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The best toners of 2024, tested and reviewed

Our top facial toners from brands including Pixi, Thayers and PCA Skin can ease rough texture, dark spots, redness and other concerns.

Three toner bottles on a bright background.
The best toners of 2024 come from brands including Thayers, Pixi and Shani Darden. (Amazon, Sephora)

Toners might not be as common as face cleansers in the average skin care routine, but they hold numerous benefits for everyone, regardless of skin type. Before you say, "Wait, I still have nightmares from using a harsh, blue-hued toner in my youth," don't fret. The best face toners today are not the questionable toners of yore. (I'm sure there are enough of us who can form a '90s toner trauma support group if need be!)

Quick Overview

Back in the '80s and '90s, most toners contained alcohol, which was dehydrating and sometimes irritating. The toners of the past were mainly meant to balance the skin's pH after cleansing and removing excess dirt. These days, since toners are more pH-balanced (and mostly alcohol-free), the purpose of these skin-fortifying potions has changed. While they'll still rid your face of leftover dirt and makeup, today's toners also refine pores, exfoliate the skin and provide added hydration (sometimes with the aid of natural ingredients and moisture-boosting agents like hyaluronic acid).

Of course, regularly using one or two of the best exfoliators in your routine can also help with enlarged pores and rough skin texture, but the power of a good toner can't be ignored. Here are the best toners of the year for normal to dry skin, oily skin, sensitive skin and everything in between.

Key ingredients: 5% glycolic acid, ginseng, aloe vera, fructose, sucrose | Benefits: Refines pores, improves circulation | Size: 3.4 ounces | Skin type: All

In the world of toners, Pixi's Glow Tonic is one of the most celebrated and well-rounded. Beauty editors and experts have counted on Glow Tonic to improve their complexion for years. It has 5% glycolic acid for exfoliation and witch hazel to reduce the appearance of pores (one of my main issues), but it's gentle and soothing thanks to aloe vera and other botanicals. Interestingly, it also has ginseng, which is believed to help improve circulation. Plus, it's decently priced. For $15, you get 100 milliliters, and for under $30, you get a huge bottle — 250 milliliters.

It's always a good idea to start slowly with acids. I'm always careful when using a glycolic acid product, but Glow Tonic is incredibly gentle. I can use it every day without issue, and it's easy to apply (just a couple of swipes using a reusable cotton pad). My skin is smoother, my pores look less prominent and I have an overall brighter complexion.

Pros
  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Alcohol- and paraben-free
  • Not tested on animals
Cons
  • Contains added fragrance and color additives
  • Some reviewers say it's drying
$15 at Amazon

Key ingredients: Witch hazel, aloe, rose | Benefits: Tones, balances, soothes and hydrates | Size: 12 ounces | Skin type: All

Witch hazel, the key ingredient in Thayers, is a common ingredient in toners. Not just for cleansing, it's especially useful because it contains anti-inflammatory and antiviral compounds, which can help with oily, acne-prone, irritated skin. This legacy brand grows its witch hazel on a family farm in Connecticut and extracts it in a really cool way. It soaks the witch hazel clippings in water alongside organic aloe vera (similar to brewing tea), creating a gentler formula.

This is marketed as a multipurpose product, which is always a selling point for me. Not only does it hydrate your skin post-cleansing, balance oily skin, reduce the look of pores and improve texture, but you can use it to soothe freshly shorn or waxed legs, sunburned skin, bug bites and more. One reviewer mentions using it to clean their dog's ears (though you probably want to get a vet's approval before doing anything like that). Plus, it's around $10. I consider this my runner-up for best overall toner. Also, if you aren't into the popular rose scent, there are other naturally scented options such as lavender, cucumber and coconut water, or you can get it unscented.

Pros
  • Made with farm-grown ingredients
  • Won't block pores
  • Cruelty-free
  • Multipurpose product
Cons
  • Contains phenoxyethanol, which can irritate eyes
  • Might not be best to use daily for supersensitive skin
$8 at Amazon
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$11 at Ulta Beauty$11 at Rite Aid

Key ingredients: Pumpkin wine, lactic acid, aminoguanidine | Benefits: Gentle exfoliation, refines pores | Size: 4.4 ounces | Skin type: All

Many of us with over-40 skin deal with dark spots, no matter how much SPF we slather on each day. Regular exfoliation is key to sloughing off dead skin cells and revealing healthy, brighter-looking skin. So, if hyperpigmentation is your main concern, a toner that focuses on exfoliation is your best bet. This PCA toner contains lactic acid, which can aid in reducing those dark spots and help treat acne. It also has pumpkin wine, which sounds delicious but is packed with nutrients.

