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Best skin toners: facial toners for oily, combination and dry skin that will improve your complexion

Ellie Davis
·11-min read

Overshadowed by scientific advances and the latest and greatest buzz ingredients, toners may just be one of the most undervalued steps in your skincare routine.

While once considered a prerequisite in a cleanse, tone, moisturise three-step process, as our beauty regimes have got progressively complex, this important step has fallen by the wayside for many.

Toners have gotten a bad rap. The high concentration of alcohol in formulas of time gone by would dry out skin and do more harm than good. But if you use the right one for your skin type, it is an invaluable step.

These miracle solutions work alongside your cleanser to offer an even deeper clean. Think back to all the times that you could still spot dirt and grime on your cotton wool pad even after a double cleanse. Toners improve the cleansing process by targeting any oil, film or impurities that still remain. They also work to restore skin and prep it for the next stage - whether that is a moisturiser or serum. They may also have a gently exfoliating formula to give you an even and clean canvas in which to apply your makeup.

The best toners are packed with anti-inflammatories, antioxidants and can even include ingredients like retinol or hyaluronic acid to leave your skin looking soft, smooth and nourished. They penetrate easily and deep into the skin to treat it to an instant hit of hydration.

There are toners for every skin type, whether you have dry skin and so need an alcohol-free formula, sensitive and so need a gentler alternative, oily, acne-prone, or dull. Apply twice daily after cleansing morning and night to make a real difference to your complexion. Make sure you go beyond just your face and jaw-line and treat your neck to the same thorough cleanse. Your skin will thank you.

See our pick of the best toners.

Sensitive Skin

For sensitive skin, you need a toner that will soothe, calm and offer relief while also giving a much-needed hit of hydration.

Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic

By adding this toner to your routine, you are treating your skin to an instant wave of hydration every single morning and night. The formula is gentle and alcohol-free and will not irritate sensitive skin or dry it out. It is packed with natural active ingredients that work to soothe and nourish with extracts such as aloe vera, calendula, chamomile, cucumber and the antioxidant vitamin E. It is subtly fragranced with a floral scent created by a blend of pure essential oils, including rose geranium, lavender and sweet orange. Either apply onto a cotton wool pad or opt for the exact same formula in spritz form for a hydration boost whenever your skin needs it. All makeup and residue from the day are removed to let your skin feel soft, smooth, clean and refreshed.

£16 | Feel Unique

Susanne Kaufmann Tonic Soothing

Swap out products that will irritate your sensitive skin in favour of calming formulas like this tonic from Susanne Kaufmann. Harnessing the power of nature, the product is made up of herbal compounds of chamomile, sage, mallow and St. John’s wort flowers to ease redness, dryness and irritation. It is alcohol-free and instead is packed with moisture-boosting properties, while combating shine, inflammation and restoring your skin’s natural balance.

£31 | Cult Beauty

Neal's Yard Rehydrating Rose Toner

Ideal for all skin, we tested this toner against four different skin types: mature and dry, oily, extra dry and normal. In each case skin was left feeling clean and refreshed, with little fragrance (what is there is pleasantly subtle and wholly natural).

Oily skin wasn't sucked dry but balanced out nicely once the toner had settled. Our mature skin tester felt no tightness after use compared to other products, and said it helped to remove that last bit of invisible makeup. Our extra dry tester reported no over-drying whatsoever and found the formula uniquely compatible to heavier moisturisers, ie: no clogged pores. Our normal skin friend found it perfectly suitable - but normal skin is like that isn't it? Overall, a fantastically versatile toner for a wide range of skin types that can easily be worked into your beauty routine. The blue glass bottle is gorg, too.

£16 | Neal's Yard

La Roche-Posay Soothing Lotion

Designed specifically for sensitive skin, the affordable French beauty brand’s toner will leave your face and neck feeling soft, clean and hydrated. The hypoallergenic formula works to tighten pores without containing alcohol, soap, parabens, colouring and with minimal fragrance.

