Today’s toner formulas are more advanced than ever before. Not only do they boast a ton of skincare benefits (like offering extra hydration, minimizing pores, and removing any traces of grime and oil, to name a few), toners deliver active ingredients straight to your face. A good toner is either acid-based (to exfoliate and resurface) or hydrating (to lock in moisture), according to board-certified dermatologist Lucy Chen, M.D.
To get the most out of your toner, it’s recommended to apply it after cleansing. Whether your skin is sensitive and looking for soothing benefits, acne-prone and needing excess oil removal, or dry and thirsting for more moisture, the right toner can target concerns and treat them accordingly.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of options available, so to take the guesswork out of selecting the right toner for you, we handpicked 24 of the most popular toners and asked our testers to try them out and be brutally honest. After trying the toners in The Lab, our Manhattan testing facility, testers judged each one based on feel, absorption, hydration, and appearance. The highest-rated products made this list. Keep reading to discover the best toners of 2023, according to our testers.
Tower 28 SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray
Gentle, non-irritating formula
Improves skin tone
Requires multiple pumps
Tower28 is known for its sensitive skin-friendly makeup and skincare formulas. This toner—which comes housed in a firetruck red spray bottle—is wildly popular for its magical ability to soothe, purify, and repair stressed-out skin. It has the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance, so it’s been proven to make a difference in eczema flare-ups, but you’ll also find that plenty of fans swear it works to calm inflamed acne and perioral dermatitis.
Hypochlorous acid, AKA the star ingredient, is the reason the formula is so effective at pacifying redness and irritation. According to the brand, hypochlorous acid is similar to hyaluronic acid and ceramides in that it’s made by our skin. “Naturally occurring in white blood cells, hypochlorous acid has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help fend off foreign pathogens and promotes healing,” the brand’s website shares.
With all that goodness in one bottle, you’ll want to savor every last drop. Thankfully, the spray bottle ensures that there’s no mess, spillage, or accidental use of too much product. Our lab tester loved having the option of applying the toner either to a cotton pad or directly to her face. The watery, lightweight toner comes out of the bottle with ease, and it “soaks into skin within seconds,” she says, noting that her skin felt “more hydrated, glowy, and fresh” after use. Even though the formula has a water-like consistency and comes in a spray bottle, it can take a bit more effort than the average toner. It took our tester about five pumps to adequately saturate the cotton round.
Price at time of publish: $28
Active ingredients: Hypochlorous acid | Benefits: Calms skin irritation | Size: 4 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
“The Tower28 toner cleansed my skin well. It removed excess grime that my cleanser alone hadn’t picked up. I noticed some residue on my cotton round that I wouldn’t have noticed if I skipped toner and went straight to the rest of my skincare. ” — Michelle Cabrera, Tester
SK-II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion Toner
Deep cleans skin
When a product has a trademarked ingredient, you know it’s going to be good. In the case of the SK-II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion Toner, the superstar component is Pitera™, a signature ingredient containing 50 micro-nutrients. These conditioning agents, in addition to alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), work to improve the overall appearance of your skin—starting with uneven skin texture. Our tester can attest to that; she shared that the toner felt “hydrating” and “soothing” upon application and appeared to help with her dull and uneven skin texture almost right away. She was also impressed by the toner’s ability to “thoroughly clean” her pores. Even though she washed her face prior to using the toner, she noticed that it picked up extra dirt and grime that otherwise would have remained on her face.
The clear, lightweight solution is slightly runny and comes out of a small aperture at the top of the frosted bottle, so be aware that if you aren’t careful, you can potentially pour too much product out of the opening.
