It seems the debate surrounding facial toner is never-ending. There are some experts who claim it’s optional and others who say it’s the smartest way to put moisture back into your skin post-cleansing, thus leading to fewer breakouts and other skin setbacks. As someone who has tried both methods for extensive periods of time, I’m more inclined to believe the latter. Furthermore, I find the best exfoliating toner to be a worthwhile pick-me-up when my complexion can’t seem to break free of dullness, dryness or pimples.
Solutions meant to slough away dead skin cells, target dark spots and brighten the overall face are typically formulated with one or various types of acids: alpha-hydroxy acids, beta-hydroxy acids or the gentler poly-hydroxy acids. There are also exfoliating toners that may utilize fruit enzymes—the most popular being pineapple—for even gentler exfoliation. The ones I’ve had the most success with combine these powerhouse ingredients with counteractive ones that soothe and hydrate the skin as it’s being transformed. Think aloe, ginseng, and botanical oils.
Knowing how often to use an exfoliating toner depends on your individual skin concerns; whereas someone with resilient or excessively oily skin may get away with daily application, a sensitive skin type may have to try once-a-week use. Either way, below are some of the best exfoliating toner options you can add to your routine right now.
No B.S. Purifying Facial Toner
No parabens, sulfates, artificial fragrance, gluten or petrochemicals to be found in this oil-balancing solution.
Buy: No BS Purifying Facial Toner $30
Georgette Klinger Phytic Exfoliating Toner
A daily toner for oily and combination skin types made with rice-derived phytic acid, a gentle botanical exfoliant.
Buy: Georgette Klinger Phytic Exfoliating Toner $24
Mario Badescu Witch Hazel & Rosewater Toner
Though witch hazel makes for a powerful astringent, it can also be irritating, making the counterbalance of soothing rosewater particularly effective.
Buy: Mario Badescu Witch Hazel & Rosewater Toner $14
Yes To Glow-Boosting Daily Exfoliating Tonic
Ten percent of this drugstore exfoliant is antioxidant-rich pineapple enzyme and alpha-hydroxy-acids for retexturizing the skin.
Buy: Yes To Glow-Boosting Daily Exfoliating Tonic $14.99
Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner
This gentle beta-hydroxy-acid-infused daily toner is a super mild solution for oily skin.
Buy: Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner $14.98
Glytone Enhance Cleansing Toner
Oil-free and non-comedogenic, this refreshing toner is gentle enough for daily use on most skin types.
Buy: Glytone Enhance Cleansing Toner $32
Skinceuticals Conditioning Toner
A synthetic fragrance-free clarifying toner alpha and beta hydroxy acids for exfoliation and eucalyptus oil for calming moisture.
Buy: Skinceuticals Conditioning Toner $58.88
Versed Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Solution
Four different acids can be found in this potent (vegan) toning solution for correcting uneven skin tone and targeting acne scars.
Then I Met You Birch Milk Refining Toner
Just 1% of this birch juice solution is a concentration of powerful alpha-hydroxy acids and gentler poly-hydroxyacids.
Pixi Glow Tonic
A cult favorite formulated with five percent glycolic acid, as well as aloe vera, ginseng and botanicals to nourish and brighten the skin.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
Paula’s Choice’s top-selling product is a gentle salicylic acid solution that sheds dead skin cells and minimizes the appearance of large pores.
OleHenriksen Glow2OH Dark Spot Toner
This nighttime toner is a potent blend of glycolic acid, lactic acid and witch hazel water for reducing the appearance of dark spots in as little as one week.
The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
Though this formula is 7% glycolic acid, the addition of aloe and Tasmanian Pepperberry also eases the redness and irritation typically associated with acids.
Glossier’s derm-tested, vegan and hypoallergenic skin exfoliant is 10 percent AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs to “unglue” dead skin and visibly brighten your complexion in a few short weeks.
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