The best toners if you have oily skin
Plus, why you should be using a toner if you aren’t already
Beauty Crew Contributing Editor / January 22 2019
Toners are greatly misunderstood. Most of us aren’t sure what they do. Others don’t know why they’re necessary. And then some of us are just plain clueless about where to even start when picking the right one. Allow us to set you straight, because, spoiler alert: you need one in your life - especially if you have oily skin.
First up, what is a toner?
Defining what a toner is can be tricky, because it’s the sort of product that aims to please, doing so many different things depending on the formula you choose (there are hydrating ones, brightening ones, pore refining ones, oil-controlling ones, and so many more!).
A toner bridges the gap between your cleanser (it does a last sweep to remove any remaining traces of makeup, dirt and dead skin cells) and your treatments (it prepares skin for a deeper penetration of their ensuing nutrient-rich formulas).
Why do you need to use a toner?
By moistening the skin post-cleansing with its ultra-absorbent, often water-like consistency, a toner preps your complexion so it’s more receptive to soaking up all the goodness from the potent products you’re about to apply. A toner’s job is also to rebalance your skin and restore its natural pH level - something oily skin needs particular help with.
How to use a toner
Toner should be applied after your cleanser and exfoliant, and before serums and moisturiser. Most toners can be used once or twice a day, but for extra astringent toners (which most formulas for oily skin are), use them every second day to begin with. Be mindful that if your toner contains any active ingredients that cause sun sensitivity, like retinol, you should stick to using it at nighttime only, and always apply sun protection during the day.
What are the best toners?
If you have oily skin, you know that one of the worst things you can do is use over-drying formulas (you’ll only encourage your skin to produce more natural oils to compensate), and if you’ve ever used a *bad* toner (you know the ones - they sting and strip) then you have likely vowed to never use one again. But we urge you to give them a second chance.
So, what is a good toner for oily skin? Our Beauty Crew team and SUPERcrew members have cast their votes for the best toner for oily skin - these are their personal favourites, with reviews.
#7 / Clinique Clarifying Lotion 4
Formulated specifically for oily skin, this oil-free toner is focused on exactly what your skin needs to look its best - it removes any excess oil, cleans out pores, dissolves dead skin cells and paves a clear path for your serum and moisturiser to be able to do their own job.
The review: “My favourite toner is Clinique Clarifying Lotion 4. It is easily applied with a cotton pad as part of a nighttime routine. It just leaves my skin feeling fresh, smooth, clean and glowing. I have found it is essential to moisturise after using it. Best results are when used as part of the three-step cleansing system.” Amanda G, SUPERcrew member
#6 / Etude House Wonder Pore Toner
This is a great face toner for oily skin that struggles with large pores. It helps clear pores and rebalance oil levels in skin, plus, the cooling effect of the formula makes it a winner for sensitive skin types. And it boosts skin elasticity so mature skin will love its tightening benefits, too. This Korean toner is free from mineral oil, fragrance, colouring, talc, animal ingredients and silicone oil.
The review: “This toner is everything you want and need. It’s pH-balanced, reduces pore size and combats oil and shine where needed. I have sensitive skin and this has been so gentle, no irritated skin anywhere. At just under $20, how can you not love it?” Anne, SUPERcrew member
#5 / Paula's Choice Resist Weightless Advanced Repairing Toner
This lightweight toner helps rehydrate skin (yes, oily skin needs hydration), improve skin tone and keep skin protected from environmental aggressors. If you’re concerned with signs of ageing (including sun damage) in addition to your issue with excess oil, you’ll love that this formula has goodies like resveratrol and niacinamide in it, as well as skin-soothing willow bark extract, and hydrating glycerin and sodium hyaluronate.
The review: “This is gentle and lightweight and refreshing, my skin always feels hydrated and soothed after using it. I have combination oily/dry skin that is also sensitive, and this is great for all concerns. It makes my pores look smaller and adds a brightness to my face.” Milan, SUPERcrew member
#4 / Peter Thomas Roth Glycolic 8% Toner
Glycolic acid is a top ingredient for getting deep into your pores to clear them, and this product contains an impressive eight per cent of glycolic acid in its formula. It also contains witch hazel, which is a favourite astringent for controlling oil and chemically exfoliating skin. Numerous Sephora US reviewers have also reported that this toner helped fade their acne scars. Another thing to love: The press down top that makes it easy to soak your cotton pad without any mess or effort.
