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If you’re into skin care and regularly deal with oily skin, you’ve probably encountered facial toners before, even if you’ve never used them. But we’re here to shed some light on toners, what they are, what they do and direct you to some of the best toners for oily skin.
So what is toner, and why do you need it? Toner is a water-based wash meant to offer another level of cleansing (and skin toning) on top of a regular face cleanser. Face cleansers are better for an all-around clean, but many toners have ingredients, such as acids, specifically to exfoliate skin, cleanse pores and clear oil. It’s pretty common for toners to have moisturizing and anti-inflammatory ingredients too so they don’t strip or dry out your skin. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, a toner will be the perfect middle step to add to your routine.
What Ingredients Should I Look for in a Toner?
- Alpha hydroxy acids: Glycolic acid, lactic acid and citric acid are all AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) that break down dead skin and oils, promoting skin turnover.
- Salicylic acid: Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid and functions similarly to AHAs. It helps to break down dead skin, cleanse pores and minimize acne.
- Sulfur: Sulfur is a chemical element (as in the periodic table) known for its antibacterial properties and oil-absorbing and pore-cleansing abilities.
It also helps to have moisturizing ingredients, such as aloe vera, glycerin, panthenol, allantoin, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide as well as anti-inflammatory ingredients like witch hazel.
How Do I Apply Toner?
Toners should be applied after cleansers but before moisturizers or serums. Once you’ve finished rinsing off your cleanser, dry your face, take a cotton ball or cotton pad, dab some toner on it and gently rub it over your face. Start with your chin and cheeks first before heading to the T-zone. You can also put some toner on your fingers and apply it directly if you prefer. For best results, do not rinse, and instead follow up with your daily moisturizer, targeted treatments and SPF. (The SPF is important because the acids can increase skin sensitivity to the sun.)
Some toners can be used twice daily while others should be used every few days. It varies from product to product and can depend on your skin. Be sure to follow the instructions on the bottle and if you find a toner is irritating your skin, stop using it or try using it less frequently.
If you’re concerned about how a toner may affect your skin, do a test patch on your upper arm before trying it on your face. If you develop any excessive redness, irritation or discomfort, consider a different one. If you buy directly, many brands have friendly return policies you can use.
Why Trust SPY?
Because we’ve tested hundreds of facial skin care products, including toners, over the years, we know quite a lot about men’s grooming gear. We know firsthand how to use these toners and how they can affect skin.
But don’t just take our word for it; check out some of the best toners for oily skin below. Though your oily skin could probably get by with just a great acne wash, your skin can look and feel so much better with a toner in the mix.
1. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Stress Control Triple-Action Toner
When it comes to acne and oily skin, you want the longtime king of the game, Neutrogena. The Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Stress Control Triple-Action Toner promises to fight acne before it even becomes visible. Salicylic acid does the heavy lifting to cleanse pores and clear oil while green tea and cucumber soothe and refresh your skin.
2. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution
With a bit of salicylic acid and 2% glycolic acid, the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution is a highly rated and effective toner for oily skin. The two acids work together to break down dead skin, minimize the appearance of pores and generally cleanse dirt, grime and oils.
At the same time, this is a pretty lightweight toner compared to some other options, so if you have more sensitive skin, give this a try.
3. ProactivMD Balancing Toner for Acne-Prone Skin
Proactiv was peak ‘90s, but it’s still around today because its products work. The ProactivMD Balancing Toner for Acne-Prone Skin is actually a new take on the brand’s classic toner. It’s pricey for its size, but it’s filled with reliable ingredients to cleanse oily skin and minimize acne without stripping skin. Citric acid takes lead but witch hazel keeps inflammation down and aloe vera, glycerin and panthenol help hydrate skin. Overall, the ProactivMD is one of the best toners for oily skin and it’s priced like it.
4. The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
BEST FOR CLARIFYING AND TONING
Whatever your skincare needs, The Ordinary has you covered. When it comes to oily skin, turn to The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution. With 7% glycolic acid, it can feel strong for some, but the brand’s scientific approach to skincare delivers results for oily skin, acne and discoloration. Plus, it’s a great value too.
5. Paula’s Choice Pore-Reducing Toner
BEST TO MINIMIZE PORES
Paula’s Choice Pore-Reducing Toner lives up to its name. But rather than go the acid route, this toner relies on antioxidants, plant extracts and ceramides to balance your skin, tone down oily parts and restore dry parts. It’s lightweight and one of the gentler toners too, but still a great toner for oily skin.
6. Innisfree Pore Clearing Toner 2X with Volcanic Clusters
BEST KOREAN SKIN CARE TONER
The Innisfree Pore Clearing Toner 2X with Volcanic Clusters is unique among toners in that it has actual volcanic clusters in it (from the Jeju Island off the south coast of South Korea). It’s lightweight and great for cleansing excess oil and clearing pores for wonderfully refreshed skin. Lactic and glycolic acids also help exfoliate and smooth skin. Just give the bottle a shake to mix the clusters into the solution before applying.
7. Harry’s Freshening Face Toner for Men
BEST TONER MADE FOR MEN
Harry’s Freshening Face Toner for Men wasn’t specially designed for oily skin, but it was specially designed for men and is a pretty good cleansing toner overall in our experience. At under $10, it’s also a pretty low-risk purchase and definitely helped tone down the oil and balance our skin without drying it out.
8. Pierre Performance Shine No More Exfoliator
Pierre Performance doesn’t market its Shine No More Exfoliator as a toner for oily skin, but practically speaking, that’s what it is. With salicylic acid as the key ingredient, it will help even out your skin and clear away accumulated oil and dead skin. The only difference here is you have to wash this exfoliator off. This is also a Black-owned business if you’re looking to support one.