Health. 2016;5(1):241. doi:10.5195/cajgh.2016.241