Cleanse-tone-moisturize used to be the holy trinity of skin-care regimens. But in the past decade, beauty shoppers (and penny savers) have lost their faith in toners. Some say you don’t really need to use one, especially those that strip the skin of its natural oils. (We’re talkin’ to you skin-stinging Sea Breeze.)
But a handful of new generation toners want to woo you back to the practice of spritzing your post-cleansed face. They’re using great natural ingredients that actually do something super-beneficial for your skin, like reducing blackheads or shine to boosting radiance and hydration.
Originally posted February 21, 2013, updated July 11, 2016.
Here are the 10 top toners worth trying…
For Former Seabreeze Addicts
Pangea’s pore-tightening toner comes with a cooling feeling and invigorating scent—only it uses lime as an astringent, which doesn’t strip your skin. It’s ideal in the morning, post-workout, and even as a body spray for “backne.”
We’d almost categorize this very active, very effective toner as a skin-care treatment. It’s great for wrangling hard-core breakouts and blackhead-dotted T-zones, as well as for anti-aging concerns, since it boosts cell turnover with lactic acid. (Not for sensitive skin.)
Tough on Oil, Sensitive on Skin
This toner’s tough on oil production (thank organic sage oil and peppermint). But it’s also quite gentle on your skin because it’s blended with calming chamomile and grapeseed oil, whose essential fatty acids help fortify skin. You might not get that wow-factor tingle when you use it, but that’s actually a good thing if you have sensitive skin.
Antioxidant-Loaded and Firming
This four-ingredient toner contains antiseptic witch hazel and lavender water with extracts of antioxidant pomegranate and anti-inflammatory elderberry. Elderberries have great anti-aging effects, and the flowers contain tannins that help firm skin, says Zen Society founder Kaitlyn Lockman, a board certified holistic health practitioner and master herbologist.
Amala’s really onto something with this toner: It works on the long-term project of preventing your pores from clogging while reducing shine (thanks to rice powder and blue lotus), so your skin is left looking immediately matte. It’s great after a workout, too.
It helps put an end to those pools of oil that form just a couple hours after you’ve cleansed your face, and it does so without drying out your skin. Small miracle in a mist.
Jurlique Purely Bright Mist, $34
If you have spots from acne or sun damage or your complexion needs a little boost, tone with this citrus-witch hazel mist that’s also “radiance restoring.” A VitaBrightKX blend of herbal and floral extracts target skin discolorations to help even out blotches and brighten skin.
Gym Bag Favorite
You can cut 90 seconds off your post-workout splash-and-dash with this combo cleanser-toner. It contains nourishing olive oil soap and tones skin with witch hazel extract.
Kitchen Sink Wisdom
S.W. Basics Toner, $27
This simple toner uses kitchen-sink wisdom (raw apple cider vinegar and witch hazel) and Brooklyn know-how to win you back the skin you want. It’s great for most skin types and the super unisexy packaging makes it equality appealing to him and her.
Even normal skin can get freaked out from too much sweat, smog, sugar, and cranking radiators. Take comfort: this toner uses thyme (nature’s benzoyl peroxide) as a pore detoxer—and it does double-duty by nourishing and hydrating skin with rose hip seed oil (an amazing fatty acid for skin) and sodium hyaluronate, which draws 1,000 times its weight in water to the skin.
Now to moisturize—here are the 5 best options that also happen to have SPF. To keep your skin clear, try these Ayurvedic techniques for fighting acne.