The best toner ingredients for your skin type, according to skincare experts

Ashley Laderer
·6 min read
GettyImages 1208618712
Toners can contain a variety of ingredients, like aloe vera, witch hazel, and chamomile. Grace Cary/Getty Images
  • The best toner ingredients for oily skin are salicylic acid, witch hazel, and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs).

  • For dry skin, opt for toners with glycerin or hyaluronic acid, since they can provide hydration.

  • If you have redness or sensitive skin, using a toner with aloe vera or chamomile can offer some soothing relief. 

  • This article was medically reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with a private practice in New York City.

  • Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more advice.

With a wide selection available today, toners can be used for a variety of skincare concerns, whether you have oily or acne-prone skin, dry skin, or sensitive skin.

 

Toners are applied to the skin after washing your face, and they can provide numerous benefits, depending on the type of toner that you use and the ingredients it contains.  

Here are seven popular toner ingredients and how they work to benefit the skin, so you can decide which is best for you.

Toner ingredients for oily or acne-prone skin

Oily skin and acne are very common skin concerns. In fact, acne affects around 50 million Americans every year. There are various ingredients you can look for in a toner to combat excess oil and acne.

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), which means it is lipid, or oil, soluble. It breaks through oil barriers and penetrates the pores deep into the sebaceous glands,which produce sebum, or oil, says Kim Chang, a medical aesthetician at Baylor College of Medicine. This helps reduce excess oil on your skin, which can help get rid of acne. 

Salicylic acid also acts as a chemical exfoliant, which means that it can help slough off dry, dead skin, says Chang. This can help prevent pores from becoming clogged, which can reduce the frequency of breakouts.

A 2015 comprehensive review stated that this ingredient is effective and safe for the treatment of acne. Additionally, a small 2018 study showed that commercially available salicylic acid reduced comedones (small bumps and blackheads) by 88.45% and inflammatory papules (larger pimples) by 89.16%.

Witch hazel

 

Witch hazel is a plant that is commonly used as an astringent, which means that it can tighten the pores and reduce redness and inflammation, says Michele Green, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in private practice in New York City. 

Witch hazel cleanses deep into the pores, preventing blackheads and acne, says Green. Another benefit of witch hazel is that it can remove excess oil from the skin, which may also help reduce acne, since oil can clog pores and cause breakouts. 

AHAs

 

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are a group of acids that act as chemical exfoliants. Green says that this makes AHAs ideal for acne-prone and oily skin, since exfoliation helps remove pore-clogging dead cells.

Common AHAs include glycolic acid and lactic acid. Chang says that AHAs also help balance the moisture in your skin, which keeps it hydrated.

A 2010 study found that the prevalence of acne decreased in 64.2% of participants who used AHAs for 60 days. 

Toner ingredients for dry skin

People with dry skin need to use different products than people with oily skin since those products can be harsh, and dry the skin out further. Toner ingredients that promote hydration and lock in moisture are best for dry skin, such as: 

Glycerin

Glycerin is a humectant, which means it helps moisturize the skin. "It is also referred to as a moisture magnet due to its ability to attract moisture from the air," says Green.

This ingredient is non-comedogenic, Green says, which means it will not clog up your pores. Plus, glycerin actually has similarities to human skin, and it's known to imitate your skin's natural moisturizing factor. Because of this, it can work well for all skin types, but it']s humectant properties make it ideal for dry skin that needs more moisture. 

Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is another humectant, and it naturally occurs in the body. However, Green says that as you age, your body produces less of it, which can contribute to dry skin. 

"Hyaluronic acid is also known as the moisture magnet due to its ability to hold one thousand times its weight in water," says Green. 

Because of this, hyaluronic acid is able to quench dehydrated skin, and the ingredient is synonymous with moisturizing.

A small 2014 study found that after just two weeks of hyaluronic acid treatment, women saw an improvement in skin, and after eight weeks, 96% experienced increased skin hydration, and 55% experienced an enhancement in skin firmness and elasticity.

Toner ingredients for sensitive skin

If you have sensitive skin or deal with any skin conditions such as eczema, you may need to consider using a toner ingredient that is a little easier on the skin. 

Chamomile

Chamomile is anti-inflammatory and calming for the skin, says Chang, who recommends it for people who are dealing with constant skin redness or irritation. 

Chamomile is also safe and beneficial for people with conditions like eczema, psoriasis, skin rashes, and rosacea, says Green. 

Additionally, chamomile contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants that can help protect skin cells from environmental or ultraviolet damage. 

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a succulent plant that has been used medicinally and in skincare since 1500 BC. Green calls it a "miracle plant" and says it has both anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Specifically, Green says aloe can soothe skin irritation, reduce redness, and boost skin cell production. This is because aloe has been shown to trigger the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid, compounds in the skin that contribute to skin moisture and plumpness.  

Aloe is also a humectant, says Chang, which means that it has the ability to attract water molecules from the air and pull it into your skin, which is what also makes it a great ingredient for people with dry skin. Additionally, aloe contains mucopolysaccharides, which are sugars that allow moisture to bond to the skin, as well as amino acids that can soften hard skin cells. 

The bottom line

To notice real improvements in your skin, no matter what you're trying to combat, you must stay diligent with your skincare routine, including your toner use. "You want to prevent things before they happen, so you have to be really consistent with your product usage," says Chang. 

You should use the same toner every day for the best results. If you aren't experiencing improvements from your skin ailments after consistent toner use, see your dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and a game plan to get your skin looking and feeling better.   

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