4 Best Toners for Blackheads (Dermatologist's Guide) 2021

4 Best Toners for Blackheads (Dermatologist’s Guide)

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best toner for blackheads
In a hurry? Here are our top picks:

BEST FOR ALL SKIN TYPES, ORGANIC

ZELEN Life Toner

Toners are often misunderstood and subsequently given a bad reputation in the cosmetic product world.

Toner for the right skin type, with the right ingredients, can offer excellent results for the right skin condition.

It is essential to know what your skin type is, what you are treating and how to treat it. Otherwise, toners (or any product, for that matter) will cause more harm than good.

The rest of the article will cover things to consider when buying a toner, a review of the best toners for blackheads and how they were chosen, as well as frequently asked questions about toners for blackheads.

Quick summary

bb2-table__imageZELEN Life Toner
  • Balances pH, shrinks larger pores and helps fine lines
  • Organic formula, lavender and geranium fight blackheads
  • Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, assists acne breakouts
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bb2-table__imageCaudalie Vinopure Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Toner
  • Great for oily skin as it reduces oil production
  • Antibacterial ingredients and antioxidants
  • Contains salicylic acid, unclogs pores and controls blackheads
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bb2-table__imageLa Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner
  • Hydrates and soothes the skin
  • Glycolic acid assists in reducing fine lines
  • Natural oil-free formula
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bb2-table__imagePeter Thomas Roth 8% Glycolic Solutions Toner
  • Contains witch hazel, reduces oil production
  • Exfoliation properties, removes dead skin cells
  • Glycerin, chamomile and aloe vera, moisturize and soothe skin
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Before you buy: 3 things you have to consider when purchasing a toner for blackheads

1. Confirm your skin type

People who get blackheads will have oily or shiny skin and often acne breakouts.  Skin can appear thick, rough, and dull.

2. Check ingredients

Make sure the toner you select has the right ingredients to treat blackheads correctly. Look for ingredients such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or lactic acid. Or plant-based botanicals with natural antibacterial properties such as lavender and geranium.

3. Avoid certain ingredients

Make sure the toner is oil-free, non-comedogenic. Mineral oil and petrolatum will make your oily skin and blackheads worse. Sometimes alcohols, witch hazel, menthol, and sulfates can irritate your skin even if you are oily, so use these products cautiously.

The 4 best toners for blackheads

1. ZELEN Life Toner

ZELEN Life Toner Image

Best features:

  • Plant-based natural toner with organic ingredients
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • pH balancing

Best toner for:

This toner can be used for all skin types: normal, dry, sensitive, oily, or acne-prone skin.  If you are looking for a natural, plant-based toner, this one fits the bill.

Overview:

The ZELEN Life Toner’s main ingredients are lavender flower water, lavender flower oil, and rose geranium flower water. It also contains small quantities of natural scents (linalool and limonene) and honey.

Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils on the market today.  It is a perennial shrub that is native to the Mediterranean (1).  Lavender was used in ancient societies as a perfume, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory.

Today, lavender is still being used in many areas of medicine. It functions as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial agent (2-4).

Lavender has been used to treat bacterial and fungal infections (1). It has also been used to treat inflammatory conditions, like eczema and psoriasis, and heal wounds and ulcers (1-4).

Rose geranium is a flower that is native to several areas in Africa (4-8). It has been used for its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties due to its compounds geraniol, citral, and citronellal.

It has been used to treat inflammatory conditions like eczema and acne. It can also aid in wound healing.

Honey has been used since ancient times as well because of its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties (9-10).

It also helps retard wrinkle formation and helps heal wounds.

This combination of natural ingredients with anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects in this toner can help with acne breakouts.  They also help with cell regeneration and healing, which aids in reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

The good:

  • Does not contain parabens, sulfates, dyes, mineral oil, or alcohol.
  • Plant-based and organic
  • Good for all skin types

Things to think about:

  • Scented – Even though it has natural scents, some people cannot tolerate or dislike scents.
  • Essential oils – Some people find essential oils to be irritating.

Bottom line:

This toner is gentle enough for all skin types. It is also a natural plant-based toner that can help with acne.

2. Caudalie Vinopure Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Toner

Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Toner

Best features:

  • Decreases oil production and blackheads
  • Improves texture of the skin
  • Soothing
  • Antioxidants
  • Anti-bacterial

Best toner for:

This toner is best for people with oily skin who would also like antioxidant benefits.

