13 Best Toners to Enhance Your Complexion — Expert-reviewed

Written by Anoushka Sinha, Skincare Coach & Writer
Updated on May 24, 2024
Best Toners
Best Toners
The products curated for this article are independently chosen by the editorial team. If you make a purchase through the links mentioned below, we may receive a commission. Check out our product research & curation process

To those who believe toners will parch and dehydrate their skin, let me tell you that we do not live in the 1960s anymore! The best toners today don't punish the skin for producing excess oil or having dark spots. Instead, they allow the skin time to establish tolerability with their formulations, approach with TLC, and leave the skin feeling soothed and refreshed. Instead of typical alcohol-based toners, today’s advanced formulations don’t make you wish that you had a different skin type, but understand the needs of your current skin type and provide assistance in accordance!

To be quite frank, I’ve allowed toners to take a backseat in most of my skincare articles, as I believed them to be less “essential” than other skincare products. However, only after some great personal experiences with some toners and having researched and learned about the rest, I am quite convinced that “essential” is something that varies across skin types. 

Yes, face washes, moisturizers, and sunscreen are indeed the foundation of any skincare routine. However, if you’re dealing with any specific skin concerns such as hyperpigmentation, dullness, enlarged pores, inflamed skin, and flare-ups, toners can be an excellent add-on treatment. Using one would ensure that nothing prevents you from achieving your perfect skin goals! You’ll know why I’m being so confident about this once you go through the following guide. 

Why Should One Use a Facial Toner?

Here are some benefits of using a toner for your skin:

  1. It removes impurities, grime, and dead skin cells from the skin, leaving it feeling squeaky clean
  2. It draws hydration deep into your skin to soothe dryness. 
  3. As the name suggests, it helps give an even tone to your skin, brightens dull skin, and enhances the complexion. 
  4. It preps your skin for a better penetration of serums and moisturizers. 
  5. It helps maintain a pH balance and oil balance of the skin. 
  6. It supports and restores the skin barrier. 
  7. It rejuvenates the skin and leaves it feeling refreshed. 
  8. It shrinks enlarged pores and helps decongest them. 

Now that you know why it may be a good idea for you to invest in a toner, let’s scroll away to see the top picks!

13 Best Toners

For someone with combination and acne-prone skin like me, this pore-reducing toner from Paula’s Choice has been a hero in my skincare stash, and the reasons to justify this are plenty! Unlike typical oily skin toners, this one does not punish my skin for producing excess oil but helps maintain a healthy balance in it. 

Instead of drying ingredients, this gem contains the oil-balancing goodness of niacinamide as well as anti-inflammatory plant extracts that help calm the skin during flare-ups (a study by the IFSCC). Plus, the infused ceramides and amino acids work to replenish and strengthen the skin barrier, making it less vulnerable to external damage (research by the National Library of Medicine). Lastly, I love how this product improves my skin texture, however, I’m still a little unsure if it had any impact on the appearance of pores. 

Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, chamomile, ceramides, and burdrock root

Skin Type: Combination, normal, oily, or acne-prone skin

Cruelty-free: Yes

Quantity: 6.4 fl oz

Pros
  • Very hydrating
  • Antioxidant-rich
  • Restores a healthy glow
  • Reduces redness
  • Defends from environmental stressors
  • Comforts the skin
  • Sustainable packaging
Cons
  • No effect on acne-reduction
  • Best Exfoliative Toner

    Neutrogena Pore Refining Toner

    Neutrogena Pore Refining Toner
  • Specifically speaking of pore-refining, this toner from Neutrogena is a better pick than the previous one. The reason? It is infused with the goodness of salicylic acid, which has excellent sebum control properties and is a treat for oily skin (research by Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology). In addition, this toner also rejuvenates the skin and boosts the radiance of its complexion. 

    Out of different types of skincare toners, this is an exfoliative one, so I won’t recommend using it every day. However, when used in the right manner and right frequency, this little product can leave your skin feeling much smoother and even-toned than ever before. 

