Make No Mistake: Toners Can Make a Huge Difference for Dry Skin

Updated 04/19/19

When it comes to remedying dry and dehydrated skin, it's not likely you think of toner, though you should since its uses are varied, targeting skin concerns that go beyond acne and oiliness. In fact, adding that one extra step in your skincare routine can make a real and visible difference in the moisture levels of the skin. That is, if you're using the right formula.

Take it from Tammy Yaiser, vice president of product development at Algenist. "Oftentimes, the term toner evokes an astringent liquid containing alcohol and applied to the skin to reduce oiliness," explains Yaiser. "Modern toners, however, have evolved, and there are now exciting advancements in modern formulations." Instead of stripping the skin and drying it out, many toners deliver super-hydrating ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and more. As such, "well-formulated toners can be an essential key element to balancing your skin. Applied after cleansing, they allow for a quick delivery of hydrating, balancing and anti-aging ingredients to clarify and refresh the skin as a head start before your treatment protocol."

If you have dry skin (which doesn't simply go away in the summer months, mind you), try enlisting the help of any one of these 12 hydrating toners. All you have to do is pat one into your skin after you cleanse and before you reach for serum and moisturizer to achieve plump, glowy, and comfortable skin. Dry, scaly patches will be banished.

Hydrating Toner
Context Skin Hydrating Toner $35

This citrus-scented formula from Context, a cool millennial-minded brand, made me fall in love with toner all over again. Its watery texture sinks into my skin, hydrating it deeply. I lock that in by following up with a moisturizer or facial oil (like Herbivore Lapis Oil, $72), depending on how dry my skin feels that day. My skin now craves the light and invigorating scent and cooling effect at the end of a long day. I'm on my second bottle, and I fully plan on purchasing a third. 

JKosmmune Toner $26

JKossmune specializes beta-glucan-infused skincare. Beta-glucan is a molecule that protects against environmental stressors and hydrates the skin 20% better than hyaluronic acid does. This toner, along with the other ultra-hydrating products in the line, saved my skin the midst of a subzero Michigan winter (seriously, make sure you read the full review). The best part is that it's fast-absorbing and never sticky.

Crop Natural Antioxidant Facial Toner $30

This toner is 97% organic and 100% natural. It works well for my dry summer skin, which feels stripped and dehydrated, overproduces oil, and then breaks out in blackheads and whiteheads (not cool). Witch hazel, white oak, and spearmint cleanse, refresh, and tone my skin, while aloe, chamomile, rose-hip oil, and vitamin E keep it soft, supple, and hydrated. 

Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner 8.4 oz/ 250 mL
Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner $44

Fresh's Rose Facial Toner is one of the top-selling formulas at Sephora. It has won awards and received glowing praise from the brand's customer base thanks to hydrating ingredients like rose petals (not just rose extracts) and hyaluronic acid. This one is best for people with uncomfortable, tight-feeling, and dehydrated skin.

Facial Treatment Clear Lotion Toner 5.4 oz
SK-II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion Toner $76

This SK-II toner contains AHAs to gently exfoliate dead and dry skin away from the surface of the skin, while vitamins, minerals, and amino acids nourish what's underneath. "Yes this lotion acts just like a toner but don't be fooled, it is so much better and best of all it is effective," one Sephora reviewer says. "Most times when you think of toner you automatically think drying, striping, or harsh feeling but this quite different. It is gentle, refreshing, and leaves your face super clean and balanced with no drying feel."

White & Elm Balancing Facial Toner $32

This unassuming toner is low-key one of the best ones you can buy at Target. It's meant for all skin types, including dry skin. It balances, refines, smoothes, and hydrates with organic ingredients. Take it from real reviewers. "I have very sensitive skin. Most toners dry out my already dry and sensitive skin. Not this one. It's very hydrating and it smells terrific," one writes. "I had never used toner consistently before this one. It smells amazing and feels so hydrating! Wouldn't have a proper skincare regimen without it," says another.


Hydrating Essence Toner 5 oz/ 150 mL
Algenist Hydrating Essence Toner $25

Algenist's toner contains alguronic acid, witch hazel, and chamomile, along with cucumber and aloe extract, which make it gentle, soothing, and hydrating, even for reactive skin. "I always try new toners each time I run out because I haven't found one that works for me," one reviewer writes. "I decided to buy this. I never tried any Algenist products before but heard great things about the brand. My skin feels really hydrated after using this and adds another layer of moisture under my chemical exfoliants.

I never feel dry when I use this. Will repurchase for sure."

1851 Ultra Facial Toner 8.4 oz/ 250 ml
Kiehl's Ultra Facial Toner $16

Like the Algenist toner, this Kiehl's one gently exfoliates so serums and moisturizers can penetrate more deeply and work more effectively. What's more is that it's pH-balanced, which results in comfortable, hydrated skin. It's a "holy-grail toner," according to reviewers (which makes sense considering it's one of the brand's most classic products). "This toner is more like an essence that you see often in Asian skincare brands. It's hydrating, preps your skin for serum, and soften your skin. The price is cheap and the product itself is effective."

Botnia Facial Toner $32

Botnia's toner is clean and plant-based, handcrafted in the brand's California lab. It contains classic pore-tightening and oil-eliminating ingredients like witch hazel and willow bark extract. Those are combined with superbly hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vegetable glycerin, and a moisturizing oil blend. (It's been given the Shop/Good seal of approval, which is one of our favorite clean beauty retailers). 

The Tonic 6.7 oz/ 200 mL
La Mer The Tonic $90

Yes, this product is incredibly expensive for a toner, but we must keep in mind that it does come from La Mer—the same brand responsible for cult-classic luxury skincare products. Just like the rest of La Mer's products, it's infused with Miracle Broth, which is a fermented mixture of sea kelp and other good-for-skin ingredients. As such, it hydrates, tones, cleanses, and purifies all at once. "It is expensive for a toner but I really love it. It helps clean my skin and make sure there is nothing left over from cleansing.

It does not burn or strip my skin like other toners. This is a staple in my skin care routine and my skin has been the best it has ever been," says one reviewer. 

Plant Apothecary Re:fresh Organic Toning and Hydrating Mist $10

When it's USDA-certified organic and cruelty-free, we feel good about using it. When it contains a hydrating and toning mix of ingredients like cucumber, rose water, aloe, witch hazel, and lemongrass, we feel even better. Simply mist it over your face after cleansing (or whenever your skin needs a little refresher). It's hydrating, subtly scented, and lovely. 

Whamisa by Glow Recipe Serum Toner $22

Leave it to a K-beauty brand like Glow Recipe to debut a new and innovative serum-toner hybrid like this. It balances, brightens, hydrates, and plumps the skin, as a toner and serum would do separately, making it a convenient two-for-one deal. It's able to do this thanks to superfood ingredients like kale, broccoli, and green tea, along with hyaluronic acid. It's anti-inflammatory, nourishing, and hydrating, and honestly, what else do you need from a toner? 

Now that you're up to date on the best hydrating toners to use to remedy dry and dehydrated skin, check out 13 quick fixes for when your skin feels insanely Sahara-level dry

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