Price at time of publish: $76
Active ingredients: Pitera™ (Vitamins, acids, minerals), AHAs, Glycerin, Salicylic, Lactic, and Malic Acids | Benefits: Exfoliating, Hydrating | Size: 5.4 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
What Our Testers Say
“I would highly recommend this product to my friends and family. This is such a soothing and lightweight formula that preps the skin nicely for other serums and creams to follow afterward.” —Amy Kwan, Tester
Best for Acne-Prone Skin
Murad Clarifying Toner
Designed for acne
Regulates sebum production
Might be too drying for some
A toner can be an invaluable tool in your battle against blemishes. The key is choosing the right one that will target excess oil and keep pores clear without over-drying your skin (and ironically end up triggering more oil and more breakouts). Enter this toner, which relies on a minimal-yet-effective witch hazel and algae extract to regulate oil production and tighten pores. It’s a pairing that helps to refresh skin, purify pores, and fight oil. Plus, with the addition of vitamin E, you can also expect protection from free radical damage. Our tester loved the consistency, comparing it to water. It’s not too thick and not too greasy, making it ideal for a midday refresh or post-cleanse blot. The tester even went as far as saying it “awakened” her skin and absorbed into her pores immediately. Just keep in mind that while you’ll feel it working (witch hazel has a subtle tightening effect), if you already have dry skin, you might find this one a little too drying.
Price at time of publish: $30
Active ingredients: Witch Hazel, Butylene Glycol | Benefits: Tightens pores, Regulates oil production | Size: 6 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
“My skin looks really nice after using the toner. It’s glowing, smooth, and glass-like. I love it.” — Elena Orsova, Tester
Best for Redness
Innisfree Green Tea Hyaluronic Acid Toner
Can be hard to dispense
Lauded for its anti-inflammatory properties, green tea can help reduce skin irritation, redness, and swelling—making it a great option for those looking to calm down angry red skin. Innisfree’s Green Tea Facial Toner captures the balancing powers of green tea leaves in a liquid formula that feels “extremely light and gentle” on the skin. According to our tester, the toner sank into her pores immediately after application and made a huge difference in the appearance of her hormonal acne breakouts. She admitted that any redness went down significantly and even noticed that a budding pimple “decreased significantly.” What’s more, she even claimed that the product single-handedly reduced the look of her acne in about three minutes.
With so much to love, there is one con: The toner comes out of the bottle really slowly. Normally, that would be a good thing, but because our tester admitted she had to use “quite a bit of muscle” to get the toner out of the bottle (thank you, small dispenser head), it’s less than ideal.
Price at time of publish: $19
Active ingredients: Panthenol, Hyaluronic acid, Green tea tri-biotics™| Benefits: Calming, Soothe redness | Size: 6.8 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Sensitive Skin
Renee Rouleau Elderberry Soothing Toner
Relaxes tight skin
Could be more hydrating
If you hate the feeling of tight, dry skin post-cleanse, you’ll love this toner from Renee Rouleau. Designed to be used after cleansing, the antioxidant-rich elderberry toner helps balance and relax super-sensitive skin. Our tester, who has sensitive skin prone to breakouts and dryness, admits that this toner helped prevent that too-tight-to-move feeling after washing her face. Instead, her skin felt “relaxed” and had a “healthy glow.” What’s more, she noticed a difference in the appearance of her hyperpigmentation. She also said that she liked how this toner has only a few ingredients and is loaded with anti-aging benefits. One thing that could be better: How hydrating it is. Though it helps nourish skin that feels tight and irritated, we wish it was a little more hydrating and locked in moisture a bit more.
Price at time of publish: $39
Active ingredients: Elderberry fruit extract, Sodium PCA, Biosaccharide Gum-1| Benefits: Anti-inflammatory, Soothing | Size: 6 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Oily Skin
Farmacy Deep Sweep 2% BHA Pore Cleaning Toner
Contains exfoliating acids
Targets clogged pores
Can be irritating when paired with other actives
The right toner can go a long way to control excess shine for those with oily skin types, and this one fits the bill. It combines oil-dissolving salicylic acid, exfoliating papaya enzyme, and purifying moringa seed extract to unclog pores and refresh greasy skin. In addition, chlorella, a natural ingredient rich in antioxidants, helps nourish and soothe the skin to prevent irritation and overdrying. Our tester was impressed by how lightweight the formula felt on her skin, noting that she almost forgot she had it on. She was also pleased that the product didn’t cause a tingling sensation. Just keep in mind that since the toner contains active exfoliants, you may want to skip it on days when you’ll be applying retinoids and other active ingredients to avoid overdoing it (i.e., redness, burning, and dehydrating the skin).