    Key Ingredients: Alpha and beta hydroxy acids

    Skin Type: Oily and combination skin

    Cruelty-free: Not mentioned

    Quantity: 8.4 ounce

    Pros
    • Non-comedogenic
    • Hypoallergenic
    • Softens the skin
    • Sweeps away dead skin cells
    • Reduces whiteheads/blackheads
    Cons
    • Contains alcohol
    • Stings certain skin types

    Quick Tip:

    As it contains both AHAs and BHA, limit the usage of this toner to twice a week, preferably at night. Always wash your face thoroughly before use, and after applying it, replenish your skin with oodles of moisturizer. Avoid using it with retinol.

  • Best Toner for Dry Skin

    CeraVe Hydrating Toner for Normal to Dry Skin

    CeraVe Hydrating Toner for Normal to Dry Skin
  • Those looking for an alcohol-free toner to quench dry skin should definitely check out this one from CeraVe — a gold standard brand for everything hydration. The formula is bursting with the water-boosting benefits of hyaluronic acid. Plus, it contains the brand’s hero ingredients — three essential ceramides — to help with the skin’s barrier function and seal in the nourishment.

    Now, my skin type isn’t exactly dry, but I have used this toner extensively in the past as it never clogged pores or triggered any breakouts. In fact, people with oilier skin types can perhaps use this toner in place of a regular moisturizer once in a while to give their skin a break from greasy residues. 

    Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and three essential ceramides

    Skin Type: Normal, dry, and sensitive

    Cruelty-free: Not mentioned 

    Quantity: 6.8 fl oz

    Pros
    • Allergy-tested
    • Calms the skin
    • Fragrance-free
    • Non-irritating
    • A little goes a long way
    Cons
    • Doesn’t sink in well
  • Best Brightening Toner

    pixi Skintreats Glow Tonic

    pixi Skintreats Glow Tonic
  • This product has been a rage among skincare junkies for quite some time now and for all the right reasons! Featuring the complexion-enhancing properties of glycolic acid, this brightening toner sweeps away traces of dirt, grime, and dead skin cells from your skin in a jiffy (study by the Journal of Dermatological Science). With every use, the product leaves the skin feeling clean, refreshed, and refined. 

    Having researched about it, I learned how this formula is bursting with plant extracts that revitalize the skin and natural sugars (fructose and sucrose) that sweeten up its appearance. This toner also contains refreshing aloe and ginseng that energize your skin and make it feel great!

    Key Ingredients: Glycolic acid, ginseng, and aloe vera

    Skin Type: All except sensitive skin

    Cruelty-free: Yes

    Quantity: 8.5 fl oz

    Pros
    • Reduces the appearance of hyperpigmentation
    • Boosts skin cell renewal
    • Leaves you with clean skin
    • Lightweight texture
    • Hydrating effects
    • Unclogs pores
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Doesn’t suit very sensitive skin

    Quick Tip:

    For best results, pour some of this toner onto a cotton pad and swipe it over your face, neck, and decolletage area to brighten the skin and sweep away impurities. Avoid using this too close to your eyes.

  • Dermalogica Multi-Active Toner

    Dermalogica Multi-Active Toner
  • Well, firstly, I love this toner a lot for its spray application, as pouring the toner on the palms can be quite messy. Plus, owing to the fantastic water-boosting properties of this toner, spraying it onto the face can be a hydration bliss on a parching summer day! 

    The formula is rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant plant extracts that soothe and refresh the skin faster than any cream-based moisturizer could ever do. Besides, whether your skin is naturally dry or oily, this toner doesn’t discriminate and offers nourishing benefits to both. 

