The 13 Best Toners for Any Skin Issue You’re Dealing With

Dryness, dullness, signs of aging, or acne? There’s a toner for that. 

Toners are one of skincare’s most fiercely debated topics, right next to physical exfoliators and eye cream. Here’s the thing: I would be skeptical of toners myself had I not witnessed their miracles firsthand. Honestly, I don’t feel like my skincare routine works effectively if I don’t prep my skin with a toner first. Toners act as the next nourishing and replenishing step after cleansing, and are meant to prep and prime your skin for skincare products to follow. Plus, with skincare technology getting better and better, toners are integrating ingredients that are clinically known to be effective. Just like hyaluronic acid in your serum will give your skin amazing hydration, the same ingredient in a toner will give you those skincare benefits in a lightweight, easy step.

For Problem Skin: Eve Lom Rescue Toner

For skin that comes with all the relatable concerns—redness, acne, unwanted bumps, irritation–this toner is a great solution for those issues and more. Formulated with AHAs and natural extracts, skin is gently exfoliated and soothed for great all-over improvement.

Buy at Nordstrom $70

For Dry Skin: Biba Los Angeles Hydrating Toner

If you have the fun problem of dry skin that’s also sensitive, this hydrating spray toner is gentle enough to use daily. It comes in spray form that can either be spritzed directly on the face, or onto a cotton pad to be swiped on. With witch hazel, water, and cucumber extract, this toner feels lightweight but still offers a necessary dose of hydration.  

Buy on their website $38

For Dull Skin: Goodhabit Rescue Me Texture Magic Exfoliating Toner

This toner has a powerhouse of ingredients that work hard to resurface and brighten skin. With AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs, it might seem like this product isn’t gentle enough for sensitive skin. On the contrary, however, even those with sensitive skin can use this toner daily. An amazing bonus? This toner helps blocks the effects of blue light on the skin.

Buy on their website $66

For Breakout-Prone Skin: Skinceuticals LHA Toner

For anyone trying to get ahead of aging concerns and control unsightly breakouts, this toner was made for you. Formulated with lipo hydroxy acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid, this toner sloughs off dead skin while also purifying clogged pores. With daily use, you can look forward to firmer, brighter skin. 

Buy at Dermstore $40

For Sensitive Skin: Mario Badescu Aloe Vera Toner

If toners seem to always cause sensitivity to your skin, this aloe vera-infused toner is the perfect pick. Irritation and redness have been historically treated with aloe vera, and this product utilizes the ingredient’s soothing properties.

Buy at Nordstrom $15

For Irritated Skin: Feuillete Smooth Water Essence

If you’re a newbie to the whole toner business, this product is a great beginner product. There’s nothing this toner doesn’t do–it brightens, hydrates, and soothes. Whether your skin is sensitive, oily, or dry, this toner can treat all concerns. As an added benefit, it’s also fragrance-free for anyone with perfume sensitivity. 

Buy on Amazon $48

For Uneven Skin: Tatcha The Essence Plumping Skin Softener

For skin that is suffering from dryness, aging, or an uneven texture, this product is the key to solve all those issues. With a myriad of Japanese superfoods, this gentle toner plumps the skin and softens roughness caused by these skin concerns. 

Buy at Sephora $95

For Bumpy Skin: Sisley Paris Botanical Floral Toning Lotion

Formulated with natural extracts, this toner turns irritated, rough skin into a softened, hydrated textured. It is alcohol-free, which makes it a good option for dry and sensitive skin that is suffering from bumpiness, roughness, or redness. To truly immerse yourself in the French lifestyle, use this toner twice a day and soak in the goodness.

Buy at Nordstrom $106

For Inflamed Skin: Truly CBD Jelly Toning Solution

This jelly-textured toner, which contains glycolic acid and CBD, is a hero for skin that needs effective exfoliation but is prone to inflammation. Glycolic acid effectively exfoliates while CBD calms the skin. For anyone that has sensitive skin and is hesitant to use chemical exfoliator but wants to be free of the pollution and dead skin cells that clog pores, this product is for you. 

Buy at ULTA $25

For Severely Dehydrated Skin: Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid

If your dry skin leaves you with flakes, rough patches, and uncomfortable tightness or cracked areas, this toner is the perfect solution. Packed with moisturizing ceramides, this toner soaks into the skin to deliver long-lasting hydration. 

Buy at Sephora $39

For Visible Pores: Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner

For anyone who wants to carry summer with them wherever they go, this watermelon-scented toner delivers tightening and exfoliating effects without stripping the skin. With PHA and BHA acids, it gently exfoliates and reduces the appearance of pores. Not to mention, it’s also incredibly hydrating thanks to the hefty amount of hyaluronic acid. 

