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Oily skin affects many people and can make the face appear shinier, enlarge and clog pores, and cause blackheads and acne. Toners can remove excess oil and help prevent breakouts in oily skin.

Toners are one option for people with oily skin. However, toners come in various formulations to meet different skin types, making it challenging to find the most appropriate product.

This article explores toners, their potential benefits for oily skin, what to look for, and which toners to consider.

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Toner is a liquid skin care product with a water-like consistency. Depending on its ingredients and formulation, a toner can:

  • exfoliate the skin
  • even out skin tone
  • remove impurities
  • minimize clogged pores
  • hydrate the skin
  • prepare the skin to absorb other skin care products

While toners are traditionally for preventing breakouts by removing excess oil, modern toners also contain formulations that nourish, brighten, and repair the skin.

Toners offer an array of possible benefits, depending on the ingredients they contain.

Reduce excess oil

Traditionally, toners contain high concentrations of alcohol, which dries the skin. However, modern toners are alcohol free, containing ingredients that remove oil without irritating or drying the skin.

A 2019 study found that guava extract is effective in reducing oil production.

Similarly, a 2020 study found that toners containing Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica) extract are also effective in reducing oil levels in the facial skin of participants.

Remove bacteria

Acne is the most common skin problem in the United States, affecting nearly 50 million people each year. The face contains a diversity of bacteria, and a 2020 study suggests certain bacteria cause acne.

Certain toners contain ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, that can penetrate the skin, unclog pores, and fight acne-causing bacteria.

Hydrate the skin

Oily skin can become dehydrated, which worsens oil production.

A 2020 study found that an herbal gel toner effectively moisturized the skin and gave it a tighter appearance. The gel contained ingredients including cucumber, aloe vera, and honey.

A 2016 study found that using a combination of creams and toners achieved the highest level of hydration, and repeatedly applying toners is better than using spray water for hydration.

While skin care regimens can include more steps, the most basic skin care routine involving toners is a three-step process:

  • Step 1: A person should wash the face with a gentle cleanser to remove dirt and other impurities and gently pat the skin with a towel.
  • Step 2: Next, they should apply a toner to remove excess impurities and cleanser residues. To do this, they may dampen a cotton ball with toner and sweep it over the skin in upward motions from the center of the face outward. They should be sure to use a toner within a minute of cleansing the skin since active ingredients absorb well into moist skin. Then, they should allow it to dry.
  • Step 3: Finally, a person should apply moisturizer to hydrate and soothe the skin. People using serums should apply a serum before the moisturizer.

Toners come in different formulations and ingredients. People with oily skin may consider toners with the following active ingredients to get the most benefit from their skin care product:

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA). It is oil-soluble and can penetrate deep through the oil layer and pores. It reduces excess oil and oil production.

It has an exfoliating action that removes dead skin, preventing the pores from becoming clogged.

A 2018 study found that commercially available salicylic acids can reduce comedones and large and small pimples.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA)

AHAs serve as chemical exfoliants that remove dead cells that can clog the skin. Removing dead skin cells that accumulate on pores can also minimize their appearance.

Examples of AHAs in toners include glycolic, lactic, and citric acids. Lactic acid is gentler and can be helpful for people with sensitive skin.

Vitamin B5

Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, helps heal and protect the skin by holding water to retain moisture and prolong hydration.

A 2014 study found that vitamin B5 supplementation significantly reduced inflammatory blemishes and facial lesions.

Witch hazel

Witch hazel is a plant with natural toning abilities. It acts as an astringent that tightens pores and reduces inflammation in the skin without drying it. It also gives a deep clean, helping prevent blackheads and acne from clogging pores.


Vitamin B3, or niacinamide, is good for sensitive skin and redness. It helps hydrate, brighten, and smooth the skin. Niacinamide repairs the skin barrier and helps prevent irritants and moisture loss.

Calming ingredients

Many people with oily skin can develop acne. People with inflamed skin may benefit from toners with rose water, aloe vera, or chamomile. These ingredients can soothe redness and irritation and calm the skin.

How we choose products
Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Price: Products are available for a wide range of budgets.
  • Ingredients: Products lists all ingredients clearly.
  • Skin concerns: Products target a specific skin concern, such as dryness, oiliness, or aging.
  • Safety: Products contain ingredients that are safe for topical use.
  • Reputable: Products are from businesses that adhere to industry best practices.
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Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

PCA Skin Nutrient Toner

This pumpkin wine-based toner contains vitamins A and C and lactic and citric acids to moisturize and exfoliate the skin.

In reviews, users report a positive smell and success in reducing breakouts. However, a common customer complaint is its leaky bottle.

  • Skin type: all skin types
  • Size: 130 milliliters (ml)
  • Cost: $40

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

This solution contains 7% glycolic acid, which is an exfoliant. It also contains aloe vera, Tasmanian pepper berry, and ginseng root to help soothe, balance, and hydrate the skin.

Additionally, it contains amino acids, such as arginine and glycine, to improve the skin’s barrier and elasticity.

  • Skin type: all skin types
  • Size: 240 ml
  • Cost: $8.47

Eminence Organics Lime Refresh

This is a vitamin C mist containing freshly squeezed lime juice, which is an astringent and pore minimizer.

This product contains lemon and grapefruit oils to tone and refresh the skin. It also has green tea, which could make the skin appear more youthful due to its antioxidant content.

  • Skin type: all skin types
  • Size: 125 ml
  • Cost: $44 CAD

LOLI Beauty Sweet Orange Water

LOLI’s Sweet Orange Water contains Moroccan orange flower water to smooth, hydrate, and tone the skin.

Customers report enjoying its fresh, uplifting scent. Some customers report noticing smaller pores after using the product.

  • Skin type: most skin types
  • Size: 44 ml
  • Cost: $18

Avene Eau Thermale Gentle Toning Lotion

This gentle toning lotion claims to balance the skin’s pH after cleansing.

It also removes makeup and soothes dry, sensitive skin.

  • Skin type: All skin types
  • Size: 198 ml
  • Cost: $20

Peach and Lily The Goods Acids Pore Toner

This skin-balanced toner contains a combination of AHA, BHA, and botanical extracts to clean pores and exfoliate the skin.

It also contains aloe vera and allantoin, which may heal damaged skin.

  • Skin type: normal to oily skin
  • Size: 100 ml
  • Cost: $39

Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner

This daily toner contains rose fruit extract, rosewater, and hyaluronic acid.

It potentially removes impurities while hydrating the skin and refining pores.

  • Skin type: all skin types
  • Size: 100 ml, 250 ml, and 400 ml
  • Cost: $18.75, $33.75, and $46.50

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore Tight Toner

This toner contains a balance of AHA and polyhydroxy acids to tighten the pores.

It also contains hydrating ingredients, such as watermelon, hyaluronic acid, and cactus water.

  • Skin type: all skin types
  • Size: 40 ml and 150 ml
  • Cost: $15 and $34

Many people experience oily skin, which can cause acne and other skin problems. While there are many treatments for oily skin, toners are a simple over-the-counter solution.

There are many toners in the market. A person should pay attention to each product’s ingredients to determine whether the toner will match their skin type and suit their specific needs.