The best toner for every skin type in 2021

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  • Toner is the step you'll regret skipping

    Rewind to when you were 15 years old and rigorously applying toner with a ton of alcohol in it to rid your skin of spots. Remember how it stung and left your skin drier than the surface of a lasagne? Thankfully, the best toner today looks a lot different.

    If you find the right toner for your skin type, you’ll wonder how you ever coped without it. We’re not the only ones who think this, Dr Ewoma Ukeleghe, Founder & CEO of SKNDOCTOR, can’t get enough of them either, ‘Toner is a step you definitely shouldn’t be skipping. They now come in lots of different forms each with different purposes and results; calming mist toners, exfoliating glycolic toners, moisturising toners and ones that deliver AHA’s, BHA’s, peptides and antioxidants to your skin.’

    What is facial toner?

    ‘The primary function of a toner is to balance your skin’s pH after cleansing,’ explains Dr Ukeleghe. ‘And provides some mild exfoliation.’ It’s the step in between your cleanser and moisturiser within your skincare routine. It also removes any final traces of dirt, pollution and make-up that your cleanser might have missed.

    It helps to smooth and prep the skin for serum, not to mention give it an enviable glow. Swipe over just-washed skin with a cotton pad and you’ll see your complexion transform.

    Also worth noting: skipping this step can seriously hamper your skincare effects. You can slather on the best moisturiser for dry skin  but unless you’re starting your skincare off right, all of this is null and void.

    What are the benefits of using a toner?

    ‘Toners are products that don’t get much of a look in during our skincare regimes. But they can be used to clean your skin, remove excess oil and reduce pore size,’ says Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic. ‘They are also good for balancing the skin.’

    The latter is important, especially if you have acne prone skin.

    Due to the alkaline nature of soap and even the best face washes, the pH balance of our skin can get disturbed. This makes your skin work overtime to find its sweet spot again – a slightly acidic pH, around 5.5 – which can result in excess oil and breakouts.

    Beauty Drawer

    Which skin toner should I use?

    Toners will not only restore the skin’s pH after cleansing but do so much more, too. They provide similar benefits to your serum because they are infused with similar ingredients. Think vitamins, prebiotics, glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid, which can exfoliate, brighten, soothe and hydrate. PH balancing toners maintain the acid mantle of the skin – pH of healthy skin is approximately 5.5. Mattifying toners can help to balance oily skin, tighten pores, and minimize shine and are loaded with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial ingredients.

    Because they’re packed with extra skincare benefits, you need to pick a toner based on your biggest concern.

    Ingredients to look out for

    • Exfoliation – look for alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), things like salicylic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid. ‘These acids work to gently exfoliate your skin, accelerate skin cell turnover and reveal glowing complexion,’ says Dr Ukeleghe. ‘They are particularly helpful at targeting problems like dry patches, dullness and hyperpigmentation.’
    • Hydration – keep an eye out for Hyaluronic Acid. ‘The ultimate hydrating molecule, it boosts moisture and minimises fine lines,’ Dr Ukeleghe explains. ‘Glycerin, Snail Mucin and Allantoin are common substitutes.’
    • Anti-aging –  Vitamin C is your friend here, because it protects skin from ageing free-radicals.

    Best toner for combination skin

    Augustinus Bader the Essence Exfoliating Toner, £65, Cult Beauty

    best toner, Augustinus Bader the Essence Exfoliating Toner, £65, Cult Beauty

    There’s not much this toner meets chemical exfoliant doesn’t do. And that makes it ideal for those of us battling blemishes and signs of ageing. Together, salicylic acid and a hydroxy acid gently exfoliate dead skin cells and regulate sebum production for a practically poreless complexion. Simultaneously, the brand’s patented TFC8 complex helps to kickstart your skin cells’ renewal processes to improve the look of fine lines and pigmentation.

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    Best toner for dry skin

    Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Toner, £17.50, Space NK

    best toner for dry skin Kiehl's Ultra Facial Toner

    Dry skin needs hero ingredients like avocado oil, squalene and vitamin E. All three super hydrators can be found in Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Toner.

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    Best toner for sensitive skin

    Elemis Superfood Kefir-Tea Mist, £26, Lookfantastic

    best toner for sensitive skin ELEMIS Superfood Kefir Tea Mist

    If you suffer from sensitivity and are worried about toner drying out your skin, choose a formula that is alcohol-free. Aloe and prebiotics are other skin soothers to look out for.

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    Best toner for oily skin

    Mario Badescu Witch Hazel and Rosewater Toner, £12, Liberty London

    best toner for oily skin - Mario Badescu Witch Hazel and Rosewater Toner

    Likewise, excessively oily skin types may benefit from using witch hazel. This plant extract sops up oil, fights acne-causing bacteria and reduces irritation. But it isn’t as eye-waveringly astringent as those teenage alcoholic toners.

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    Scroll through a few more of our favourite toners in the round up below. Your skin will thank you for it…

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