Aside from dark spots, this toner has helped reviewers with oily and breakout-prone skin. When I began testing it, I had a stress zit that would just not go away. It would keep coming back like a horror movie villain, and I was beginning to think someone put some kind of curse on me. After a couple of uses, the annoying little whitehead and the redness around it were finally gone. This toner is steep at almost $50, but it's worth it.

Pros
  • Fragrance- and paraben-free
  • Good for all skin types, especially mature skin
  • Contains vitamins, amino acids and enzymes
Cons
  • Pumpkin scent may be too strong for some
  • Some users complain about bottle leaking during travel
$48 at Nordstrom
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$46 at BeautifiedYou.com$46 at Dermstore

Key ingredients: Sake water, sebocytine (rose cannina fruit extract), niacinamide | Benefits: Controls oil production, reduces the look of pores, brightens and evens out skin | Size: 4 ounces | Skin type: Oily, normal, combination

I love an essence — it might even be my favorite step in my skin care routine. Essences soften the skin, which allows it to better absorb other products. The fact that this is a two-in-one treatment that combines a toner with an essence is a big deal. Anything that can save time is a winner in my book.

Another unique factor is that it contains sake, which can help with brightening, while the rosehip extract and niacinamide control oil and reduce the appearance of pores. This mattifying product is particularly great for anyone with oily, combination or acne-prone skin, so if you have extremely dry skin, you might want something more hydrating.

Pros
  • Free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates and other questionable ingredients
  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Great for oily skin
Cons
  • Has a light scent, but some users prefer unscented
  • Some users aren't fans of the pump dispenser
  • Not great for dehydrated skin
$52 at Sephora
  • Skin type: Depending on your skin type, look for toners with skin-clarifying ingredients like niacinamide (for drier skin) and glycolic or lactic acid (for combination or oily skin).

  • Ingredients: Avoid products that are alcohol-based — they can be too harsh even for those without sensitive skin.

To find the best toners on the market for every budget or skin concern, I tested over 15 products, grading them on active ingredients, skin benefits, feel, value, scent, texture and effectiveness. I chose toners that would work for a range of skin types that are from trusted brands with a proven track record of creating high-value skin care products.

K-beauty brand Then I Met You has bridged the best of both worlds with its Birch Milk Refining Toner, which is focused on both hydrating and exfoliating the skin. The unique ingredient is birch juice, which is filled with antioxidants, vitamins, amino acids and all kinds of good stuff. The brand is also transparent with the toner's pH level of 4 (experts say a good toner should have a pH level around 4 to 7) — which you can't say for all brands. Still, this one felt more like a peel than a toner, which is why it didn't quite make the list. But if you're looking for an exfoliating toner/peel hybrid, this might be for you.

Tower 28 SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray appears on many best toner lists, and it has a lightweight texture and a handy spray bottle, but ultimately I couldn't get past the scent. It's very strong, almost with a whiff of chlorine.

While toners are a second thought for many, Joanna Czech, celebrity aesthetician and founder of Joanna Czech Skin Care, says they're a key step in an effective skin care regimen. "Toners help prime the skin for all your additional products. Furthermore, toners restore the skin's natural pH balance, promoting its overall health and optimal function," she says.

As we learned above, toners don't do just one thing, so whether you incorporate them into your skin care regimen depends on your needs. "Some formulas strictly hydrate the skin, while others claim to refresh, brighten and leave the skin feeling soft," explains Dr. Shereene Idriss, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Idriss Skincare. "A majority of toners are actually chemical exfoliants with exfoliating acids. So before asking if it's a necessary step in your routine, what you need to know is the ingredients in the toner you are using and the purpose you are using it for. A hydrating toner is not a necessary step, but a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) toner is a nice addition to a routine for oily skin."

"Toning should be the first step after cleansing," Czech says. Toners work best after face washes but before you apply any serums, lotions and sun protection.

Czech says you should avoid alcohol-based products, as they can be dehydrating. Meanwhile, Idriss says you should be extra cautious with any toners if you have sensitive skin and to always remember to do a patch test.

Joanna Czech, celebrity aesthetician and founder of Joanna Czech Skin Care

Dr. Shereene Idriss, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Idriss Skincare