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A toner may seem like a skippable step in your skincare routine, but if you’re not yet using one, it might be worth considering doing so. Forget any preconceived notions about toner you may have from your pre-teen days; today's formulas are more advanced than ever, boasting a litany of skin benefits. (To answer your burning Q, no, toners are no longer just good for oily skin.)
Straddling the line between the cleansing and treatment step in your routine, a toner is a great way to both ensure your complexion is totally clean and give it an extra dose of active ingredients.
Ready to try one? Check out our list of the best toners, below.
While you can definitely find a toner tailored to your specific skin needs, this do-it-all is a top choice to simultaneously address any and all issues. Birch sap and mineral water impart plenty of hydration, though it also gently exfoliates. Another plus: There are two variants, one for normal to dry and one for oily to combination skin (view at Sephora).
Pick up this guy during your next trip to the drugstore. Consider it a slightly more mild version of the OG version (which has been around since 1866, NBD). It still boasts a potent concentration of witch hazel for purifying and oil-absorbing purposes but is alcohol-free to avoid the potential for any unnecessary dryness. On top of that, there’s also hyaluronic acid and vitamin E to keep skin nice and soft.
At less than the cost of lunch, this exfoliating toner would be a steal to begin with, but considering the fact that you’re also getting a jumbo, 240 mL size, you’re really doing your wallet a favor. Not to mention that it contains glycolic acid, one of the best exfoliating alpha-hydroxy acids there is, to remove dead skin cells and leave your complexion radiant. FYI, it is potent though, so use it just once daily, ideally at night.
Here’s the bad news: You can’t change the actual size of your pores. The good news? You can make them look smaller and less noticeable by clearing out the gunk and grime that gets lodged inside them, stretching them out and making them appear more prominent. For that, this toner is king. It helps to keep pores clear, while also boasting plenty of soothing ingredients to also tamp down any redness in the process.
If you’re dealing with redness and/or irritation, you may instinctually want to avoid a toner, but go ahead and try this one, on the recommendation of Byrdie Senior Editor Lindsey Metrus. Packed with essential fatty acids plus soothing botanicals and vitamins, it quells redness and calms skin with each swipe; it’s even a good option if you have rosacea. The formula is so hydrating that it’s also great to use if you’re just getting started on a retinoid, as it can help minimize the likelihood of ending up with unsightly side effects like peeling and flaking.
The star of the show here is matcha, which helps to detoxify and purify pores, always a major boon for those with oily skin. Kombucha and witch hazel further absorb unwanted, excess oil, and we’d be remiss not to mention the fact that this is a unique solid formula. That’s right, it’s a gel-based toner-in-a-stick, ideal not only for travel, but also to keep on-hand and swipe across any slick spots that crop up throughout the day.
The name alone immediately gives you an indication as to how moisturizing this is. A cleansing milk, makeup remover, and hydrating toner all in one, it boasts coconut water to impart plenty of moisture. You could definitely use it in lieu of face wash, but we like using it before and/or after to make sure the skin stays well-hydrated during the cleansing process.
Byrdie’s Editorial Director Faith Xue is a fan of this toner: “It has witch hazel to brighten and smooth skin texture, and helps with my breakouts,” she says. It’s a great pick if your skin jumps around between dry and oily, given that it both hydrates and controls oil production. Bonus points for the fact that 100% of the ingredients are from natural origin.
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 breakouts). Enter this guy, which relies on a minimal-yet-effective amount of salicylic acid to dissolve oil and prevent pore clogging, plus exfoliating glycolic acid. It’s a pairing that effectively wards off and treats blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples.
PHAs (poly-hydroxy acids) fall under the AHA family. They are much larger in size compared to the more common AHAs like glycolic and lactic acid. They're used commonly for their exfoliating, skin smoothing, moisturizing, and anti-aging benefits.
This formula, another one of Xue’s faves, boasts AHAs and the less-often used (though equally great) PHAs, polyhydroxy acids. It’s great for both brightening, minimizing the look of pores, and gently buffing off dull, dead skin. Plus, along with those exfoliating acids, it also contains soothing marshmallow root extract and squalane to combat irritation.
No matter whether your dark marks are from sun damage or leftover acne scarring, this powerhouse pairing of glycolic acid and a ton of antioxidants can help even out your skin tone. There’s also licorice root extract in the mix, a well-known hyperpigmentation fighter, along with niacinamide to soothe any irritation.
For those looking to keep skin youthful, sure, serums and night creams are important, but why not choose a toner with youth-boosting benefits, too? This one fits the bill, full of a combination of peptides known for increasing skin’s elasticity and firmness, as well as antioxidants and exfoliating ingredients to keep your complexion youthful and glowing.
The K-beauty skincare routine is well-known for having 10 extensive steps, and you better believe toner is one of them. Take a page from that book and try this K-beauty superstar, which has sold out and had a lengthy waitlist time and time again. It’s worth the hype, brightening, soothing, and moisturizing, thanks to ingredients such as peony extract, licorice water, and green tea. Also noteworthy is its slightly acidic pH, which helps ward off bacteria and help rebalance skin post-cleansing.
Byrdie Senior Editor Hallie Gould (and about a bajillion other people) rave about this cult-favorite. Make no mistake, it’s definitely not like a traditional lotion, though it technically really isn’t considered a toner either. Still, it functions in the same manner and is often used as one, given that it brightens, hydrates, and balances pH. Keep in mind that the distinct scent is, well, distinct—there’s onion in the formula—but devoted fans quickly move past it once they see firsthand how well it works.
Eucalyptus oil is an essential oil distilled from the leaf of an evergreen tree native to Australia but can also be found in other parts of the world. It's commonly used to help alleviate chest congestion and ease cold symptoms, though in skincare, it eases inflammation and promotes moisturization.
This product doesn't just tone your skin—it acts as a cleanser too. Its refreshing formula—featuring witch hazel, eucalyptus, and rosemary essential oil—works double-time to cleanse impurities, remove any traces of makeup or grime, and balance oil production (making it especially great for those with oily skin). An added perk is that menthol vapors from the eucalyptus oil help clear your sinuses.
When applying a toner, try pressing it gently into skin with your fingertips, rather than using a cotton pad, which soaks up more of the liquid than it actually delivers.