The review: “This toner feels nourishing on skin (but not at all greasy) and doesn’t leave you with that drying, tight feeling that some toners can. I haven’t been using this toner for long but I am already starting to see an impressive improvement in my skin texture, and have been getting less breakouts.” Chelsea Tromans, Beauty Crew’s Contributing Editor
#3 / Thayer Natural Remedies Witch Hazel Aloe Vera Formula Alcohol Free Rose Petal Toner
This alcohol-free skin toner for oily skin has over 8000 five-star reviews on Amazon. Another great choice for sensitive skin (hello, soothing aloe vera) as well as for treating acne (thanks to witch hazel), this toner claims to be suitable for dry, combination and oily skin, making it a great all-rounder if your skin tends to change with the seasons or the time of month. In addition to getting your skin’s pH back to normal, this formula protects against dirt, pollution and other impurities.
The review: “The best toner for oily skin would have to be Thayer Natural Remedies Witch Hazel Aloe Vera Formula Alcohol Free Rose Petal Toner. It has an extremely long name but it normalises my skin when it is oily, instead making it glow, and stops it from breaking out. It does this without drying out my skin at the same time.” Aneta, SUPERcrew member
#2 / Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner
The Koreans are ALL about toners, so it makes sense to put your oily skin in the hands of a cult Korean brand like Cosrx. It’s formulated with natural ingredients, including an AHA (10 per cent apple fruit water) and a BHA (10 per cent willow bark water), which exfoliate dead skin cells, control excess sebum and hydrate skin with essential vitamins. If you suffer from blackheads and whiteheads, this is a top choice for you.
The review: “I love the Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner for oily skin. It's a gentle exfoliating toner that helps my skin tone and texture remain super even, and decreases the oiliness I usually get around my nose. I have noticed all my base makeup products look more even too since using this daily after cleansing!” Alex, SUPERcrew member
#1 / Alpha-H Liquid Gold
Alpha-H’s most iconic product, this is one hardworking skin care formula. It’s a toner that keeps oily skin under control, but also overachieves by fighting the signs of ageing, improving the appearance of pigmentation and revitalising a dull and tired complexion. It contains five per cent glycolic acid to unclog pores, control oil and exfoliate; licorice extract to brighten and even skin tone; and silk proteins to bind moisture to skin. We also love that it’s made in Australia.
The reviews: “Technically this isn’t just a toner – it’s a treatment that ticks off toner, exfoliator, serum and moisturiser – but it’s what I use in the toner step to help manage those annoying side effects of oiliness, AKA congestion and pimples. While it doesn’t necessarily mattify skin, it does a really great job at keeping skin clear and smooth. Don’t be alarmed if you feel a tingle on application – that’s all part of the fun. Just make sure you ease into using it if your skin isn’t used to chemical exfoliants.” Carli Alman, Beauty Crew’s Editor
“Since I added this to my nightly routine, the appearance of my skin improved tremendously. A few months back I stopped using it as my skin went through a really sensitive stage, and I honestly forgot how amazing it is until I started again recently. Would definitely recommend to anyone looking to boost the glow and texture of their skin.” Shannon, SUPERcrew member
Looking for more oily skin products to add to your kit? This is the drugstore cleanser Rosie Huntington-Whiteley uses, and these are the two most popular skin care products at ASOS (which both happen to be oily skin-approved).
Do you have a favourite oily skin toner? Share your review with us below - we’d love to know what you use and love!
Main image credit: Getty
Chelsea is BEAUTYcrew’s Contributing Editor. She has a sweet spot for anything that claims to make skin glow and won’t leave the house without a slick of mascara. Chelsea has 10 years of experience as a beauty editor and her words can be found on BEAUTYcrew, Women’s Health, Daily Addict, The Joye and Primped.