Overview:

Caudalie’s Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Toner’s main ingredients are rose water, a natural salicylic acid (SA) derived from wintergreen, Vitis vinifera (grape) water and juice, and a combination of essential oils.

It also contains small quantities of preservatives (sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate), as well as moisturizing agents (sodium phytate and arginine), an exfoliant (citric acid), alcohol as an astringent, and fragrance (citral, citronella, geraniol, limonene, and linalool).

Rosa damascena has been used for centuries, as far back as the Crusades (1).  It was initially used as a perfume.  In the 11th century, it began being used for its antioxidant, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties (1, 11).

It exerts good anti-bacterial effects against P. acnes, the number one bacteria implicated in acne (1). It also has been used to treat canker sores and gastrointestinal problems.

SA has been used for centuries because it is good at decreasing oil production, exfoliating dead skin cells, and unclogging pores to help with acne and blackheads (1).  It is also anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory.

The SA in this toner is derived from natural wintergreen.  SA can also be derived from the willow tree (Salix spp.), hence its name.

Vitis vinifera (grape) water and juice contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (1, 12). Its use dates back to ancient Egypt, where they used it for its ability to lighten the skin.

Antioxidants are important because they help protect our skin from damage from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

The sun produces these free radicals, which harm our collagen, leading to wrinkles and damage our DNA, leading to skin cancers. Antioxidants scavenge up these free radicals and get rid of them before they can do harm.  It has even been used to help prevent some cancers.

Finally, this combination of essential oils includes Cymbopogon citratus (lemongrass), Lavandula hybrida (lavender), Melissa officinalis (lemon balm), Mentha piperita (peppermint), Pelargonium graveolens (rose geranium), and Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary).

They all exert anti-microbial effects (2, 5, 13-16).  Peppermint also has astringent properties to help decrease oily skin (13).  Lemongrass and lemon balm are also antioxidants (14, 15). Lavender, rosemary, and rose geranium are anti-inflammatory agents (5, 8).

Caudalie’s Vinopure toner is geared towards acne-prone skin by combining wintergreen, a naturally derived salicylic acid, with grape polyphenols, rose water, and essential oils.

These ingredients are combined to give you a toner that has anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.

The good:

  • Good for oily skin types
  • No parabéns, mineral oil, fragrance, or formaldehyde
  • Naturally derived

Things to think about:

  • Alcohol – It might be too drying for some people.
  • Essential oils – Some people find these to be irritating.

Bottom line:

This is a great naturally derived toner for blackheads, which also contains ingredients for soothing the skin and antioxidants to protect against sun damage.

3. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner

La Roche Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner

Best features:

  • Exfoliates dead skin cells
  • Decreases oil production
  • Smoothes the texture of the skin
  • Hydrates
  • Antioxidants
  • Decreases pigmentation

Best toner for:

This toner works well for people with oily skin and blackheads who need hydration and wants the added benefits of antioxidants.

Overview:

La Roche Posay Efflaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner’s main ingredients are salicylic acid (SA) and glycolic acid (GA).

It also contains small quantities of Ophiopogon japonicus, Scutellaria baicalensis, alcohol to act as an astringent, chemicals to maintain pH balance (sodium hydroxide and capryloyl glycine), preservatives (phenoxyethanol and benzyl alcohol), chemicals that aid in hydration  (propanediol, tremella fuciformis polysaccharide, butylene glycol), cleansing agents (PPG-26-buteth-26, PEG-40 and hydrogenated castor oil), and cooling agent (menthol).

Hydroxy acids, such as SA and GA, have been used since the times of Cleopatra in ancient Egypt. They help decrease oil production and unclog pores to help control acne and blackheads (1). Hydroxy acids (HA) are divided into alpha and beta hydroxy acids.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), such as GA, have the added benefit of helping reduce wrinkles and fine lines. Beta hydroxy acids (BHA), like SA, have the added benefit of being an anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial agent. The combination of the 2 gives you a potent toner.

Ophiopogon japonicus (OJ) is a perennial grass found in Japan and China, which helps hydrate the skin and has anti-inflammatory effects to help with acne (17).  Because of its anti-inflammatory benefits, OJ has been used to treat atopic dermatitis and some neurological diseases as well.

Scutellaria baicalensis (SB) is a flowering plant from China and Russia, which has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties (18-20).  It also functions to decrease pigmentation of the skin to brighten complexion (20).