Price at time of publish: $32
Active ingredients: Salicylic acid, Papaya enzymes | Benefits: Exfoliation, Unclogs pores, Minimizes shine, Refreshes | Size: 4 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Hyperpigmentation
Freck Beauty Cactus Water Cleansing Lactic Acid Toner
The vessel can be tricky
Dark marks are from sun damage, genes, hormones, and acne scarring are no match for a toner with exfoliating and anti-inflammatory properties. With a powerhouse pairing of discoloration-minimizing lactic acid, hydrating cactus flower extract, and antioxidant-rich kelp extract, this toner from Freck Beauty attacks hyperpigmentation from every angle. Our tester was a fan and compared the consistency of the toner to a micellar water. It absorbs into the skin quickly and efficiently, so much so that she said her skin “drank it up so quickly” that she wanted to “load up on more.”
Because the vessel is glass that resembles a perfume bottle more than a toner, you can’t exactly squeeze anything out. You have to gently (and steadily) pour the bottle into your hand or onto a cotton pad in small amounts, or else you’ll risk spilling some.
Price at time of publish: $32
Active ingredients: Lactic acid, Cactus flower extract, Kelp extract| Benefits: Exfoliating, Hydrating, Calming | Size: 6.5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
“This toner felt refreshing and literally like a drink of water for my face. I would recommend this to anyone who needs an extra boost of hydration. I think it would help balance the skin better with more consistent use.” — Stacey Perdek-Smith, Tester
Best for Various Skin Types
Fresh Rose & Hyaluronic Acid Deep Hydration Toner
Easy to manage
On the pricier side
For skin that feels hydrated, smooth, and refreshed, look to the Fresh Rose & Hyaluronic Acid Deep Hydration Toner. While some toners are loaded with ingredients that exfoliate and increase cell turnover, this one actually gives the skin a rush of moisture instead. Formulated with, you guessed it, rosewater and hyaluronic acid (two ingredients known to boost hydration and nourish skin), those with normal, dry, combination, and oily skin will benefit tenfold from adding the dreamy formula to their routine. Our tester was a fan, sharing that her skin felt hydrated and relaxed. She especially appreciated the fact there wasn’t a tingling sensation (many toners she’s tried made her feel irritated), and her pores felt like they could breathe. The 8.4 fl. oz. bottle is available for under 50 dollars, which some might find expensive. But, given the size, you can expect it to last a while (especially compared to some options on this list).
Price at time of publish: $46
Active ingredients: Rose fruit extract, Rosewater, Angelica leaf extract, Hyaluronic acid | Benefits: Toning, Soothing, Nourishing, Moisturizing | Size: 8.4 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
What Our Testers Say
"The toner did an excellent job of cleaning and refreshing my skin. Looking at the cotton round, I could clearly see residue and even dead skin. It’s one thing to feel a difference, but to see a difference is very satisfying.” — Chantia Murphy, Tester
Best Moisturizing Formula
Laneige Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer
Milky and soft
Can be heavy for some skin types
Skin that’s in need of some extra moisture: Check out this milky formula from Laneige. As the name suggests, the product has a creamy, moisturizer-like consistency that hydrates on contact with the skin. “Smooth,” “airy,” and “super gentle” are three words our tester used to describe the toner, noting that her skin could feel the moisturizing effects of the product right away—”literal seconds,” she said, to be exact. Her skin was so much more hydrated after use that the tester next to her even commented on how glowy she looked. Plus, the white leaf tea water (aka one of the soothing ingredients in the formula) even helped tone down any redness and irritation on the tester’s skin. Just beware that because it’s on the thicker side and has a milky texture, some people (especially those with oily, acne-prone skin) might find it to be too heavy.