Buy at Sephora $34

For Aging Skin: Guerlain Abeille Royale Anti-Aging Fortifying Lotion Toner

This toner is water-light and formulated to treat signs of aging. Guerlain Royal Jelly, black bee repair technology, and honey all work together to protect the skin from future aging, while also reversing fine lines and wrinkles. Even better, Guerlain partnered with Brittany Black Bee Conservatory to sustainably source their ingredients while protecting the bee population. 

Buy at Sephora $75

For Oily Skin: Shani Darden Skin Care Sake Toning Essence

While toners and essences often get lumped into one category, this product takes the best of both to treat oily skin. With sake water, niacinamide, and natural extracts, this toner brightens skin, controls oil production, all while diminishing the appearance of pores. A cult-favorite product, this toner has a host of fans that rave about its effectiveness.

Buy at Sephora $52

Marie Claire article

6 Skin Care Ingredients You Should Be Using

By now you know the drill: Every few months a new wunderkind skin care ingredient is discovered in some remote locale, and pretty soon it’s everywhere—in your masks, serums, foot creams, insert-step-in-your-beauty-routine-here. But at the end of the day, there are only a handful of ingredients that have stood the test of time and truly become essential. “In skin care, they’re the holy grail,” says Cambridge, Massachusetts, dermatologist Ranella Hirsch.

You’ve probably heard of all these by now. (Retinol, hyaluronic acid, AHAs, peptides, and vitamin C all make the list.) But you may still be a little confused on what exactly each one does—and how you should be using them. Here, I break it all down.

Retinol: For Softening Wrinkles and Fighting Acne

If there’s one ingredient lauded more than any other for its wrinkle-fighting, complexion-perfecting abilities, it’s this derivative of vitamin A. “Here’s the deal with retinol,” explains Hirsch. “We were talking about it in 1975, and we’re still talking about it now because it works.” In study after study, retinol has been shown to build collagen, decrease fine lines, improve skin’s texture, and fight acne.

The prescription version (retinoic acid, or Retin-A) acts fastest, but it’s pricey—and it can be drying. Over-the-counter retinols take eight to 10 weeks to show results (compared with six weeks with an Rx), but are normally paired with anti-inflammatories to calm the redness, peeling, or dryness; they can also cost less than a prescription, depending on your insurance, generally starting around $100.

Whichever type you use, you’ll want to ease into your retinol use slowly. “I start patients on the mildest version, one night a week at the onset,” says New York City dermatologist Amy Wechsler. As your skin begins to tolerate a pea-size amount, you can eventually go up to two nights a week. But stay off harsh physical scrubs and peels while you’re using retinol; remember to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize; and use extra sunscreen for the first six months.

Try Lancôme Visionnaire Skin Solutions 0.2% Retinol Correcting Night Concentrate $75

Hyaluronic Acid: For Serious Moisture

This tiny molecule helps lubricate joints and keep skin plump, and is one of the world’s finest humectants (elements that attract and retain water). What does that mean for skin? “Hyaluronic acid is awesome,” says Wechsler. In addition to being a terrific moisturizer, she says, it partners well with other active skin care ingredients (so you can layer it with retinol, for example, and use it daily). “The beauty of hyaluronic acid is that it doesn’t have any fine print,” says Hirsch. “It benefits any skin type, at any age. And the truth is that everyone looks great with hydrated skin.”

Try L’Oreal Revitalift Derm Intensive Hyaluronic Acid Serum $30

Vitamin C: For a Glow Boost

Doctors love vitamin C because it’s an incredible antioxidant and it stimulates collagen production—in other words, it increases glow and evens out spots. For best results, look for a high concentration, up to 20% in a serum or cream.

Vitamin C does have a downside, though: It breaks down when exposed to oxygen and light. Seek out truly airtight packaging, watch out for discolored formulas, and know that because vitamin C loses efficacy in the sun, it’s best as a nighttime product, says Montclair, New Jersey, dermatologist Jeanine Downie. But “use it on the nights you’re not applying retinol,” she adds. It’s also great in an eye cream to help soften fine lines and spots.

Try SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic $166

Peptides: For Firming

“Think of peptides as Legos—they’re protein building blocks,” says Hirsch of the skin strengtheners. Studies show certain peptides can boost collagen production and speed wound healing; or they can mimic the effect of Botox when applied topically. That means you’ll likely want to introduce peptides in your 30s, when you notice your skin doesn’t feel quite as firm or bouncy as it did in your 20s. They can also be used on your body to smooth and firm skin, and they may fade old scars and stretch marks. There’s emerging science that some peptides have been found to safely treat eczema.

