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Every so often, there’s one product I can’t stop talking about because, well, it’s just that good. Last year, it was a foam conditioner from one of my favorite natural hair brands and in 2020, it will be the best gel toners. Correction: it will the singular object of my beauty affection: innisfree’s Balancing Toner With Green Tea. But first, let’s back up and talk about toner in general.
I am in the camp who believes it is essential to a skincare routine. You know that texture you feel after shampooing your hair (unless you’re using a bar)—squeaky clean, sticky and sort of unpleasant to touch? That’s what shampoo for your face, aka cleanser, does too, though it usually doesn’t feel as extreme or like anything at all, for that matter. Still, there’s a caveat. Yes, it washes away the makeup, oil and general yuckiness of the day, but more often than not, some of your skin’s natural moisture goes M.I.A. too.
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This is where the right toner comes into play. Like a toothbrush that keeps your smile from being covered in plaque, a toner will not only remove plaque (aka cleanser residue) from the face. It will also put moisture back into the skin so it isn’t left vulnerable to excessive dryness, breakouts and more. Unfortunately, some of the most popular toners get a bad rep for their astringent ingredients, like the ever-popular witch hazel, that can do more harm than good when overused. This is why I live for gel toners because they’re almost always water-based or made up of a mostly hydrating ingredient that balances oil production, which ultimately lowers the number of concerns you’ll need to deal with in the future.
Plus, with a texture that isn’t as watery as a liquid toner, but not as thick as a lotion, applying with a cotton pad is optional. “Gel toners still have the balancing and hydrating benefits of a watery toner, but differs in texture. The great thing about gel toners is that you can apply the product with your hands instead of a cotton pad; just pat gently all over your face,” says Cecilia Park, a key member of innisfree’s education team. “The natural warmth of your hands helps the formula absorb better. Gel toners also are layer- friendly; give yourself a double or even triple dose if your skin’s feeling extra dry.”
Shop my current obsession or any of these top-rated gel toner options below.
I am convinced that Jeju green tea is the ultimate hack for oily skin since I started using this toner months ago. The hydrating water-gel texture is also enriched with betaine, an amino acid that works alongside green tea to balance out oil production in the skin.
For sensitive skin types, this botanical-rich gel toner is a godsend, thanks to the soothing powers of bergamot and antioxidant-rich nutrients found in sage.
If you want a toner that helps get rid of acne without stripping your skin of moisture, try putting this gel formula into your rotation. It’s formulated with glycolic and salicylic acid to address breakouts from their root while also smoothing out the texture of those visible top layers.
A newer (and totally luxe) toner option just arrived courtesy of Dior. The brand describes it as a “serum-lotion” that should be used between cleansing and moisturizing to address a number of skincare concerns (dark spots, firmness and more).
This K-beauty brand is known for its collagen-rich gel toner that utilizes Baobob water and other ingredients to deeply hydrate the skin and rebalance sebum production.
Cream skin is 2020’s biggest K-beauty trend to date and cream skin products have a texture that’s very similar to gel toners. Laneige’s product is a toner and moisturizer in one, enriched with white leaf tea water to soothe and strengthen the skin barrier.
Just a pea-sized amount of this clean beauty option will help your skin to better retain water, in addition to improving its texture and softness. Key ingredients include my personal favorites hyaluronic acid (moisture retention), niacinamide (brightening) and aloe (hydration).
I recently unearthed this Amazon treasure, a gel toner infused with highly concentrated amounts of Jeju green tea.
If your skin is doing too much in the oil department or can’t seem to ward off pimples, this water-gel toner may be the answer to your beauty prayers. From eliminating excess oil (bentonite clay) to calming redness (green tea) to clarifying breakout-prone areas (manuka), this formula is a hodge-podge of ingredients that do it all.
In addition to the brand’s core ingredient, probiotics, this alcohol-free gel toner also utilizes glycolic acid and beetroot extract to gently exfoliate the skin withing robbing it of moisture.
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