On the laundry list of skin care products you should have in your medicine cabinet, you’re probably aware that toner should be one of them. But if you’re not totally sure what toner really does and why it’s so important, in addition to your cleanser, moisturizer, masks, etc., you’re far from alone. Traditionally, toners were alcohol-containing solutions that were used to help remove excess oil from the skin; however, Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, explains that this definition has changed in recent years. “The newest generation of toners are alcohol-free and may even contain high trading or anti-aging ingredients,” he says. “Additionally, many modern-day toners go by the name of essences or tonics, depending on the product.”
If you’re someone with oily, acne-prone or combination skin, toner should most certainly be a staple in your skin care regimen. You might experience oiliness only in certain areas of your face, namely your T-zone, and toner makes it easy to address these areas without drying out other areas that are less oily and not in need of stripping. “People with oily skin should look for ingredients like salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid that is soluble in oil and can help remove excess sebum from the face, as well as mandelic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid derived from almonds that has antimicrobial properties,” says Dr. Zeichner.
If you have combination skin, he recommends a toner that contains glycolic acid, which can help remove oil from the T-zone, but is also useful in dryer areas like the cheeks, Dr. Zeichner adds. “Oftentimes, toners combine multiple different alpha and beta hydroxy acids at lower concentrations, which allows them to be effective while minimizing potential irritation to the skin.”
If either of these skin types sounds like you, here are some of the best, dermatologist-approved toners on the market.