In the midst of majestic overnight masks, crystal deodorants, Botox-esque serums, and yes, even electric lip plumpers, it's no surprise toners get somewhat neglected in our skincare and beauty routines. After all, they can't offer bespeckled-with-glitter selfies, and the application is somewhat anti-climactic. However, when it comes to oily skin types, toners are an especially important product to have in your arsenal, as they provide the skin with numerous benefits.
“Toners are good for oily skin because they penetrate the pores to provide a more thorough cleansing and help balance your complexion,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman. “They can remove excess oil, inhibit blackheads, and exfoliate—all common problems for those with oily, acne-prone skin.” From balancing our skin's pH levels to enhancing the glow-inducing efforts of the rest of your skincare routine, consider a high-quality toner your oily skin's new partner in crime.
Keep reading for the best toners for oily skin.
Kiehl's Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion
Soothes and cools skin
Reduces excess oil
Can be used as a spot treatment
Contains alcohol and fragrance
Originally formulated in 1964, there’s a good reason why this toner has remained a mainstay among the extensive line of Kiehl’s skincare products ever since. It balances and soothes oily skin, while camphor and menthol make it feel cooling and refreshing. You can use it all over, but it also doubles as a spot treatment if there are just a few oily spots you want to care for, like your T-zone, for example.
Price at time of publish: $25
Active Ingredients: Menthol, witch hazel | Skin Type: Oily | Benefits: Reduces excess oil, balances, and soothes | Size: 1.4 / 4.2 / 8.4 / 16.9 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Dickinson's Original Witch Hazel Pore Perfecting Toner
Removes traces of makeup
Not only does this cost less than a latte, but it’s also somewhat of a classic, with a 100% natural formula that’s choice for oily skin. Fragrance-free, the star of the show, is, you guessed it, witch hazel, an oil-absorbing ingredient found in many skincare products. Plus, the brand also uses a unique type of distilled witch hazel that isn’t diluted, making for maximum potency and efficacy.
Price at time of publish: $8
Active Ingredients: Witch hazel | Skin Type: Oily | Benefits: Reduces excess oil, balances, and soothes | Size: 16 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Large Pores
Origins Zero Oil Pore Purifying Toner With Saw Palmetto & Mint
Helps clear acne
Feels cooling and refreshing
Contains plant extracts
Contrary to popular belief, you actually can’t change the size of your pores, and they don’t open or close. What does happen is that they can start to appear larger or smaller, based purely on how much stuff is in them. In other words, the more clogged your pores are, the bigger and more prominent they’ll look.
That’s why this formula is choice; it contains oil-dissolving salicylic acid to keep pores clear (and looking small). It also has skin-clearing saw palmetto to help ward off breakouts, and cooling mint to make it feel extra refreshing, especially for using after a sweaty workout or on a hot day.
Price at time of publish: $27
Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, sage leaf water | Skin Type: Oily, acne-prone | Benefits: Reduces excess oil, balances, soothes, calms acne | Size: 5 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Exfoliating Formula
Ole Henriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner
Green tea is a botanical derived from the leaves and buds of the tea plant Camellia sinensis. The active components of green tea are polyphenols (also called catechins) that are believed to benefit the skin due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Not only does this multi-tasker sufficiently sop up excess oil and mattify shiny skin, but it also touts a combination of three different acids to act as an effective—yet gentle—exfoliator. The formula, a blend of both alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids, lactic, glycolic, and salicylic acid, leaves your complexion looking matte, but with just the right amount of glow. But it doesn’t stop there; with a proprietary blend of active botanicals such as green tea, eucalyptus, algae, and Irish moss, this formula helps absorb unwanted oil and has natural antiseptic properties, too.
Price at time of publish: $34
Active Ingredients: Salicylic, glycolic, and lactic acids | Skin Type: Oily | Benefits: Exfoliates, balances, and soothes | Size: 6.5 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Pixi Glow Tonic
Flushes pores and exfoliates dead skin
Can be overly drying if used daily
Aloe vera is a naturally derived ingredient known for its soothing and moisturizing properties. The aloe plant's inner gel mucilage (the part that's used in skincare products) is made up of 99.5% water.
