The Best Toners to Calm Your Skin Down

Sable Yong

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For the longest time so many of us were scratching our heads wondering, “what does face toner even DO?” other than make our skin feel stingy and tight. Those would be the “old school” toners, as it were. Now there’s a new generation of toners that are designed to be moisturizing as well as clarifying rather than astringent. Total opposites, right? Sort of. Toners in general are meant to balance the pH of your skin, calm irritation and of course ward off any pesky blemishes by removing excess grime your cleanser doesn’t catch. Specialized ones can also exfoliate, brighten and even tone, and hydrate. The world is your toner oyster. Here’s a mix of our faves that do some to all of the above.

MORE: The Truth About  Toner

Boscia Balancing Toner


This Balancing Facial Tonic from Boscia is a hard-working facial mist, with amino acids, lavender, willow herb and jojoba leaf for a soothing, calming and antioxidant-rich refreshing mist in the face. A spritz of this after cleansing your face will make whatever following treatments absorb most easily into your skin too. (Boscia Balancing Facial Tonic, $24 at Sephora)


Benton BHA Alow Toner

This toner from little known Korean skincare brand, Benton, is a superstar toner, jam-packed with tons of skin-friendly actives. With Aloe Leaf Juice, Snail Mucin, Salicylic Acid, plant ferment, and humectants, this is fast becoming a blogger fave among those who are into K-beauty. It’s extraordinarily hydrating, healing, tone evening and banishes any irritation. (Benton Alie BHA Skin Toner, $17 at


Herbivore Botanicals Balance Toner copy

With only five ingredients, this natural beauty is a compact wonder. Working with witch hazel, aloe vera, neroli oil, hyssop oil and lactobacillus ferment, this toner is meant to balance your skin—meaning, even out your pH levels, sweep your pores free of gunk, and soothe irritation to prep your skin for the oncoming serums and moisturizers you may deliver. (Herbivore Botanicals Balance Facial Toning Elixir, $24 at

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Toner

Kiehl’s isn’t just for your boyfriend. Their Ultra Facial Toner is a crowd favorite as a skin refiner and all-around moisture-booster. Apricot kernel oil, avocado oil and squalene, it’s a fairly natural cocktail of emollients and residue-eradicating ingredients that make for the perfect skin prep prior to moisturizing. (Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Toner, $8-16 at

Shiseido Brightening Balancing Softener


Shiseido, as well as many Asian beauty brands, offer something called a “softener” (or sometimes essence and sometimes a lotion. Confusing, we know.) which serves essentially the same purpose as a toner. Asian toners tend to focus more on hydration and be less astringent than Western toners but they also generally pack a lot more healing, evening and brightening ingredients. Shiseido’s White Lucent line is all about brightening and evening your skin tone and the Brightening Balancing Softener is no joke. With regular use, our skin was baby-soft with nary a dark spot to speak of. (Shiseido White Lucent Brightening Balancing Softener, $48 at

 MORE: The Best Toners For Glowing Skin

Sk II Essence

Only those super serious about skin care plunge into SK-II. The line is so highly regarded because of its miraculous results on your skin, giving you the most luminous, even and soft skin you can probably remember having, all thanks to its star ingredient, Pitera, fermented byproduct of sake brewing. Only catch is that this miracle in a bottle comes with a rather hefty price tag. As mentioned above essences are another toner that’s offered by Asian beauty brands. You splash it on after cleansing with your hands and pat it into your skin so it can absorb as much of it as possible, rather than using it to wipe your skin. You want this to settle into your pores so your skin can reap all the benefits in this juice. (SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, $105-290 at Sephora)

SW Basics Toner

Minimalist but effective, S.W. Basics’s skin care products deliver the brass tacks of ingredients– nothing more, nothing less. Apple Cider Vinegar is a great DIY toner for it’s renowned pH balancing capabilities, but it puts people off because of the overpowering stench of salad dressing all over your face. Now with witch hazel, clary sage and sandalwood, you can reap all the benefits without the odor. (SW Basics Toner, $22 at Target)

Thayers Cucumber Witch Hazel Aloe Formula


A tried-and-true drugstore toner and all-purpose beauty solution, Thayer’s makes a variety of toners all with witch hazel. We like the cucumber and aloe vera one for its soothing and calming properties. Alcohol-free, this toner works to balance the pH level of your skin while the cucumber cools. In the summer, put this in a spray bottle and you’ve got an automatic refreshing face mist. (Thayer’s Cucumber Witch Hazel Toner, $7.99 at

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