Face essences, tonics, waters, oh my!
Face toners have come a long way since the old-school dehydrating astringents made to control oily skin. “Toners are water-based or water-alcohol based solutions or mixtures,” says Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab chemist Danusia Wnek, but "there are now formulas that are alcohol- and astringent-free and can be less drying,” she says.
This new generation of toners are often labeled as essences, tonics, waters, or solutions. “These versions contain treatment ingredients similar to serums and moisturizers, so they’re gentler,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
“The goal of a toner is to remove any excess residue from cleansing and prep the skin for other skincare products," says Wnek. Toners are traditionally applied on clean, dry skin using fingers, cotton, or a cloth after face cleansing and before other leave-on skincare treatments like serums and moisturizers. Incorporate a toner into your skincare routine if you want additional complexion-purifying or treatment benefits or want to swap out heavier skincare formulas for lighter liquids in warmer months.
When shopping for a toner, look for formulations tailored to your complexion type or primary skin concern or goal. Here are Wnek's suggetions:
Here, the best face toners you can buy for all skin types, from oily and acne-prone to combination, dry and sensitive, for hyperpigmentation and more, according to GH Beauty Lab scientists and experts.