    Key Ingredients: Arnica, lavender, and balm mint extracts

    Skin Type: Dry, combination, and oily

    Cruelty-free: Yes

    Quantity: 1.7 fl oz and 8.4 fl oz

    Pros
    • Not too potent
    • Great for summer skincare
    • Rejuvenates the skin
    • Prevents moisture loss
    • Evens out skin porosity
    • Natural ingredients
    • Paraben-free
    Cons
    • Very expensive
  • Best Cost-effective Toner

    Good Molecules Niacinamide Brightening Toner

    Good Molecules Niacinamide Brightening Toner
  • Staying true to its promise of brightening the skin, this toner from Good Molecules contains ideal skincare ingredients to help enhance the complexion. Formulated with arbutin and licorice root extracts, the toner helps reduce dullness, hyperpigmentation, and uneven skin tone (research by Antioxidants - MDPI and Cosmetics - MDPI). 

    Moreover, this toner is alcohol-free and has a pH of 6.2, which is gentle on the skin. It soothes and calms the skin, and prevents redness and inflammation. A customer reviewed, “This is by far the best toner I have ever used. Within a few days of use, my face was so much brighter and glowing. Thanks @goodmolecule for making amazing products.”

    Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, vitamin C, and arbutin

    Skin Type: All 

    Cruelty-free: Yes

    Quantity: 4 fl oz

    Pros
    • Great quantity for the price
    • A little goes a long way
    • Refreshing formula
    • Fragrance-free
    • Maintains natural moisture
    • Vegan
    Cons
    • Not hypoallergenic
  • Best for Oily Skin Types

    Farmacy Deep Sweep 2% BHA Pore Cleaning Toner

    Farmacy Deep Sweep 2% BHA Pore Cleaning Toner
  • Quite a hit among drugstore toners for oily skin, this toner employs the power of salicylic acid to bring an optimal oil-water balance to your skin. “Deep Sweep” is an accurate name for this product because its exfoliative properties go a long way in sweeping off excess dirt, sebum, and other impurities from the skin pores, leaving it clean and refreshed.

    Speaking of “refreshed”, the papaya, chlorella, and moringa extracts infused in this formulation do the skin a favor by restoring health and vitality. The product also helps decongest pores to prevent breakouts and helps the skin maintain its homeostasis.

    Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, moringa seed extract, moringa water, papaya enzyme, and chlorella

    Skin Type: Oily and combination

    Cruelty-free: Not mentioned

    Quantity: 4 fl oz

    Pros
    • Antioxidant-rich
    • Smoothes skin texture
    • Astringent properties
    • Naturally-derived ingredients
    • Controls excess shine
    Cons
    • Not for dry skin
    • Underwhelming results
  • Best for the Skin Barrier

    LANEIGE Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer

    LANEIGE Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer
  • My personal experience with this skin-replenishing toner from Laneige has been a little too good, which is why I’m very excited to review this. Comprising a milky consistency, the formula is boosted with ceramides and peptides, which work together to smoothen the skin texture and strengthen its barrier function.

    If your skin is especially vulnerable to environmental aggressors, then this rich, milky formula is a must-have product to support your skin and make it more resilient. Hence, I deem this product to be a lot more than just a soothing toner — it’s a multi-tasking skincare miracle. 

    Key Ingredients: White tea leaf, ceramides, and peptides

    Skin Type: All

    Cruelty-free: No

    Quantity: 1.69 fl oz, 5.7 fl oz, and 10.8 fl oz

    Pros
    • Richly moisturizing
    • Lightweight formula
    • No irritating ingredients
    • Non-greasy
    • Reduces the appearance of wrinkles
    • Absorbs well into the skin
    • Soothing properties
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Messy, wasteful dispensation
  • Best to Reduce Excess Shine

    Murad Clarifying Toner

    Murad Clarifying Toner
  • This clarifying toner from Murad is perfect to refine and unclog the pores of your skin by sweeping away impurities, excess oil, and grime. Hence, for skin types that are naturally a bit greasy or for people who live in humid areas, this product is an excellent investment to maintain overall skin balance. 

