Should You Be Using A Facial Toner? Plus, The Best Toner For Your Skin Type

To tone or not to tone, that is the question.

Though toner has long been a part of the standard ‘cleanse, tone, moisturise’ skincare philosophy often touted by skincare stalwarts like Clinique, it’s likely the step most often forgone by even the most ardent skincare lovers. Unlike a face-transforming, sermon-inspiring face mask, vitamin C serum, hydrating moisturiaer, or retinol, the effects of a toner aren’t quite so tangible. 

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However, skipping toner would be a serious skincare error. A good facial toner can help to balance the skin’s pH level, regulate oil production, provide exfoliation, hydrate the skin, and help your other skincare products sink in better. 

Here’s everything you need to know about facial toners. 

What is a toner?

A toner, also sometimes called a ‘lotion’ in Japanese and Korean beauty, is a liquid with a water-like consistency, designed to be used after cleanser and before serum and moisturiser. While toners of the past were typically designed to remove residual makeup, dirt, and oil leftover after cleansing, as well as act as an astringent to fight oiliness and blemishes, toners of today are rather different. 

Unlike their astringent, somewhat drying predecessors, today’s facial toners are typically alcohol-free and boast formulas containing acids, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories, as well as hydrating and moisturising ingredients. 

What are the benefits of a toner?

A facial toner works to balance your skin’s pH levels, restoring them to an acidic state which allows your other skincare products to work more effectively. Toners can also remove any residual impurities after cleansing, protect the skin from external impurities and minimise the appearance of pores, and exfoliate the skin. 

The good thing about the facial toners of today is that there’s something for everyone. No longer are toners restricted to those with oily, acne-prone skin; there’s a formula out there to cater to every skin type.

How to incorporate a toner into your skincare routine

Technically, toners can be used twice a day, in both your daytime and nighttime skincare routine; after cleansing and before serums. However, how often you use your toner also depends on its ingredients. Facial toners with strong active ingredients like AHAs and BHAs should only be used a few times a week, while more gentle, hydrating toners can be used daily.

The best facial toners for every skin type

1. Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner

fresh rose hydration toner

Soothing and hydrating, this luxurious toner removes residual impurities while glycerin and rose water work to soften the skin and refine the appearance of pores. Plus, real rose petals make for a delightful sensory experience.

Best for: dry, sensitive skin

2. The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Solution

glycolic acid the ordinary toning solution

A powerful exfoliant on a budget, The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Solution contains (you guessed it) glycolic acid, a potent AHA that works to slough away dead skin cells while ginseng and aloe vera calm and hydrate the skin. 

Best for: normal, combination, oily skin

3. Medik8 Press & Glow

medik8 press glow pha

Suitable for even the most sensitive skin, the Medik8 Press & Glow toner uses PHAs to provide exfoliate the skin. A gentler alternative to AHAs due to their larger molecule size, this toner is suitable for daily use, evening out skin tone and leaving you with a glowing complexion. 

Best for: all skin types (including sensitive skin)

4. Fresh Black Tea Kombucha Facial Treatment Essence

fresh kombucha essence toner

Though technically an essence, this formula can be used as a toner. Fresh Black Tea Kombucha Facial Treatment Essence contains probiotic and antioxidant-rich kombucha which works to protect from pollution, improve skin texture, and hydrate the skin with hyaluronic acid to improve the appearance of pores.

Best for: dry, normal, combination, oily skin

5. Philosophy Purity Made Simple Hydra-Essence With Coconut Water

philosophy hydra essence coconut

Electrolyte-rich coconut water hydrates and nourishes dry skin, prepping it to better absorb the rest of your skincare products. 

Best for: dry, normal skin

6. Paula’s Choice Pore-Reducing Toner

paulas choice pore reducing toner

Though you can’t actually change the size of your pores, you can reduce their appearance. Niacinamide works to reduce any redness and inflammation and balance oily skin, while antioxidants and ceramides moisturise and nourish the skin barrier.

Best for: oily, combination, normal, sensitive skin

7. Biologique Recherche Lotion P50

biologique recherche lotion p50 toner

Arguably considered the holy grail of toners, this lotion is a staple in many a beauty editor’s skincare arsenal. Combining AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs, Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 works to exfoliate the skin, regulate sebum levels, cleanse pores of any impurities, and balance the skin’s pH levels. A strong formula, Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 should only be used two to three times a week. 

Best for: normal, oily, combination skin

8. Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner

indie lee coq-10 toner

Antioxidant-rich CoQ-10 is the star ingredient of this toner, working to hydrate the skin and protect against environmental pollutants. Its joined by hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, chamomile, cucumber, and papaya enzymes; the former soothe, moisturise, and calm irritated skin while the latter provides gentle exfoliation. 

Best for: all skin types

9. Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

paulas choice 2% bha exfoliant

This cult-fave uses salicylic acid – a BHA – to unclog pores, slough off dead skin cells, and refine skin texture, resulting in fewer breakouts and a more even complexion. 

Best for: oily, acne-prone, combination skin

10. Caudalie Vinopure Clear Skin Purifying Toner

caudalie toner

Made with pore refining and acne-fighting salicylic acid as well as Caudalie’s signature grape water and rose water, the Caudalie Vinopure Clear Skin Purifying Toner improves skin texture, soothes irritation, and fights blackheads and breakouts. 

Best for: acne-prone, combination, oily skin

Words by Esmé Duggan