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After washing and before moisturizing, some people use a face toner as part of their face-cleansing routine. If you’ve heard of toner but never tried it, you may be wondering, “What does face toner do?”
Toner, a water-like fluid swiped on your face with a cotton ball or your hands, cleans up any residual dirt, gunk and makeup that regular face wash missed. Toners, sometimes called astringents, also help keep greasy skin in check. The term “astringent” refers to how the product shrinks skin, something that people with large pores appreciate.
What does face toner do beyond cleansing? Toners are often formulated to hydrate, too, and can allow any serums and moisturizers you apply to get deeper into your skin.
While many toners originally were alcohol-based, most of the toners you’ll find on shelves today are alcohol-free, as alcohol tends to overdry and irritate most skin types. According to Dermatology Times, toners originated as a way to remove sticky soap residue left behind by lye-based soaps and hard water.
“The alcohol-based toner removed the soap scum eliminating irritation and contributing to cleanser mildness,” wrote Dr. Zoe Diana Draelos in Dermatology Times.
Alcohol-based (acidic) toners also used to help balance out the pH of your skin after using alkaline (lye) soap. Since most people aren’t using hard well water or lye soap today, toners with alcohol aren’t as common. You might use one to get rid of any leftover waterproof-makeup film you have on your face or if you have particularly oily skin.
And while you don’t need to use a toner to have healthy skin, you might like it if you have acne-prone or oily skin, wear a lot of makeup daily or are just really thorough about your skincare.
Some people use micellar water instead of or in addition to toner, though micellar water is more for cleansing than for hydrating.
There’s a lot of variety in the types of toners sold today, and they are formulated for all kinds of skin.
If you have oily or acne-prone skin, look for a toner with salicylic acid or tea tree oil. If you have aging or dry skin, look for toners with propylene glycol, glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which helps your skin hold on to moisture.
Here are five top-rated toners you can buy on Amazon that have a slew of positive reviews.
Thayers witch hazel aloe vera toner with a rose petal scent comes in a 12-ounce bottle for $10.40. You can also pick this up at Whole Foods, Target, Ulta, Walgreens and Safeway. It has no alcohol in it and has “98% natural origin ingredients.” These include organic witch hazel extract, aloe leaf extract and rosewater. Thayers says that its toner is the only one with no-distilled witch extract from the witch hazel shrub so that it has “the highest levels of therapeutic tannins, the mild antioxidants that help your skin look and feel its best.”
There are over 79,000 reviews for this product with a 4.7 out of 5 rating. One Amazon reviewer praised Thayer’s toner for making her pores look smaller. Other reviewers claim that the product helped clear up their acne.
Simplified Skin Organic Bulgarian Rose Water Refreshing Mist Toner sells for around $13 for 4 ounces. The product is USDA-certified organic and uses distilled rosewater to refresh and soothe. You can use it on your face as a toner and later as a refresher facial mist or in your hair for hydration.
The rosewater toner has over 11,300 reviews with 4.6 out of 5 stars. Many reviewers commented on the pleasant rosewater scent. One reviewer said the product is refreshing and “made a noticeable difference in my redness from rosacea & eczema as well as lightened some red skin spots on my stomach.”
Dickinson’s Enhanced Witch Hazel Hydrating Toner with Rosewater is alcohol-free and sells for $5.61 per 16-ounce bottle. (While there is another Dickinson’s toner being sold on Amazon that has alcohol, this is not it.) Witch hazel is a primary ingredient for cleansing and soothing. It also has vitamin E and hyaluronic acid for anti-aging effects.
Dickinson’s alcohol-free toner has close to 12,300 reviews and a 4.6 out of 5 rating. One reviewer with sensitive skin wrote that they were “just done with overpaying” for costly facial products. When they ordered Dickinson’s toner, they liked how large and inexpensive the bottle was, and they remarked that it was effective at removing makeup residue.
Neutrogena Oil- and Alcohol-Free Facial Toner sells for $5.84 per 8.5-ounce bottle. Neutrogena emphasizes that this product is hypoallergenic and gentle on sensitive skin with a key ingredient being glycerin for hydration.
It also has a striking 4.6-stars from its 18,900 ratings. One reviewer said that the product helped their combination skin with eczema.
Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner sells for $15.30 per 8 ounces. The product copy states that this toner is best for combination skin, where you have both oily and dry spots on your face. This toner’s primary ingredient is glycolic acid for hydration and exfoliating. Plus it has grapefruit and aloe extract to reduce the appearance of pores, wrinkles and uneven skin tone.
The toner has 4.6 out of 5 stars from close to 5,000 reviews. One reviewer pointed out that while you don’t want to use this toner if you have broken or cut skin on your face, it helped her with hyperpigmentation and acne.
Do you use a toner in your skincare routine?