SB has also been used to help treat some neurological diseases, acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

Effaclar toner is a potent toner that targets acne-prone skin with SA and GA and delivers anti-aging effects as well. It also contains moisturizers to prevent your skin from drying out.

The good:

  • Glycolic acid to help with fine lines and exfoliate dead skin cells
  • Salicylic acid to control oil and unclog pores
  • Ophiopogen japonicus to hydrate the skin
  • Scutellaria baicalensis to decrease pigmentation and act as an antioxidant
  • Free of oils, fragrances, and parabens

Things to think about:

  • Alcohol – This can be drying for some people.
  • Strong medicinal odor – Some people dislike the odor.

Bottom line:

This is a great toner that not only helps with oily skin and blackheads but also has anti-aging benefits.  It may be too irritating for sensitive skin.

4. Peter Thomas Roth 8% Glycolic Solutions Toner

Peter Thomas Roth 8% Glycolic Solutions Toner

Best features:

  • Exfoliates dead skin cells
  • Decreases oil production
  • Decreases fine lines
  • Soothing
  • Hydrating

Best toner for:

This toner works best for people with oily skin with blackheads who need hydration as well.

Overview:

Peter Thomas Roth 8% Glycolic Solutions Toner’s main ingredients include glycolic acid, witch hazel, aloe vera, allantoin, chamomile, Camellia sinensis, and sodium ascorbic phosphate.

It also contains small quantities of alcohol to act as an astringent, exfoliants (methyl gluceth-20, lactic acid, and citric acid), cleansers (propylene glycol and polysorbate 20), chemicals to help balance pH (sodium hydroxide), moisturizers (glycerin, Sodium PCA, and arginine), preservatives (potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, benzoic acid, and phenoxyethanol).

This toner combats blackheads with a combination of two alpha-hydroxy acids, glycolic acid (GA) and lactic acid (LA),  to exfoliate dead skin cells and help with anti-aging (1).  LA also aids in moisturization, while GA also helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles.  Both have been used for centuries.

Witch hazel has long been used as an astringent to remove oil, but it also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (21-22). These components make it a good treatment for blackheads and acne.  It has also been used to help treat diaper dermatitis, eczema, and insect bites.

The combination of aloe, chamomile, and allantoin will soothe the skin since they exhibit anti-inflammatory effects (23-26).  They also have the added benefits of being anti-microbial and can aid in wound healing.  Aloe and chamomile also have been used to treat radiation dermatitis.

Camellia sinensis, also known as green tea, has potent antioxidant properties, making it a good anti-aging ingredient (1).

It has been used for over 4000 years in China.  It can also treat acne since it has astringent, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties.  Many have used it to help treat rosacea, warts, and some cancers.

Sodium ascorbic phosphate is a form of vitamin C, which has long been known to be of great benefit to the skin (1).   Its use began in the 13th century.  It is a potent antioxidant that helps to lighten the skin in melasma patients and build collagen to help combat wrinkle formation.

Glycerin has been used since the 1700s to help to aid moisturization of the skin (1).  It is derived from fats. It has also been used to treat diaper rash and burns due to its anti-microbial properties.

This toner packs in many exfoliants and astringents to help reduce oil production and acne, making it a strong and effective toner.  They also add in many soothing agents, antioxidants, and moisturizers to help avoid irritating the skin as well.

The good:

  • Glycolic acid will exfoliate dead skin cells
  • Witch hazel will decrease oil production
  • Chamomile and aloe soothe the skin
  • Glycerin hydrates the skin

Things to think about:

  • Witch hazel and alcohol – Some people may find this combination to be irritating.
  • It is pricier.

Bottom line:

This is a great toner that not only helps with oily skin and blackheads but also has anti-aging benefits. It may be too irritating for sensitive skin.


How we chose these products

When making our selections of the best toners for blackheads, we undertook a detailed selection process.

We analyzed the composition of each product, and we checked it against specific criteria. Firstly, we ensured the products are made from high-quality ingredients proven effective at treating acne and blackheads.

We made sure all our choices are non-comedogenic, so they will not cause acne formation. We also considered chemicals, so they also do not contain any parabens or sulfates, which have been linked to allergic reactions.

Some believe parabens are linked to hormone disruption and reproductive issues as well. Others believe sulfates may clog your pores and make acne worse.

