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Brighten up with our favorite face-brightening toners

Wondering if toner is a necessary step in your already complicated skin-care routine? We asked the experts what they think. Toners can help balance and brighten — the key is to choose the right toner for your skin type.

Girl cleaning her face

Why use a toner?

Beverly Hills-based dermatologist to the stars Dr. Stuart Kaplan says he’s often asked if toner is necessary if you are using a good-quality cleanser. His expert opinion? “A good-quality toner should remove any residual impurities on the skin while balancing the skin’s natural pH,” says Kaplan. “This allows your skin to better absorb the nutrients from your serums and moisturizers that you should be applying immediately after your cleansing and toning routine.”

Dr. Howard Murad, founder of Murad Inc., says toner is the step that completes the cleansing process and is beneficial for the overall health of your complexion. “Given how busy we all are these days, people tend to rush through the cleansing process, and toners can remove any impurities that may not have been washed away during cleansing,” says Murad.

Just take a look at the gunk on your cotton pad after using your toner, and you’ll see what he means.

Toners for acne-prone skin

If you typically wear a lot of makeup or have acne-prone skin, Kaplan suggests using a nonalcoholic toner. “Nonalcoholic toners with ingredients like witch hazel and salicylic acid will pick up any residual makeup and slough off dead skin cells that tend to collect inside of pores.”

Murad advises women with acne-prone skin to choose a toner with antioxidants like grape seed extract and vitamin E (to help protect against free radicals), chondrus crispus extract (to regulate oil production) and witch hazel (to remove oil while tightening pores).

Toner picks for acne-prone skin:

Dickinsons witch hazel

Dermatologist Dr. Marina Peredo, owner of Spatique Medical Spa in Smithtown, NY, and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, recommends Dickinson’s witch hazel toner, which she says is great for acne and dark spots.

Clarifying toner

Dr. Murad suggests Murad clarifying toner to eliminate oil and control shine.

Toners for dry skin

What about women with dry skin? It turns out there are toners that can actually help with hydration. Kaplan recommends toners with ingredients such as rosewater and essential oils to rehydrate the skin while balancing pH.

Murad suggests women with dry skin or hormonal aging try a hydrating toner featuring lecithin to lock in moisture and restore suppleness. What other ingredients should you look for if hydration is the goal? Chamomile and cucumber extract soothe irritation, says Murad, while witch hazel is key for all skin types because it is gentle, tightens pores and helps restore natural pH balance.

Toner picks for dry skin:

Hydrating toner

Dr. Murad suggests Murad hydrating toner, which rehydrates skin and restores suppleness.

Kaplan md toner

Dr. Kaplan recommends KAPLAN MD hydrating toner, which quenches dry, dehydrated skin while softening and smoothing skin texture.

Toners for sun-damaged skin

So toner can clean out your pores, balance pH levels and hydrate dry skin, but did you know it can also help with sun damage? Murad recommends women with environmental damage, sun spots or age spots use a toner with ingredients such as bitter orange flower and coneflower extract to strengthen the skin’s natural defense system while conditioning and hydrating.

Toner picks for sun-damaged skin:

essential c toner

Dr. Murad suggests Murad Essential-C toner to rejuvenate and protect damaged skin.

Expert Tip: “Most people use toner in the morning,” says Dr. Peggy Fuller with Esthetics Center for Dermatology in Charlotte, North Carolina, “but I tell my patients to use it at the end of the day prior to washing the face to remove oil, dirt and debris.” Fuller recommends Aqua Glycolic toner, “a very gentle, user-friendly toner for all skin types and ethnicities.”

More skin-care tips

Skin savers for your 20s
Skin savers for your 30s
Kinetin and your skin

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