£12.50 | Feel Unique

Avene Gentle Toner

If your skin is looking and feeling dry but traditional toners tend to irritate your skin, Avene Gentle Toner will be the perfect antidote. The formula is fragrance, alcohol and paraben-free, designed for delicate skin and is hypoallergenic. We love the gentleness of this product that will not exfoliate but hydrate skin while fighting against breakouts.

£11.50 | Escentual

Oily Skin

For oily skin, you'll want a product that will remove excess oil without drying it out.

Vichy Normaderm Purifying Pore-Tightening Lotion

Control excess shine with this mattifying toner from Vichy. The product is enriched with the brand’s signature Thermal Spa Water that offers an instant hydration hit that feels so fresh when applied onto the skin. It is also packed with salicylic and glycolic acid that work to refine pores, declog and leave your skin looking brighter and clearer without irritation. It can also be used on sensitive skin.

£13 | Feel Unique

Eucerin Dermopurifyer Oil Control Toner

For a thorough clean, this multi-purpose toner is designed for oily and blemish-prone skin to prep it before your moisturisers and serums. The formula uses Lactic Acid to unblock pores and fight against spots without over drying your skin. Simple and very effective.

£7.11 | Superdrug

Skin Balancing Toner

Paula’s Choice has a range of toners specifically designed for different skin types. The Skin Balancing Toner will help you achieve a calmer and clearer complexion thanks to the antioxidant, plant extracts and inflammation-reducing niacinamide contained in the formula. These work to reduce oiliness and refine pores and in our tests did in fact help to shrink the pores after continued use, although not to dramatic heights, it was noticeable.

£21 | Paula’s Choice

Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol-Free Toner

Problem skin may have finally met its match in this Kiehl’s toner that suits oily, normal and sensitive skin. The product does not contain any skin-damaging, harsh chemicals or drying agents and instead opts for natural ingredients like calendula petals, the marigold flower and comfrey plant that contains anti-inflammatory properties. The formula smooths over skin with ease, removing any makeup residue.

£35 | Kiehl’s

Acne-prone Skin

Blocking and reducing blemishes and acne both present and future, these formulas use ingredients like witch hazel to leave you with clear and clean skin.

Dr Hauschka Clarifying Toner

For blemish-prone or oily skin, a spritz of Dr Hauschka’s Clarifying Toner will penetrate through clogged pores and fight against past and future blemishes. Leaving your skin hydrated, grease-free and more importantly clean, the product is made up of a medicinal plant compound of Anthyllis, calendula and nasturtium that removes excess oil and calms irritation. The scent is also very unique and pleasant.

£25.50 | John Lewis

Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Clarifying Lotion

Designed specifically for blemish-prone skin, the formula form Clinique is crafted with gentle exfoliants and a mattifying effect that unclogs pores and removes excess oil that may lead to further breakouts. The product is packed with the likes of salicylic acid and acetyl glucosamine - powerhouse ingredients for controlling and absorbing oil and fighting against the causes of spots. After only a few uses, we could see a real effect with little to no breakouts and the fading in redness of scars.

£19 | Boots

Omorovicza Silver Skin Tonic

Breakouts don't stand a chance. With 2000 years of Hungarian skincare expertise under its belt, Omorovicza has crafted this potent beauty must-have to treat blemish-prone skin. This targeted treatment uses colloidal silver - a topical spot zapper, antibacterial and with skin-healing properties - alongside niacinamide and salicylic acid to leave your skin looking clearer, brighter and your pores more refined. Just apply to your face and neck with a cotton pad and enjoy the radiant skin that you are left with.

£55 | Cult Beauty

Aesop Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Facial Toner

The Aesop formula has become a fan favourite with both men and women alike for its hydrating formula that leaves skin looking clean and fresh. The formula contains soothing chamomile, green tea, parsley seed extracts and witch hazel that fight to reduce blemishes. One of our favourite brands, this product is definitely one of the label's heroes.