    Featuring witch hazel extract as a star ingredient, this toner exhibits fantastic antibacterial and antioxidant properties (research conducted by the Journal of Inflammation). Due to these benefits, you can count on the product to prevent acne-causing bacteria and anything that triggers inflammation or breakouts. All in all, this toner is perfect for making your skin squeaky clean.

    Key Ingredients: Witch hazel, vitamins C and E, algae extract, and grapeseed extract

    Skin Type: Oily, combination, and acne-prone

    Cruelty-free: Yes

    Quantity: 6 fl oz

    Pros
    • Helps with oil balance
    • Shrinks pores
    • Soothes the skin
    • Refreshing feel
    • Reduces excess shine
    Cons
    • Can be a bit drying
  • Best for Sensitive Skin

    EltaMD Skin Recovery Essence Toner

    EltaMD Skin Recovery Essence Toner
  • More than just a toner, this amazing formula from EltaMD is a fantastic skin “texturer” (if that’s a word). Why, you ask? It’s because it is infused with skin cell-communicating amino acids, as well as supporting humectants that restore and strengthen the skin barrier. So, if your skin is on the sensitive side, or is particularly vulnerable to certain environmental aggressors, then this essence toner would act as a great shield for it. 

    When I checked the ingredients list of this soothing toner, I was quite surprised to see that there are very few ingredients added to it — meaning less nonsense and more to-the-point skincare. Besides, there isn’t a single skin type I can think of that wouldn’t benefit from the product’s restorative properties, which makes it safe for blindly investing in!

    Key Ingredients: Malachite extract, taurine, arginine, and glycine

    Skin Type: All, particularly sensitive skin

    Cruelty-free: No

    Quantity: 7.3 fl oz

    Pros
    • Smoothes skin texture
    • pH-balanced
    • Safe for acne-prone skin
    • Vegan
    • Rich in hydrating ingredients
    • Fragrance-free
    • Reduces skin irritation
    Cons
    • Expensive
  • Leanest Formula

    Tower 28 SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray

    Tower 28 SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray
  • Perhaps the only one of its kind, this toning facial spray from Tower 28 contains only three ingredients — all skin-beneficial and nothing that the skin doesn’t need. It is a highly acclaimed product across the globe, and satisfied customers cannot get enough of this dermatologist-approved, pH-balanced goodie!

    Featuring hypochlorous acid — an unpopular skincare acid that has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and skin-therapeutic properties — this toner spray soothes the skin and maintains a healthy balance (research by the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology). This toner is impressively skin-reparative and a great investment for those with eczema and other skin sensitivities.  

    Key Ingredients: Hypochlorous acid

    Skin Type: All, especially sensitive, eczema-prone, and acne-prone

    Cruelty-free: Yes

     Quantity: 1 fl oz, 4 fl oz

    Pros
    • pH-balanced formula
    • Alcohol-free
    • Fragrance-free
    • Hydrating
    • Free of harsh ingredients
    • May help with acne
    • Vegan and non-toxic
    Cons
    • Very small quantity
    • Flimsy packaging
  • belif Aqua Bomb Hydrating Toner

    belif Aqua Bomb Hydrating Toner
  • If belif says that its product is hydrating, I have no reason not to “believe” it — and this Aqua Bomb toner is no exception! Infused with the pinnacle of hydration, hyaluronic acid, along with glycerin, panthenol, nettle leaf extracts, and more rejuvenating plant extracts, this formula ensures that water penetrates really deep into the skin with every application. 

    Regardless of your skin type, this is an excellent product to keep your skin moisturized and comforted for a really long time, especially if it has been parched due to extreme weather conditions. The soothing ingredients in this toner are plenty, too, allowing it to calm redness and flare-ups whenever they occur. Every application of this product would be like a splash of ambrosia that your skin would drink up in a jiffy!

    Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, pro-vitamin B5, glycerin, nettle leaf, oat, honeysuckle, and baobab extracts

    Skin Type: Normal, dry, combination, and oily

    Cruelty-free: No

    Quantity: 200 ml (6.7 ounces)

    Pros
    • Calms skin
    • Gives a healthy glow
    • Anti-inflammatory properties
    • Antioxidant properties
    • Works instantly
    Cons
    • The texture is a bit icky
  • Innisfree Green Tea Hyaluronic Acid Toner

    Innisfree Green Tea Hyaluronic Acid Toner
  • Having used Innisfree’s sheet masks for quite some time, I had to get my hands on its hydrating toner as well, and I’m glad that I was able to. Of course, this toner is infused with green tea, which is a key ingredient in most of the brand’s product ranges. This, in addition to hyaluronic acid, leaves the skin feeling soothed and refreshed (research by the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences). 

    A staple in Korean skincare, this toner also contains amino acids that help improve overall skin health. All in all, this gentle toner is a nourishing, rejuvenating investment for most skin types. 

    Key Ingredients: Green tea extract, hyaluronic acid, and amino acids

    Skin Type: All

    Cruelty-free: Yes

    Quantity: 80 ml (2.7 ounce)

    Pros
    • Replenishes the skin’s moisture barrier
    • Improves skin texture
    • Keeps skin hydrated
    • Light and fresh
    • Pleasant scent
    Cons
    • Overpriced
    • Underwhelming

    Now that you’ve seen my product recommendations for the best toners — across categories and different skin needs — ensure that you go through the following buying guide to make a wise and mindful decision when investing in one.

    How to Select a Facial Toner?

    1. Purpose And Type:

    Before investing in a toner, consider why you need one or what’s that one thing missing in your existing skincare regime that a toner can cater to, considering that toners are versatile products that serve multiple purposes. If you wish to boost your hydration game, then a humectant-rich hydrating toner, like the CeraVe Hydrating Toner would be your ideal pick. 

    If your purpose is to literally “tone” your skin, then an exfoliating toner or something with niacinamide, arbutin, alpha-hydroxy acids, etc, would be the way to go. And, if you want to improve the texture of your skin or decongest clogged pores, then an oil-balancing toner or something infused with ceramides, peptides, and amino acids, would be the right choice. For sensitive skin that needs help with calming redness and inflammation should go for toners with cell-communicating ingredients as well as anti-inflammatory agents such as licorice root, nettle leaf extracts, allantoin, amino acids, tranexamic acid, centella asiatica, etc. 

    2. Skin Type Suitability:

    Always go for a lightweight, oil-free, and non-comedogenic toner if you have oily, combination, or acne-prone skin. Such toners should seep into the skin seamlessly and not leave any sticky residue. On the other hand, richer and more emollient formulations are ideal for dry skin types. Ensure that such toners don’t have a very drying or astringent after-effect and help maintain the pH balance of the skin. Hypoallergenic and mild toners are the best for sensitive skin types. 

    3. Ingredients to Avoid:

    You must know that most toners over the decades have been alcohol-laden formulations that have a very sharp effect on the skin and disrupt its moisture balance, and many toners today continue to be the same. While not all alcohols are bad for the skin, if any toner has a large concentration of say, denatured alcohol, then, it’s best to avoid it. Other ingredients to avoid are sulfates, benzenes, triclosan, strong synthetic fragrances, dyes, formaldehyde, and allergens. 

    Having seen my product recommendations and factors to keep in mind when buying a toner, let me further assist you in how to use a toner the right way. The following guide will help you once you’ve bought the product of your choice, to make the best of it.

    How to Use a Facial Toner Correctly?

    1. Consider the Type of Toner You Want to Use:

    As the purpose and benefit of every toner is different from the other, the usage varies too. If this is an exfoliating toner, make sure that you don’t use it more than twice a week and preferably limit the usage to nighttime only. Likewise, you can limit the usage of astringent, acne-controlling, or oil-balancing toners to 2-4 times a week as well, if not less. However, if this is a gentler, hydrating toner with very less potent ingredients, then you may use it as often as every day (AM or PM)

    2. Method of Application:

    In the case of a lightweight hydrating toner that comes with a sprayer, you can simply spritz it a couple of times on your face and neck. If this is a richer formulation that doesn’t come with a sprayer, then you can pour a small amount (3-5 drops should suffice), rub it between your palms, and then press it onto your face and neck. However, considering the consistency of toners, this method can get tricky. So, ensure you don’t waste any product while applying.

