8 Exfoliating Toners to Turn to For the Glowiest Skin

Thankfully, toners, like the rest of your skincare routine, have evolved over the years. Today, many toners are alcohol-free, and instead, are used to refresh and treat the skin before you apply the rest of your serums and creams — without making you extra dry.

One such example is exfoliating toners, which are infused with chemical exfoliants such as AHA and BHA acids, which help to loosen and break up the dead skin cells clogging your pores, while also minimizing dark spots, and improving overall skin texture and tone. These formulas often include soothing and hydrating ingredients to balance out the exfoliation.

“The use of a toner can have the added benefit of mechanical removal of skin debris,” says Dr. Melanie Palm, board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon in San Diego, Calif. “Simple application of a skincare product such as a serum does not lift off dull skin cells.”

Dr. Palm also notes that a toner can help balance pH level for the skin microenvironment.

When choosing an exfoliating toner, it’s important to consider your skin type and its needs. Dr. Palm says that those concerned with aging can benefit from using a formula with AHAs such as lactic or glycolic acids.

Acne-prone skin can see an improvement with BHAs such as salicylic acid, or a combination of both AHAs and BHAs. As for sensitive skin types, they may fair well with PHA acids, which are larger in molecular size and more gentle on the skin. The same goes for mandelic acid, an ingredient that is great for rosacea or redness.

While an exfoliating toner can be used daily, it’s best to introduce it slowly into your routine to prevent irritation. And if you have sensitive skin, Dr. Palm recommends using a liquid exfoliant once or twice a week at first to gauge how your skin handles it. She adds that if you are using anti-aging products such as retinoids or retinol, gradually start to use the toner over a period of days to weeks. But when in doubt, follow the usage instructions on the back of the bottle.

Finally, don’t expect clear, brighter skin over night.

While you may see some instant improvement, like a bit of a glow, it can take much longer to experience the full benefits of incorporating an exfoliating toner into your skincare routine.

“It takes 30 full days for the epidermal layer of the skin to turn over,” says Dr. Palm. “Therefore, I tell most patients to use a new topical product for two to three months (two to three cycles of epidermal turnover) to gauge response by the skin to active ingredients. However, many patients may notice changes prior to the three month mark.”

CORSX Refresh AHA BHA Vitamin C Daily Toner

On top of clearing clogged pores, CORSX’s toner contains brightening ingredients vitamin C and niacinamide to help minimize dark spots and boost your overall glow.

Buy on Amazon $27

Good (Skin) Days Prime Time Cleansing Toner

Good (Skin) Days, the newest in-house brand from K-beauty e-tailer Soko Glam, is a must for anyone who wants the benefits of an exfoliating toner, but is concerned about potential dryness or irritation. Antioxidant maple extract and anti-inflammatory Damascus rose water soothe and nourish skin while pumpkin and papaya enzymes provide gentle exfoliation to remove buildup from pores.

Buy at SOKO GLAM $18

Farmacy Deep Sweep 2% BHA Pore Cleaning Toner with Moringa + Papaya

Farmacy is another skincare brand that harnesses the power of superfruit papaya in its liquid exfoliant. In this formula, the enzyme is paired with 2% salicylic acid, a tried-and-true chemical exfoliant, plus moringa, for squeaky-clean pores. Together, these ingredients also help control excess oil, too.

Buy at Sephora $28

Bliss Clear Genius Clarifying Toner + Serum

Not quite as thick as a serum, but not quite as watery as a toner, Bliss’ hybrid treatment gives you the best of both worlds. Salicylic acid, witch hazel, and niacinamide tackle swollen, congested pores, while zinc tackles oil, and cica soothes skin to minimize dryness and irritation.

Buy on Amazon $18

Krave Beauty Kale-Lalu-yAHA

If uneven skin texture and hyperpigmentation are your two major skincare concerns, Krave Beauty’s green juice-inspired liquid exfoliant is for you. Glycolic acid dissolves dirt, oil, and residue that’s chilling in your pores while hyaluronic acid and kale simultaneously soothe and hydrate skin.

Buy on their website $25

Peter Thomas Roth PRO Strength 10% PHA Exfoliating Clarifying Liquid

Don’t let the name of this toner intimidate you. While Peter Thomas Roth’s liquid exfoliant contains a whopping 10% PHA acid, this chemical exfoliant effectively — yet gently — clears pores and gets rid of excess oil without over-drying skin. While any skin type will get results with this toner, the combination of PHA with AHA and BHA acids will especially benefit acne-prone skin, from healing current blemishes to minimizing post-breakout hyperpigmentation.

Buy at Sephora $58

Versed Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Solution

The Versed Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Solution has an all-star lineup of exfoliants including lactic and glycolic acids. It’s an especially good choice for anyone who struggles with post-breakout dark spots and inflammation, thanks to brightening kojic and azelaic acids. While this toner is gentle enough to use morning and night, just make sure you apply sunscreen if you use it in the morning, since chemical exfoliants can cause sun sensitivity. Additionally, Versed is a great option if you’re looking for an effective liquid exfoliant that won’t break the bank — it comes in at under $20. 

Buy at Dermstore $18

Summer Fridays Soft Reset AHA Exfoliating Solution

With lactic acid, glycolic acid, and niacinamide, this powerful exfoliating toner from Summer Fridays is a triple threat. The two AHA acids work on declogging pores and refining skin texture and tone, while niacinamide aids in reducing the appearance of pores and further clarifying skin for a more radiant finish.

Buy at Sephora $54

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The 13 Best E.L.F. Makeup and Skin-Care Products

As said by Allure editors:

“Because E.L.F.’s makeup and skin-care offerings are incredibly affordable and effective, wanting to fill up your cart with everything the beauty brand has to offer is a little too tempting. (We’ve all be there.) Add in the fact that you can pick up the products at your local Target, Old Navy, and drugstores, and you’ll start wondering if E.L.F. wants you to directly deposit your paycheck into its account.

