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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.
There is now a whole slew of new toners out there promising all kinds of different skincare benefits, including, you guessed it, hydration. Because there are so many toners out there, the key is to seek out formulas that are first and foremost alcohol-free, since alcohol can be extremely drying, especially for dry skin. Next, look for the added hydrating ingredients, things such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, rosewater, and aloe are all great choices that are commonly used.
Scroll to discover the best toners for dry skin that fit the bill.
Best Overall: Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Toner
Not only is this crowd-favorite alcohol-free, but it also uses gentle rose fruit extract for toning purposes, rather than some of the more astringent ingredients found in other formulas. On the hydrating side of things, rosewater and rose flower oil (there are even real rose petals in the bottle!) soothe and nourish, while hyaluronic acid also does some heavy hydration lifting. So much so that, according to the results of a clinical study, it increased hydration by an impressive 46% for six hours after application.
Best Budget: Dickinson’s Enhanced Witch Hazel Hydrating Toner
From one of the OG toner brands comes this new hydrating option, infused with hyaluronic acid and vitamin E. Not only is it alcohol-free, but it also doesn’t contain any sulfates, soaps, or dyes (all things which can also potentially exacerbate dryness). Plus, the exclusive natural witch hazel plants Dickinson uses in all of their products are distilled for purity, and not diluted like some of the other witch hazel out there, to help ensure maximum potency and efficacy.
Best Drugstore Option: Thayers Witch Hazel Alcohol Free Unscented Toner
When a brand has been around since 1847, you can feel pretty darn confident that they’re doing something right. Case in point: This version of their original witch hazel toner, which is alcohol-free, and contains soothing vitamin E, aloe vera, along with grapefruit seed extract to make it extra gentle on dry skin. Still, it delivers all the toning benefits of a traditional witch hazel formula.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Avene Gentle Toning Lotion
Dry, extra-dry and sensitive skin types alike will all appreciate this formula. Dermatologist-tested and hypoallergenic, the water-based toner/lotion hybrid is unique thanks to the addition of thermal spring water and natural silicates.
Both are packed with antioxidants to help protect your skin from environmental damage (always a good thing), and also have soothing anti-inflammatory properties to help quell redness, a major win for sensitive skin.
Best Toning Lotion: Shiseido Treatment Softener Enriched
Technically, this is considered more of a lotion than a toner—but no, not the kind of lotion you’re thinking of. These lotions started in Asia; also known as essences, think of them as a slightly more viscous toner, which can essentially be used interchangeably and in the same way. Lotions are an especially great pick for sensitive skin since they can pack in even more hydrating ingredients.
This particular formula, a new take on the original made for normal skin, is a softening formula that helps strengthen your skin’s defenses from the inside so that it can better hold on to moisture and protect skin from aging and external aggressors.
Best Exfoliating: PCA Skin Nutrient Toner
Regular exfoliation is a great idea for dry skin; after all, getting rid of the build-up of dead, dry skin not only makes skin look better but will also help any products you’re using better penetrate and hydrate, toners included. The caveat: This exfoliation has to be super gentle. Overdo it and you can risk drying out your skin even more…and no one wants that. Enter this formula, which gently dissolves dead skin cells with alpha-hydroxy acids, such as lactic acid, one of the mildest ones out there. Enzymes and amino acids do the same, all while also helping to refine pores and balance out your skin.
Best Scent: Context Skin Hydrating Toner
This citrus-scented formula from Context, a cool millennial-minded brand, will make you fall in love with toner all over again. Its watery texture sinks into the skin, hydrating it deeply. Depending on how dry your skin feels, you can follow up with a moisturizer or facial oil. Don't be surprised if your skin starts to crave the light, invigorating scent and cooling effect at the end of a long day.
Best Natural Formula: 100 Percent Pure Restorative Sea Culture Toner
The first ingredient on this list is organic chia seed water, which helps hydrate and heal skin. Alongside that are, true to the name, several sea-based ingredients, namely organic algae extract (sourced from unpolluted waters) that locks in moisture. Glycerin and hyaluronic acid round out the list of hydrating ingredients, though it does contain witch hazel, too.
Best Organic: Crop Natural Antioxidant Facial Toner
This toner is 97% organic and 100% natural. It works well for dry skin, which in warmer weather especially can feel stripped and dehydrated, leading to an overproduction of oil, and then breakouts (not cool). Witch hazel, white oak, and spearmint cleanse, refresh, and tone the skin, while aloe, chamomile, rose-hip oil, and vitamin E keep it soft, supple, and hydrated.
Best for Very Dry Skin: JKosmmune Toner
JKosmmune specializes in 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, saves skin even in the midst of subzero temperatures. (Make sure you read the full review, we're not joking). The best part is that it's fast-absorbing and never sticky.
Best Splurge: SK-II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion Toner
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. It's on the expensive side, but the benefits make it well worth it.
Best Soothing: Algenist Hydrating Essence Toner
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.
Best Classic: Kiehl's Ultra Facial Toner
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).
Best Luxury: La Mer The Tonic
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.
Best Mist: Plant Apothecary Re:fresh Organic Toning and Hydrating Mist
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.