Like our diets and wardrobe, our skincare regimen should be something that changes with the seasons. In the sunny months, we prioritize sunscreen and in the colder months, we strive to avoid over-drying, using everything from oils to hydrating masks, and lots of lotion. But the hard truth is that winter air spares no soul — we’re all prone to dry skin when the temperature drops. And because of that, it can be tempting to eliminate skincare products we see as drying, specifically facial toners.
While that may seem wise in the moment, removing toner from yourskincare routine could have consequences, like breakouts and excess oil production. If you would rather dodge that unsavory fate and want advice on what to use, see below for a brief class on toners and 5 clean ones you should try ASAP.
The lowdown on toners
Toners are known for their ability to remove remaining residue on our face left behind by cleansers. Experts recommend using them as the final step of your cleansing regimen,before you apply any serums, treatments, or move on to moisturizers. Most toners fall into one of two categories — astringent or hydrating — and choosing the best type for you depends on your skin’s preferences and behaviors (aka what it likes and what it loathes).
If your skin feels dry or tight after using a toner, chances are that toner’s astringent. Astringent toners contain ingredients like alcohol and witch hazel, which help remove impurities. They can work wonders for people with acne-prone, oily, or combination skin — but sometimes cause issues for those who tend to run dry.
“Oily and acne-prone skin may particularly benefit from using a toner because it provides another way to add active ingredients like salicylic acid and witch hazel to the skincare routine — to remove excess oil, unclog pores, and temporarily shrink the appearance of pores,” says dermatologistHadley King, M.D. “People with dry and sensitive skin should avoid products that dry out the skin like alcohol-based toners,” Dr. King tells Lively. “They may also have a difficult time tolerating alpha hydroxy acids and salicylic acids, but if that’s the case, there are plenty of gentle hydrating toners for those concerns.”
In other words, anyone can use a toner, but ingredients mattera lot. According to King, those with dry skin should look for hydrating ingredients like glycerin,hyaluronic acid, lecithin, aloe vera and rose water. On the flip side, if your skin is oily or acne prone, toners with salicylic acid, AHAs, lactic acid and papaya extracts are solid options.
Now that you have some idea of what might work best for you, here are 5 of the best non-drying toners out there.
Over the last few years, Cocokind has stepped into the spotlight, becoming a go-to brand for clean beauty products with minimal ingredients. They offer a variety of products — and come out with more all the time — but their toners have a justified cult following. The Rosewater Toner is hydrating, floral, and leaves your skin feeling soft and supple, while the Raspberry Vinegar Toner (recommended for the acne-prone among us) makes the skin feel clean and fresh, without the dry, tightness one often feels post-toner. You can find Cocokind’s toners in your local Whole Foods, their website, and even on Amazon.
Anyone looking for a toner that delivers a decent dose ofhydration but also leaves your skin feeling cleansed, Caudalie’s Moisturizing Toner fits the bill. Besides containing moisturizing ingredients like castor oil, this toner is hypoallergenic,vegan, non-toxic, and free of synthetic chemicals, making it a purchase you and your skin can feel good about. This toner is generally suitable for all skin types, but it does include fragrance, so if you know that’s something you’re sensitive to, try snagging a sample at Sephora or talking to a dermatologist before adding to cart.
Let’s say you aren’t sure of your skin type — sometimes it’s dry, other times oily, acne arises at all the wrong times — and you need a product that’s likely to help you, regardless of your current woes. Indie Lee’s CoQ-10 Toner may very well be that product. Praised by all skin types, this hydrating toner is ideal for dryness and dullness, but can also help combat oiliness. The CoQ-10 Toner doesn’t strip your skin of natural oils and is packed with hydrating ingredients, so it’s both soothing and refreshing. Bottom line: You can’t go wrong with this toner.
As a Kopari deodorant devotee, I had high hopes that this toner would be amazing — and it is. Ideal for anyone seeking a gentle toner (breakout-prone folks included), Kopari’s Coconut Rose Toner is alcohol-free and can still aid in the fight against blemishes without irritating your skin or drying it out. Not to mention, it’s the perfect balance of calming and effective: It has cleansing ingredients like witch hazel, but also moisturizing ones like coconut oil. Did I mention it smells like joy? This one’s an easy yes.
And then there was one — the Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Toner by Ren Clean Skincare. This toner more or less does it all. It’s exfoliating, but gentle enough for daily use. It leaves your skin supple and glow-y, but can also balance your skin tone (if you have hyperpigmentation, this is key). To top it all off, many people credit this toner with mitigating their acne and acne-related scars. That said, this toner does contain natural salicylic, lactic and azelaic acids, so definitely apply a moisturizer afterward (though, you should still do that if the toner does have hydrating ingredients — when your skin lacks moisture, the body produces more oil to compensate, and you’ll end up with excess oil that could potentially spell breakouts).
To recap, toners can benefit all humans, even in the colder, dryer months — it’s a matter of finding the right formulation for you. No matter what your skin type — dry, oily, acne-prone, combination — it’s safe to say that your perfect toner is out there somewhere. Who knows, it could even be on this list, in which case I’m happy for you (and you’re welcome).