We also looked at what actual users had to say about their experiences. Some of these opinions have been included in this article (in the “Things to think about” sections).

When taking into account customer reviews and ratings, we checked the volume of reviews to ensure they were reliable and genuine.

The end result was a shortlist of what we consider the best options to suit different skin types, skincare needs, and budgets.

Frequently asked questions

frequently asked questions

What is a toner?

Toners are products that help cleanse the skin. They are usually in liquid form, but some are lotions.

Toners were initially marketed just for oily skin, but now the right toner, with the right ingredients, can be used for any skin type.

Toners may also contain other ingredients to help with oily skin, acne and blackheads, dry skin, wrinkled skin, dark spots, irritated skin, and even help prevent sun damage.

What do toners do for blackheads?

The toners that work best for blackheads will exfoliate dead skin cells and decrease oil production, which are things that cause acne and blackheads.

The top ingredients that can accomplish these tasks are alpha or beta hydroxy acids or a combination of the two.

Like glycolic and lactic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids work well at exfoliating dead skin cells and smoothing fine lines.  Beta hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid,  help decrease oil production, eliminate dead skin cells, and help with acne.

Some toners contain other ingredients that will help hydrate your skin, soothe your skin, help prevent damage from the sun, or decrease pigmentation.

Who can benefit from a toner?

Any skin type can benefit from the correct toner, but they work best for oily skin types.

Toners are selected based on your skin type.  Toners with hydroxy acids work well for people with oily skin who are prone to acne and blackheads.  These would be too irritating for people with dry or sensitive skin because of the ingredients.

You must know your skin type and what ingredients are appropriate to treat it for you to get any benefits from a toner.

When do I use a toner?

Toners are used after cleansing your face.  You can start out using it once a day, and if it is well-tolerated, you can increase its use to twice a day.  If your skin gets red and irritated, stop using it until your skin returns to normal.

Then, do not use it as frequently. If toners irritate our skin, that will just lead to increasing oil production and worsening of your blackheads.

How do I apply a toner?

After washing your face, you can apply a toner with cotton balls. Gently wipe your face with the cotton ball soaked with toner.

Do not scrub or rub, as this may irritate your skin and cause increased oil production. Do not wash your face after applying it.  Let it fully soak in before applying any products over it.

Proper layering of products is the key to success in your skincare regimen.

Do I have to use a toner for my blackheads?

You do not have to use a toner for blackheads.  There are other ways to treat them, such as retinoids.

Also, they should be used with caution if you are using other acne products.

The combination may be too irritating and lead to a paradoxical increase in oil production instead of decreasing oil.

Some people cannot tolerate a toner in their acne regimen because of all the acne products they are using. The combination may be too irritating.

Others with very oily tough skin, can combine toners with acne products and have no irritation at all.  It just depends on your skin.  All skincare should be personalized to your skin and your personal needs.

Where do I apply toner?

You can apply toner anywhere on your body that you need it.  Most people apply it to their face because that is where they need it most.

Some people have very oily acne-prone skin on their chest and back, so it is fine to use it there.

It just depends on what your skin will tolerate.  You may not be able to use it as often on the body as you do on the face.  You also may not be able to use the same product on your body as you do on your face.

Skincare products need to be personalized to your skin type, skin needs, and body parts being treated.

Conclusion

Toners can be a beneficial addition to skin care regimens for people suffering from acne and blackheads.

You must read the ingredients carefully to determine if they are correct for the problems you are treating.

The toners discussed here are by no means the only toners on the market.  There are many good toners available.  The best toner for you is the one that fits your skin, and it’s particular needs.

Do you have any toners you can recommend?

We’d love to hear your suggestions!

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About The Author

Dr. Jennifer Trent MD FAAD
Dr. Jennifer Trent MD FAAD

Board-certified Dermatologist

Dr. Trent completed a 6 year combined BS-MD at the University of Miami with an undergraduate major in biology and a minor in chemistry. She completed her internship in Internal Medicine and her residency in Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital. Dr. Trent is a world recognized dermatologist, who has published over 40 articles in peer-reviewed journals. She also co-authored a textbook on dermatologic diseases and therapy, which was published by McGraw-Hill Co, Inc. She has had the opportunity to present her clinical research several times at national medical meetings. Dr. Trent has been the recipient of several awards for research, teaching and clinical practice, including the prestigious Young Investigators award for research from the American Academy of Dermatology as well as the coveted Castle Connelly Top Doctor award.

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