We rounded up some tried-and-true product picks from Allure editors to make shopping E.L.F.’s vast beauty selection a little easier, more efficient, and kinder to your wallet. You’re welcome. Many of our recommendations even have a Best of Beauty Awards and Readers’ Choice Awards to their names, like best eye shadow brush and best lipstick, so you know they’re going to be amazing additions to your beauty routine. Keep scrolling to see which highlighter, eye shadow palette, and skin-care products we swear by.”

E.L.F. Luminous Poreless Putty Primer

Unlike the original version, which has a slightly mattifying effect, E.L.F.’s Luminous Poreless Putty Primer leaves the skin with a subtle dewy finish whether you choose to wear it alone or under makeup. So if you want to minimize the appearance of your pores and get a radiant glow, look no further than this primer.

Buy $10

E.L.F. Gentle Peeling Exfoliant

If you’ve never experienced the wonders of a peeling gel, allow this Best of Beauty winner to be your introduction. Straight out of the pump, it looks like a clear gel. However, when you start rubbing it onto skin, it turns into little balls. Why? The Gentle Peeling Exfoliant picks up the dead skin cells and other grime on your face and rolls it up like eraser dust. It’s incredibly satisfying and leaves skin smooth and radiant.

Buy $10

E.L.F. Cream Contour Palette

The Best of Beauty-winning Cream Contour Palette contains four different matte creams — a trio of bronzes (taupe, fawn, and caramel) and one yellow-beige hue for brightening. Each are rich and intensely pigmented but once blended out, they seamlessly melt into skin for a natural-looking sculpted finish.

Buy $8

E.L.F. SuperBrighten Peel Pads

E.L.F.’s SuperBrighten Peel Pads may not cost you much — and yet, they actually rival some of their more expensive competitors on the market. Formulated with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), citrus (from lemon peel oil and lemon fruit extract), and witch hazel, these exfoliating treatment pads work by gently buffing away excess dead skin, which, in turn, gives the appearance of a more radiant complexion.

Buy $10

E.L.F. Lip Exfoliator

Swipe the brand’s sugar-spiked Lip Exfoliator over your chapped lips to smooth away flakiness in seconds. Your lips will be happier and even a bit plumper once you’re done.

Buy $4

E.L.F. Solid Sponge Cleanser

Washing your makeup tools doesn’t have to be a chore. Keep the Solid Sponge Cleanser near your sink, so you remember to dip dirty brushes and sponges directly into it when they need a washing. (There’s something soothing about swirling them around the charcoal-infused disc.)

Along with pristine brushes, your skin will love that you’re cleaning your brushes with the detoxifying ingredient, as it’s been said to help prevent future breakouts. And let’s be real, we’ll take all the help we can get.

Buy $4

E.L.F. Prismatic Highlighting Duo

Not even E.L.F. is immune to the holographic makeup hype. These color-shifting powders may look petal pink and lilac in the pan, but when brushed onto cheekbones, they transform into a hot pink and sky blue.

Buy $4

E.L.F. Jelly Pop Water Gel Moisturizer

Made with watermelon fruit extract (yum), glycerin, and castor oil, E.L.F.’s Jelly Pop Water Gel Moisturizer soothes redness and re-hydrates parched skin in one fell swoop. It’s also super-fast-absorbing, making it an especially great option for the summer months when we’re sweating more and tend to favor lighter products.

Buy $8

E.L.F. Bite Size Eye Shadow Palette

Available in eight different shade options, E.L.F.’s Bite Size Eye Shadow Palettes (as in the same ones that went viral on TikTok earlier this year) make creating a put-together eye look easy as pie. The quad shown here is “cream & sugar” and contains a combination of neutral-toned, shimmery and matte shadows that work on almost every skin tone. Plus, the formula of these shadows is über-opaque, yet also so easy to blend.

Buy $3

E.L.F. Moisturizing Lipstick in Velvet Rope

Allure editors aren’t the only ones obsessed with E.L.F.’s Moisturizing Lipstick in Velvet Rope — our readers are, too. Velvet Rope, which is a cherry red with a golden sheen, won a Readers’ Choice Award this year for its creamy, hydrating formula that lasts all day long.

Buy $4

E.L.F. Baked Highlighter

Read our guide to the best glow-givers of the year yet? If so, then you already know E.L.F.’s best-selling Baked Highlighter made the cut.

Despite technically being a powder, its ultra-buttery, featherlight formula melts into the skin like it’s nothing and never looks cakey worn on top of foundation and concealer. It also contains skin-loving ingredients like vitamin E, jojoba, and apricot seed oils, which is a nice added bonus.

Buy $4

E.L.F. Beautifully Precise Eyeshadow Brush No. 201

Blending eye shadow ain’t easy. The Beautifully Precise Eyeshadow Brush No. 201, which recently won a Best of Beauty Award, will do all the work for you with as little effort as possible. You can pack color onto your lids with the short, dense bristles before sweeping the fluffy ends over the edges to soften them in seconds.

Buy $6

E.L.F. Mad For Matte Holy Smokes Palette

With all the latest palettes packed with terracotta and peach shades, the E.L.F. Mad For Matte Holy Smokes Palette has a much-welcomed mix of both warm- and cool-toned hues. On the right side, you have a peachy cream, blue-toned gray, and more neutral shades for laying down a clean base. Or, of course, you can wear just one by itself for a more minimalist look.

On the left side, you have a gorgeous teal, sapphire blue, and soft black for making your smoky eye fantasies a reality. (Hence the name Holy Smokes.) You can make sure they are all blended well with the shades situated in the middle of the palette.

Buy $10

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