Price at time of publish: $33
Active ingredients: White leaf tea water | Benefits: Strengthen moisture barrier, Moisturize, Soothe | Size: 5.0 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free:
Best Soothing Formula
Fenty Beauty Fat Water Hydrating Milky Toner Essence with Hyaluronic Acid and Tamarind
Some say it smells funny
As seen on TikTok, the Fat Water Hydrating Milky Toner Essence from Fenty Beauty is totally worth the hype. Between the unique bottle (product dispenses from a twist top) and super milky consistency, there’s no wonder people are obsessed with this product. According to our tester, the toner absorbs into the skin really well. After three minutes, she noted that the toner sunk in completely and that her skin looked really calm. And, best of all, thanks to the hydrating ingredients, she said that she could feel the difference deep in her pores. Since nothing is perfect, there’s one thing we wish we could change: The smell. While it’s not scented, our tester shared that it has a subtle smell to it that she wasn’t a fan of. If you can get past that, it’s totally worth every penny.
Price at time of publish: $32
Active ingredients: Tamarind, Hyaluronic acid, Mineral PCAs, Panthenol | Benefits: Moisturizing, Soothing, Hydrating | Size: 5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Refreshing Formula
Belif Aqua Bomb Hydrating Toner
Contains alcohol denat
Packed with all kinds of good-for-you ingredients, such as soothing honeysuckle, baobab (which helps lock in moisture), and sodium hyaluronate (helps keep skin hydrated), this formula doesn’t mess around when it comes to calming the skin. Our tester was impressed by the formula, noting that it’s the perfect product for a quick refresh. Prior to using the toner, she had just cleansed her face and noticed how tight and dry it felt. But, when she followed up with the toner, she felt her skin spring back to life. Not only was it more hydrated and calm, but it was glowy and more even-toned. Though our tester had a really positive experience with the toner, be sure to patch test the formula before applying it to your face. Because the formula contains alcohol, a popular cosmetic ingredient known to be drying, you should apply a bit to the inside of your wrist to ensure you won’t have a reaction.
Price at time of publish: $30
Active ingredients: Honeysuckle, Baobab, Sodium hyaluronate | Benefits: Soothe, Moisturize, Hydrate | Size: 6.75 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free:
Best Exfoliating Formula
SKKN by Kim Toner
Aesthetically pleasing bottle
Gentle but effective
Can cause purging
Kim Kardashian knows a thing or two about good skin. While she definitely calls upon the help of pro estheticians and dermatologists from time to time, her skincare line helps set her skin up for success. The SKKN by Kim Toner is perhaps one of the most popular products in the product range because of how effective it is (and how aesthetic it looks in any vanity). Developed with fruit enzymes, witch hazel, niacinamide, and salicylic acid, the toner doubles down on exfoliation and produces an all-over glow. Our tester can attest to that. She shared that her skin felt “tremendously more hydrated” and that she could tell an immediate difference in the areas where she did not apply the toner compared to the ones where she did.
As with most exfoliators you introduce to your skin, you may experience some slight purging. Because exfoliators increase cell turnover, oftentimes, some people may experience an increase in breakouts or skin irritation. It’s best to ease into using the toner. We recommend using it every few nights and seeing how your skin reacts before adding it to your daily routine.
Price at time of publish: $45
Active ingredients: Fruit enzymes, Witch hazel, Niacinamide, Salicylic acid | Benefits: Exfoliating, Hydrating | Size: 6 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Balancing Formula
Holifrog Utopia Microflora Toner
Disinfects blemish-causing bacteria
Replenishes healthy skin barrier
The pump can squirt everywhere
When many people think of toners, a pore-stripping, overly-drying product typically comes to mind. However, this is far from the truth—especially as it pertains to Holifrog’s Utopia Microflora Toner. The surface of the skin is covered in bacteria (some good, some bad), and skincare helps to manage the balance. When it’s out of whack, breakouts, dullness, and other unwanted concerns pop up. This post-cleanse toning solution gives your skin a gentle but effective dose of ingredients (like apple cider vinegar, aloe, and more) that work like probiotics for the face. The result: Happy, balanced, calm skin. After applying the toner with a cotton pad, our tester found that her skin was more hydrated and “firmer, but still soft.” Plus, she shared that her acne and rosacea don’t look as obvious. The only caveat she could think of was the pump. Because it’s watery in nature and the top can sometimes deposit too much, try to be as gentle as possible when using the pump to avoid spillage.