Heralded as one of the best drugstore toners money can buy, this glow-inducing pick from Pixi is rumored to yield results equally staggering as its significantly pricier counterparts. It happens to be a genius recommendation from former Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue, is made with 5% glycolic acid, ginseng, and aloe vera, and features oil-banishing benefits.
Price at time of publish: $18
Active Ingredients: Biotin, glycolic acid, witch hazel | Skin Type: All | Benefits: Reduces excess oil, balances and soothes | Size: 8 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
"After a month of use, I do feel like my skin looks brighter and clearer, and I think the dark spots are clearing up, too." — Adam Hurly, Product Tester
Boscia Rosewater Mist with Witch Hazel
Made with hydrating ingredients
Won't dry out skin
Can be a little irritating
Just because you have oily skin doesn't mean your toner should dry you out. Thankfully, this facial mist from Boscia does the opposite; its formula, created with rosewater and aloe vera, delivers a major dose of hydration, while witch hazel cleanses and absorbs excess oil. It's also vegan and free of parabens and fragrances. The result is dewy, soft skin and we're totally here for it.
Price at time of publish: $28
Active Ingredients: Rosewater, witch hazel, aloe vera | Skin Type: Dry | Benefits: Balances and soothes | Size: 4.7 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Acne-Prone Skin
Glytone Acne Clearing Toner
Helps clear acne
Helps minimize the look of pores
May irritate skin
Toners in general are a good product to add into your routine if you’re constantly battling blemishes, and this formula, especially. This formula, made with a 2% concentration of salicylic acid, keeps excess oil at bay, unclogs pores, and gently exfoliates, working to both treat existing blackheads, whiteheads, and blemishes, and keep new ones from cropping up.
Since it does sop up all that excess oil, start using it once a day, and gradually increase to twice-daily use, just to make sure you don’t inadvertently over-dry your skin.
Price at time of publish: $28
Active Ingredients: 2% salicylic acid, acetone | Skin Type: Oily | Benefits: Reduces excess oil, exfoliates | Size: 8 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Sensitive Skin
Origins Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom Relief & Resilience Soothing Treatment Lotion
Can help with hyperpigmentation
Won't irritate sensitive skin
Scent may not be for some
Excess oil and sebum instigate a frustrating and vicious cycle of acne, redness, and pigmentation. This mega-mushroom blend toner from Dr. Weil for Origins is the cream of the crop for soothing and solving all of the aforementioned skin woes. It's an especially great option for those with oily and sensitive skin.
Price at time of publish: $41
Active Ingredients: Reishi, fermented chaga | Skin Type: Sensitive | Benefits: Hydrates, calms | Size: 6.7 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Kopari Coconut Rose Toner
Could be more hydrating
Skin is far from static, and though oil is always our number one archnemesis, some days our skin is slicker than others. And for that reason (plus the amazing ingredient list), we love this coconut and rose-infused toner from Kopari. (If you're unfamiliar, the brand is basically the holy mecca of all things coconut.) This option keeps the complexion balanced, nixes redness, and diminishes the appearance of pores while still being gentle enough for our skin's better (aka less oily) days.
Active Ingredients: Witch hazel, rose and coconut extracts | Skin Type: All | Benefits: Reduces excess oil, balances and soothes | Size: 5.1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Milk Makeup Matcha Toner
Feels heavy on the skin
Who says toners can only come in liquid form? This stick earns the distinction of being the first solid toner out there, making it ideal for travel (no worries about TSA compliance here) or for stashing in your gym bag since there’s no need to stress about potential spills. The gel-based formula—made with matcha green tea, witch hazel, and cactus elixir—glides smoothly on the skin and purifies, absorbs oil, and hydrates the skin.
Active Ingredients: Witch hazel, sake | Skin Type: Oily | Benefits: Reduces excess oil, balances and soothes | Size: 0.2 / 1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
"The Milk Matcha Toner is the first toner I’ve found in a long time that embraced my skin. The product plays a beautiful balance between keeping my skin nourished while still keeping it in check." — Celeste Polanco, Product Tester
Herbivore Botanicals Jasmine Green Tea Oil Control Toner
Helps clear acne
Easy to use
Expensive per ounce
This pretty mint-green mist from Herbivore is specifically formulated for oily, acne-prone skin—plus, it's vegan and cruelty-free. A powerful lineup of green tea, witch hazel, aloe vera, ginger root, and white willow bark are expertly infused into soothing organic jasmine flower. Give your complexion a quick spritz for a convenient, refreshing pick-me-up.
