Toners often get a bad rap. I blame the 2000s. If you're anything like me, your foray into toners was a trip to Boots as a teenager and picking up a toner for the first onset of hormonal acne. Raise a hand if it left your skin feeling like it was on fire?
Thankfully, toners have come on leaps and bounds, with more sophisticated formulas that cater to a number of skin types and concerns. But what exactly do toners do? "Toners are designed to hydrate and balance the skin, leaving the complexion toned, level and fresh," explains facialist Rhian Truman. "Lots of modern toners are used as a mild exfoliant, rich with AHAs [alpha hydroxy acids, which exfoliate the skin] to regenerate and brighten."
Truman explains that toners should be used after cleansing and before applying serums, moisturiser or SPF. "Alternatively you can tone in the mornings rather than a big cleansing ritual, especially if you’ve thoroughly cleansed the night before," she says. Simply pour a little on to a reusable cotton round and swipe over the skin.
So if you're on the the hunt for the best toner for your skin type, what should you look for? "If you have a sensitive, dry skin type, perhaps an alcohol-free flower water might suit your skin. Or if your skin has excess oil, I would recommend a salicylic-based toner to nibble away at the dead skin cells and clear congested skin," Truman says.
With so many options available, we've rounded up some of the best toners for each skin type and concern.
BEST TONER FOR ACNE
If you want to reduce blackheads and those spots that seem to overstay their welcome, you'll love this toner. It contains salicylic acid, which melts away dead skin cells and oils that can build up in pores to remove congestion and leave skin clearer. Beauty editors and skincare lovers swear by this trusty toner for a reason.
BEST FOR COMBINATION SKIN
Combination skin can be finicky. Your chin, nose and forehead might be oily, whereas your cheeks might be dryer or more sensitive. But don't worry. Paula's got you. Another hero product from the brand, this toner contains niacinamide to balance oily areas and glycerin to hydrate drier areas without causing congestion.
BEST TONER FOR DRY SKIN
BEST TONER FOR SENSITIVE SKIN
If you're prone to sensitive skin, you might write off toners for causing stinging. However, there are still some great options for sensitive skin types, such as this offering from The Body Shop. It's free from fragrance and alcohol, which are often responsible for that stinging sensation, and instead contains calming aloe vera to soothe irritated skin.
BEST TONER FOR DARK SPOTS
BEST TONER FOR OILY SKIN
BEST TONER FOR RESURFACING
If you've been using an exfoliating toner for a while and are looking for something stronger, this toner from Alpha-H is for you. Described as an overnight peel, this glycolic acid formula works to even skin texture and tone as you sleep, leaving you with an unrivalled glow come morning.
BEST BUDGET TONER
Having reached cult status on TikTok, this toner has developed a loyal following for its impressive results and purse-friendly price tag. At 7% glycolic acid (which exfoliates the top layers of your skin), it is quite punchy, so use this a couple of times a week at first to see how your skin adjusts.
BEST LUXURY TONER
BEST TONER FOR REDNESS
BEST TONER FOR DULL SKIN
BEST TONER FOR HYDRATION
Parched skin? This toning mist is great to refresh skin after cleansing and also throughout the day whenever your skin needs a boost. It contains hyaluronic acid and squalane, a hydrating duo that leaves tight skin feeling comfortable.