£45 | Cult Beauty

Vinopure Clear Skin Purifying Toner

Prep your skin for the next stage of your regime with Caudalie, the eco-friendly skincare label’s clear skin toner. The product promises to immediately improve your skin’s clarity while unclogging and tightening pores. Our favourite part thought? The fresh, natural scent that feels like a wash of spring with every usage.

£18 | Cult Beauty

Dull Skin

These radiance boosting toners will brighten dull skin and help you glow from the outside in.

Ole Henriksen Glow2OH Dark Spot Toner

This toner from Ole Henriksen has been deemed cult by its extensive and loyal fan base due to its impressive skin brightening benefits. The powerhouse product works over a period of a couple months to give lacklustre complexions a serious glow up, while also making a huge difference to dark spots, acne scarring and redness caused by previous spots. It also has a lovely and almost addictive citrusy scent.

£22 | Boots

Glow Tonic

Beauty lovers have risen the Glow Tonic to cult status as a must-have in your beauty routine. The formula works gently exfoliate skin thanks to the addition of Glycolic Acid to revive tired and dull looking skin to reveal the underlying radiance. It is both extremely soothing and hydrating and is now offered as a retinol variation that also helps to fight against fine lines.

£18 | Cult Beauty

Face Vinegar

Tapping into to a well-known French beauty hack – using vinegar in skincare - the Gallinée Face Vinegar replenishes skin and fights against irritations with the use of a prebiotic named Actibiome. This works in tandem with postbiotics to encourage natural bacteria to thrive and Hibiscus Vinegar to purify and protect your skin. Taking skincare to the next level, we're sure you won't look back.

£23 | Gallinée

Dry Skin

If you're skin is looking dry, give it a hydration boost with the addition of a nourishing toner.

Clarins Toning Lotion - For Normal/Dry Skin

When you have dry skin, you want to steer as far away from alcohol-based formulas as you can and this Clarins product is exactly that. Free from the further drying ingredients, it is boosted with plant extracts to refresh skin and pack it with hydration. The combination of camomile, Alpine Herbs and Linden extracts with Vitamins A, B, and E work in tandem to soothe irritation, even out your skin’s texture and give you a even more thorough cleanse.

£20.99 | Superdrug

Lancome Tonique Confort Toner

Designed specifically for dry skin, Lancome has got you covered with this powerhouse product that works to comfort your dehydrated complexion. Enriched with honey and sweet almond extract, it deeply cleans skin without drying it out further. It removes makeup and impurities from the day to leave your skin looking soft, smooth and even, ready for your moisturiser. You’ll love the way it feels after.

£27 | Lancome

Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner

Give your skin an immediate and deep rehydration with this moisture-packed formula that nourishes skin with natural ingredients to leave it healthier, radiant and smooth. The product combines rose fruit extract, rosewater, xanthan gum, rose petals and angelica leaf with hyaluronic acid so your skin can make the most of the soothing properties while also treating it to an added dose of HA hydration. While removing environmental aggressors, dirt and grime, it will not strip your skin of its natural moisture but still works to minimise the appearance of pores for a smooth and even complexion.

From £21 | Space NK

NUXE Aquabella Lotion

We love the deeply hydrating Nuxe lotion, not only the incredible Cucumber, Lemon and Jasmine scent but also for the wave of freshness that it brings to your skincare routine. The product contains natural origin active ingredients like Waterlily as well as Hyaluronic Acid to improve the appearance of skin.

£15 | Look Fantastic

Verdict:

While Liz Earle’s Instant Boost Skin Tonic is ideal for sensitive skin, it is also a great all-rounder. The natural formula works wonders on your skin for an instant refresh and boost of hydration where despite being gentle, is very effective. The toner works to soothe and heal with proven benefits for dry, combination and normal skin. It also has a pleasant fragrance.​

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