These Are the 10 Best Toners for Oily and Combination Skin (and Why)

BY Jenn Sinrich · July 26, 2018

Best Toners for Oily and Combination Skin 2

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.

This alcohol-free face-mist spray is ideal for those with acne-prone skin, since it gently exfoliates and soothes. “It has aloe and this will help with redness associated with acne-prone skin and the AHA will gently exfoliate the dead skin cells,” explains Debra Jaliman, M.D., board-certified NYC dermatologist, assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and author of Skin Rules. “It also has soothing chamomile extract and is oil-free and fragrance-free.”

All skin types can benefit from using this revitalizing toner, made with a combination of vitamins, enzymes and amino acids, all of which nourish the skin and prepare it for further treatment. It also contains lactic acid, which helps exfoliate and remove excess oil from the skin, explains Dr. Zeichner, as well as a pumpkin extract that’s rich in antioxidants and vitamins.

This hydrating mist is created through the use of biodynamic farming, a traditional mechanism of farming that’s considered the next level up from organic—it’s essentially the truest method of growing ingredients and creating healthy products. It contains salicylic acid, which gently removes dirt and impurities from the skin, as well as mineral-rich spring water that softens and conditions.

Lily Talakoub, M.D., dermatologist at McLean Dermatology and Skincare Center, loves this toner because of its ability to balance the skin’s pH while simultaneously decreasing sun damage and hyperpigmentation, all thanks to its infusion of vitamin C. “It also ​contains witch hazel as an antibacterial and aloe​ vera to decrease inflammation,” she adds.

This multitasking toner is designed to enhance your skin in almost every way possible, by reducing fine lines, acne, visible pores and dehydrated skin. The key ingredients are lactic and azelaic acid. The former is a gentle AHA that stays on the surface of the skin and the latter helps promote a balanced skin tone and addresses unevenness.

Dr. Talakoub explains that this balancing toner is best for those with sensitive skin that’s also oily or combination since it is gentle and non-irritating. “It contains cucumber extract to help soothe the skin and reduce redness,” she says. It also contains marshmallow extract, which promotes cell regeneration and helps repair damaged skin.

This toner can be used on most skin types, including normal, oily and combination. It contains a blend of hyaluronic acid, panthenol, jojoba and ceramides to promote a calm, clear complexion while reducing redness and sensitivity.

This salicylic acid–containing toner is great for clearing and exfoliating the skin, explains Dr. Jaliman. “It helps control oil production and unclog the pores, which can be especially beneficial during the summer months.” It’s also a great prep for the skin before you apply primer and foundation.

This toner also has salicylic acid, which is mild and instantly unclogs and tightens the pores. It’s also nice and gentle—the formula has been tolerance-tested, meaning you can use it without fear of irritation.

“This toner helps prevents acne breakouts and will also keep your skin smooth,” says Dr. Jaliman.


Say goodbye to excess oil once you apply this clarifying toner. It helps deep-clean the skin, removing impurities that are buried inside pores, prevents breakouts and helps tighten pores. It also keeps inflammation at bay, thanks to a combination of algae extract and allantoin.

Jenn Sinrich

Jenn Sinrich is a freelance writer, editor and content strategist in NYC. Her work can be found in Women’s Health, SELF, Reader's Digest, Health, PureWow and more. When she's n... Read More >

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