Try Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Life & Firm Moisturizer $95

Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide: For Eradicating Acne

Okay, these are technically two ingredients—but the pair is name-dropped so frequently in the same acne-fighting sentence that it seems a shame to split them up.

“Salicylic acid is a lipid-soluble acid, so it penetrates into oily pores to clean them out, and it’s anti-inflammatory too,” renowned dermatologist Fredric Brandt once told us. “Benzoyl is antibacterial, so together they work synergistically.”

Look for bacteria-zapping benzoyl peroxide in face washes or spot treatments. It’s widely available in drugstores, ranging from 2.5% to 10% concentrations. (To minimize irritation, start with the lowest.) Try salicylic acid in an allover toner or cream to prevent breakouts, or on pimples if you have sensitive skin—it’s gentler than benzoyl, explains Wechsler.

Try Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10 $5

Alpha Hydroxy Acids: For Smoothing

“My patients love, love, love AHAs,” says Downie, who explains that the powerful exfoliators are genius for clearing up sun damage, hyperpigmentation, acne, and fine lines. Multiple AHAs exist, but the most popular (and potent) is glycolic acid, which penetrates damaged skin to spur fresh, new skin cell production. Glycolic acid does its exfoliating work in everything from once-monthly in-office face peels to nightly washes, but it’s best not to use glycolic acid while you’re on retinols. And if your skin is sensitive, try glycolic’s less intense AHA cousin, lactic acid, which also chemically exfoliates but isn’t as drying.

Try Pixi Glow Tonic $14

GLAMOUR article

“Maskne” Is a Thing — Here’s How to Fight Face Mask Breakouts

So, you made (or bought) your own face mask and have been diligently wearing it for the past few months. Now, out of the blue, you’re experiencing breakouts in strange new spots.

You’re likely dealing with “maskne“, the latest not-so-fun term to enter the coronavirus lexicon.

While it was primarily healthcare workers experiencing mask-induced breakouts and skin irritation at the beginning of the pandemic, now that masks are becoming a part of everyday life for the rest of us, dermatologists are being bombarded with (virtual) appointments for this skin woe, explains New York City-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. And unfortunately, the warm weather we’ve all been waiting for is only making matters worse.

So you’re not alone in your skincare struggles… but how do you treat these breakouts, and prevent them from happening in the first place? Here, derms break down everything you need to know about maskne.

What exactly is ‘maskne’ — and what causes it?

As the name suggests, “maskne” is acne brought on by wearing a face mask — and its been on derms’ radar long before COVID-19. “We saw similar skin concerns with mask use during the SARS crisis years ago,” says New York City dermatologist Michelle Henry, M.D.

“The clinical term for maskne is acne mechanic and it is caused by friction, rubbing, and occlusion of the skin by outside forces,” she explains. (You may have even experienced this from wearing sunglasses in the sweaty summer months.)

“Any friction and irritation can push bacteria into the skin, creating micro-tears — which allow easier entry for bacteria and dirt — and can lead to inflammation which then drives the acne process,” explains dermatologist Tiffany J. Libby, M.D, assistant professor of dermatology at Brown University.

You’ll notice these breakouts where the mask sits — the bridge of the nose, chin, and cheeks — and they make take the form of whiteheads, blackheads (if oxidized by the air), or even abrasions and cysts, Dr. Engelman says. “Masks can also trigger rosacea, perioral dermatitis, irritant dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and skin breakdown,” Dr. Henry adds.

While masks already trap humidity, dirt, oil, and sweat on a good day, our chin, mouth, and nose area are even more susceptible to breakouts now that summer is here. “Maskne is absolutely worse during the summer months as the increased oil production in our pores creates the ideal environment for cysts,” Dr. Henry says.

How can you prevent and treat maskne?

While any form of acne is frustrating, maskne can be particularly pesky due to the combination of factors that contribute to it — and the fact that you can’t simply eliminate the ‘outside force’ causing it. (Seriously, keep wearing your mask!) Luckily, you can make a few adjustments to your skincare routine to combat mask breakouts, soothe irritation, and stop the vicious maskne cycle.

Wash your face before and after wearing a face mask.

Hopefully, you’re taking the time to diligently wash your hands throughout the day — and avoiding touching your face as much as possible. But you should also be sure to wash your face with a gentle cleanser before applying a mask to prevent trapping bacteria under the mask and pushing it further into your skin, Dr. Engelman says.