    If this is a cleansing or exfoliating toner, a great way to apply it is to pour a few drops onto a cotton pad and swipe the pad across your face and neck, covering all areas. This way, you can physically extract the dirt, excess oil, and grime too, and enhance the toning and texturizing properties of the formula. 

    3. Always Follow up with a Moisturizer:

    Regardless of the type of toner you’re using, following up with a moisturizer is essential to complete your skincare regime. This helps support your skin with hydration and seal all the skincare benefits into the skin. 

    Conclusion

    While everything else in your skincare stash has its place and benefit, with the best toners for your specific skin type and concern, you can give a boost to your skincare experience and expedite the results. To some, toners don’t appear to do much, but having tested and researched several products (including the ones on this list), I’ve come to the conclusion that some toners offer benefits in a way no other product can. 

    For example, the Tower 28 SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray helps with skin balance and rejuvenation like nothing else, and the pixi Skintreats Glow Tonic restores a healthy glow that everyone desires for their skin. To sign off, I would really hope you thoroughly consider your overall skincare regime first so the toner you invest in can seamlessly fit into your routine.

    FAQ's

    Are toners good for your skin?
    Most toners are excellent for the skin, but it all boils down to what kind of product you’ve invested in and for what purpose. A toner would be helpful only if you’re using the right one for the skin concern, and the product fits into your overall skincare regime seamlessly.
    Is it necessary to use a toner?
    Unlike other products like cleansers, moisturizers, and sunscreen, a toner is less of a skincare essential and more of an upgrade. If you want to improve your complexion and get an even skin tone, investing in a toner would be a great idea.
    When should one be using a toner?
    A toner may serve multiple purposes. However, if one is using a toner, it should be to even out the tone and texture of the skin. Other purposes include reducing the pore size, oil balance, exfoliation, pH balance, hydration, or simply making the skin squeaky clean.
    How often should one use a facial toner?
    It depends on the type of formulation. If one is using a hydrating toner, they can use it every day, based on their requirement and skin tolerability. If it is an exfoliating toner, then one shouldn’t use it more than twice a week.
    Can a toner help with acne?
    If the toner contains anti-acne ingredients as its key ingredients such as salicylic acid, azelaic acid, niacinamide, witch hazel, etc., then it can certainly help with acne reduction.
    How long should one leave the toner on their face for?
    Toners are leave-in skincare products. So, ideally, one should leave the toner on till the next time they wash their face — AM or PM.

    Why Trust Pinkvilla

    Our in-house beauty and skincare expert, Anoushka, is this article's author. While most of her articles focus on generally accepted skincare essentials such as cleansers, moisturizers, and sunscreens, some toners that she recently came across surprised her a lot, and she decided that they deserve a fair review. While she had personally used toners from Paula’s Choice, CeraVe, and Laneige for quite some time, she made some pleasant discoveries in her product research that stayed with her. Much of her product reviews here are influenced by many customer testimonials. This list of recommendations contains toners for all budgets and skin concerns.

    Our product experts study the specifications of every product we suggest and try them out to bring what’s proven to be worthy of your money, time, and energy. We also have subject matter experts from various fields like Fashion, Skincare, Haircare, Home Decor, and Health & Fitness onboard to make sure our suggestions are credible and trustworthy. You can trust Select to be your faithful shopping guide for all the right reasons!

     

    Author BIO
    reviewer
    Anoushka Sinha
    Skincare Coach & Writer

    Anoushka is certified in Professional Skincare and is a Mass Media (Journalism) graduate from Mumbai University. As a More