Price at time of publish: $39
Active Ingredients: Green tea, ginger root, willow bark | Skin Type: Oily | Benefits: Reduces excess oil, balances and soothes | Size: 4 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Work the right toner into your skincare routine and prepare to be amazed at how much less oily your complexion will be. In our eyes, you can't go wrong with Kiehl’s Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion, which feels instantly cooling and works as a spot treatment, too. As a budget-friendly alternative, Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel Pore Perfecting Toner is an OG cult-classic you can nab at the drugstore, as is the Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic, a personal favorite of many Byrdie editors. Meanwhile, the Milk Makeup Matcha Toner is the first solid toner formula we’ve ever come across, a gel-based option that tamps down excess oil and is perfect for travel.
Meet the Expert
Corey L. Hartman is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL. He specializes in treating skin of color, with a strong interest in dermatologic surgery, injectables, hair restoration, and laser dermatology.
What To Look For in a Toner for Oily Skin
There are hundreds of different toners on the market in a wide variety of price points. You can pick up a bottle in your local drugstore for $5 and under or go for a more luxury brand and spend closer to $30. For best results, be guided by the quality and suitability of the ingredients within the toner rather than the price point. So, for oily skin, look for exfoliating AHA and BHAs balanced with soothing ingredients, such as niacinamide.
Liquid or mist
Toners generally come in either a traditional liquid or a mist, and the one you choose is very much down to personal preference. Many people enjoy the freshness of a mist over a freshly cleansed face, but both types can be applied to a cotton pad and swept over the face if you prefer.
Exfoliating or skin-clearing ingredients
Two of Hartman’s faves? Alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids and sulfur. They help clear pores, reduce oil production, and chemically exfoliate, he says.
Since you don’t want to risk over-drying or irritating your skin, ideally you want a formula that also touts ingredeints like niacinamide or aloe vera to help soothe and hydrate, says Hartman.
Be cautious with alcohol and witch hazel
While these two super-astringents are generally a no-go in a toner if you have dry skin (especially alcohol), those with oily skin may be able to tolerate them. The caveat? Don’t use a toner that contains either of these in super high concentrations, warns Hartman. “If it makes your skin feel overly tight after use, choose a different product,” he says.
How We Researched & Tested
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. Our team also incorporated their own personal experiences testing products in their own lives. We then used these insights from our research and testing to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.
What does a toner do?
There’s a common misconception that toners simply refresh the skin or remove any leftover makeup, but their purpose is actually far more important. Kemi Fabusiwa, M.D., a skincare expert and doctor says there are two main types of toners. “Hydrating toners typically come after your cleansers. They contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid which helps to hydrate the skin's barrier like a sponge.” As such, they also work nicely in combination with other more powerful actives and help to reduce any drying effects.
“Treatment toners often contain exfoliating acid ingredients, such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid,” she continues. “They work to improve your main skin concern by reducing oil or dead skin cells. This can help to improve acne, hyperpigmentation, or dull skin.”
Is toner needed for oily skin?
Toners come in all different shapes and sizes,” says Dr. Fabusiwa. “Some are hydrating, others are exfoliating. If you have oily skin, you may benefit from a toner that contains salicylic acid.” We recommend the Glytone Acne Clearing Toner with 2% Salicylic Acid. “This will help to exfoliate and control excess oil,” Dr. Fabusiwa explains.
When should you use a toner?
“Always apply a toner after cleansing and before moisturising—or after a serum if you use one as part of your skincare routine,” advises Hassan El Husseini, M.D., a dermatologist at Dr Kayle Aesthetic Clinic Dubai. Apply a few drops to a cotton pad and gently sweep across your cheeks and T-zone, taking care to avoid the delicate eye area.
Why Trust Byrdie
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. Her skin veers more towards combination than oily, but she did recently re-discover the magic of toners and loves using one when her skin is feeling slick.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough toners for oily skin from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
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