Say goodbye to grease and hello to glow with these incredible toners for oily skin
Plus, why you should be using a toner if you aren’t already
Beauty Crew Contributing Editor / September 29 2023
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 levels - 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 night time 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 team and SUPERcrew members have cast their votes for the best toner for oily skin - these are their personal favourites, with reviews.
Alpha-H Liquid Gold With 5% Glycolic Acid
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 review: “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. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to boost the glow and texture of their skin.” Shannon, SUPERcrew member
$74.95 at Alpha-H
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 night time 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
$37 at Adore Beauty
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. How can you not love it?” Anne, SUPERcrew member
$34 at Amazon
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, 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
$37 at Paula's Choice
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. 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
$58 at Beauty Bay
Thayer Natural Remedies Witch Hazel Aloe Vera Formula Alcohol Free Rose Petal Toner
This alcohol-free skin toner for oily skin has over 5,000 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
$11.69 (down from $16.95) at Chemist Warehouse
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. The AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner is 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
$29 at Adore Beauty
Bioré Witch Hazel Pore Clarifying Toner
Salicylic acid is the oil-controlling, blemish-preventing must-have active ingredient. The combo of it and acne-fighting witch hazel in the Bioré Witch Hazel Pore Clarifying Toner makes it the perfect toner for anyone oily- skinned and/or acne-prone. With pore-tightening (astringent) properties, your once congested skin will be unclogged and on its way to being rebalanced.
The review: “I love witch hazel toner products and have been using them for years. This Biore one is great. I use it after cleansing and it’s simple to use, just just put a little on a cotton pad and wipe across my entire face. I can see the dirt that cleansing missed on the pad so I love that it’s giving me a super clean. It unclogs my pores and leaves my skin fresh and clear and prevents breakouts. The witch hazel is really soothing and helps stop any redness and I have sensitive skin and have never had a problem with this product irritating it.” - Debbie P, BEAUTYcrew member
$8.49 at Chemist Warehouse
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.