Price at time of publish: $44
Active ingredients: Aloe, Jojoba Seed Oil, Apple Cider Vinegar | Benefits: | Size: 4.05 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Cruelty-Free Formula
Absolute Joi Balancing PH Skin Toner with Aloe
Ideal for all skin types
Scientifically-based with soothing botanicals
Can leave behind a tiny bit of residue
Those who seek out cruelty-free brands and formulas will love the Absolute Joi Balancing PH Skin Toner with Aloe. As the name suggests, it’s primarily formulated with aloe vera leaf juice and, therefore, has a jelly-like consistency. It’s a little thick when it goes on, but it feels light and hydrating on the skin. Our tester, who describes his skin as dry, loved how it sat on top of his skin. Though it took a minute or two to dry (instead of seeping right into pores), he noted that his skin was absolutely glowing afterward. Since it is on the thicker side, be aware that there may be some residue left on the surface of the skin, but since it’s super hydrating and soothing, we’re willing to overlook that.
Price at time of publish: $39
Active ingredients: Aloe vera leaf juice, Oat kernel extract | Benefits: Balancing, Calming, Hydrating | Size: 6.8 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Our top pick is the Tower28 SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray, which comes in a cute spray bottle container. Loaded hypochlorous acid, it’s different from most other toners on the market. You can expect your skin to look brighter, more even, and a lot calmer after using it. If you’re looking for extra exfoliation, the SKKN by Kim Toner should be on your radar. For those interested in something a little more hydrating, Laneige’s Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer impressed testers across the board.
How We Tested Toners
Byrdie editors did extensive research on popular toners, taking expert recommendations and consumer reviews into account before choosing 24 to test out first-hand. Our testers applied each toner on clean skin with both a cotton pad and their bare hands. Each formula was assessed based on feel, absorption, hydration, and appearance before deciding on a rating from one to five. Those with the highest scores made the list. All tests were performed in The Lab, our Manhattan product testing facility.
Testing Toner for Type, Skin Type Compatibility, and Ingredients
What to Look for in Toners
According to Chen, you’ll want to seek out ingredients based on your particular skin type and complexion concerns. Below are a few of the most popular:
This beta-hydroxy acid, which helps dissolve oil, is ideal if you have oily or acne-prone skin, says Chen.
Dealing with discoloration? Chen recommends using a toner that contains this alpha-hydroxy acid, a gentle chemical exfoliant that can improve both the tone and texture of your skin.
You can still use a toner if you have dry and/or sensitive skin; the key is to make sure the formula contains hydrating and soothing ingredients. Chen says that niacinamide checks both of those boxes, hydrating and calming the skin.
What does toner do for your skin?
"Toners act as another level of cleansing, deep cleaning pores and effectively removing dirt, oil, makeup, and other pollutants," says Chen. Many contain exfoliating acids, which also help to smooth the skin.
How do you apply toner?
Chen advises that toner should be applied after cleansing the face but before applying moisturizers or serums. Pat your face dry, then soak a cotton ball or pad with the toner and lightly apply to both your face and neck, she says. You can also try pressing the toner into the skin with your fingertips rather than using a cotton pad, which soaks up more of the liquid than it actually delivers.
What Is Byrdie Verified?
Did you notice the Byrdie Verified seal of approval at the top of this story? This seal means that our team has researched and tested every product on this list using a unique methodology that’s designed to focus on what our readers really want to know—and to deliver insights that you can’t find anywhere else. Occasionally, beauty brands and PR agencies will send us samples for coverage consideration, but our thoughts and opinions are fully our own. If you visit links within our content, we may receive commissions from your purchases, but we never receive any compensation or consideration for the content of our recommendations. In short, the Byrdie Verified seal stands for product recommendations you can trust.
Why Trust Byrdie
Caitlyn Martyn is an experienced writer in the beauty industry and product tester specializing in cosmetics. She has been a writer at Byrdie since 2022, where she covers all things beauty. She has tried several toners, including some on this list from brands like Tower28, Farmacy, Holifrog, Neutrogena, and more.
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She combined her knowledge of toners with the recommendations of board-certified dermatologist Lucy Chen, M.D.