“I recommend starting with a benzoyl peroxide cleanser once a day to target bacteria and remove excess oil,” Dr. Libby says. “I love Differin Daily Deep Cleanser which has 5% benzoyl peroxide, which is just as effective as [higher concentrations], and gentler.”

For healthcare workers on the frontline wearing the tightest-fitting masks for many hours of the day, a combination of “maskne” and eczema (which can occur in the forms of irritant or allergic contact dermatitis) is common, and can manifest as dry, itchy skin, Dr. Libby says. If you are experiencing both of these conditions, it’s important to immediately cleanse your skin after removing your mask and to use a cleanser that won’t over-dry or stripping your skin, which can worsen irritation.

Both derms recommend Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, which can also be used without water. If you have irritated or sensitive skin, gently swipe a cotton round with the cleanser over your skin, Dr. Libby suggests.

Use a chemical exfoliant.

While benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid spot treatments can help target whiteheads once they are formed, chemical exfoliants, which dissolve dead cells on the skin’s surface, are key for preventing mask breakouts from forming in the first place, Dr. Engelman says.

She suggests opting for one with salicylic acid, like Humane Clarifying Toner, once per week to unclog pores, without irritating sensitive skin. (It’ll also leave skin softer and brighter in the process.)

Apply a skin-soothing moisturizer.

After cleansing, be sure to add moisture back into the skin — but skip your heavy winter creams. “I suggest a gentle, fragrance-free and non-comedogenic moisturizer like Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Lotion,which is formulated with hyaluronic acid to help hydrate, soothe, and restore the skin protective barrier,” Dr. Libby says.

“I recommend moisturizers with ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid to help strengthen and reinforce the skin barrier,” Dr. Henry adds.

For healthcare workers or those experiencing extra dryness and eczema, applying an OTC cortizone cream on a short-term basis is helpful in alleviating skin irritation and calming down inflammation, Dr. Libby says.

Ditch your foundation.

Dr. Engelman suggests ditching heavy foundations as we head into warmer months, which will only further trap bacteria in your pores under your mask — the perfect storm for acne.

Instead, opt for a tinted moisturizer, or tinted sunscreen for breakout-friendly SPF protection, like IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream SPF 40.

But don’t forget the SPF.

If you’re forgoing makeup altogether, you still need to apply sunscreen. “Even though our faces will be mostly covered by masks, other areas are still exposed, so it’s best to just apply an even layer of SPF as the finishing step to your morning routine,” Dr. Libby says. (And FYI, you need to wear sunscreen indoors, too).

Look for non-comedogenic and oil-free options as they work to decrease excess oil that can clog pores and lead to acne. “I like mineral options, as zinc oxide is an anti-irritant and has antimicrobial properties, both which are suitable for acne-prone and sensitive skin types,” she adds.

Or, swap your moisturizer for one with SPF. Dr. Henry suggests Olay Regenerist Whip SPF 25. “It’s a great non-comedogenic option for your daily moisturizer with sunscreen that won’t clog your pores.”

Add a soothing, occlusive balm.

If you’re already dealing with maskne, creating a physical barrier to protect this chapped skin is key. Layer on a hydrating and occlusive balm, like Glo Skin Beauty Barrier Balm, along the area where the masks sits right before you put it on, Dr. Engelman says. This will not only soothe parched skin, but it will prevent bacteria from spreading, she adds.

Or, opt for pimple patches.

Another physical barrier Dr. Libby suggests is silicone tape or Duoderm ($24; amazon.com), again applied to skin where the mask contacts your face and applies the most friction. “Acne patches, like COSRX, are another dual-functioning solution as they apply acne medication to individual lesions throughout the day, while also serving as a physical barrier to the mask,” she says.

And don’t forget to wash your fabric mask every time you wear it.

If you’re wearing a fabric face mask, you should be washing it after every. single. time. you wear it. This is important for your health: You don’t know what bacteria the mask has come in contact with and don’t want germs making their way into your nose or mouth. But it’s also helpful for keeping breakouts at bay.

Bottom line: “Masks, while important for our safety, can trap in humidity, dirt, oil, and sweat and — if you’re not cleaning them properly or reusing them for prolonged periods of time — this can further exacerbate these symptoms,” Dr. Libby says.

That’s why it’s a smart idea to make or buy a few masks (ideally in a softer fabric, like a silk blend, to reduce friction) so you can easily switch them out and wash them in between uses, Dr. Engelman says. Another option? A mask with the aforementioned zinc oxide embedded in the fabric may be helpful, Dr. Henry adds. “Zinc is anti-inflammatory and soothing to the skin. It will contribute to protecting the skin barrier.”

InStyle article