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If you remember the skincare boom 10 years ago, the holy grail mantra was CTM: Cleansing, toning, and moisturizing.
The foundation to build healthy skin was based on a regular routine with CTM.
As the knowledge and the skincare industry evolved, multiple steps got added on the way. Meanwhile, we are at an absurd 10 steps skincare trend, which amongst all the other fancy essences and serums, also includes (yes, you guessed it right) cleansing, toning, and moisturizing.
In this article, we will talk about toners that regulate sebum production, mattify the skin, and make the pores look smaller.
Before you buy: 4 things to consider when purchasing a toner for oily skin and large pores
1. (Why) Do you need a toner?
Toner is a nice add-on to the skincare routine serving many diverse purposes depending on its ingredient list.
You can use a soothing toner to calm the inflammation down. You can use toners containing actives to unclog the pores and exfoliate the skin, or a hydrating toner that binds the water and makes the moisturizer you apply afterward sink in better to the skin.
It is also an option for a second cleanser for double cleansing fans. Using toner with a cotton pad removes the last residues of makeup and dirt from the skin.
That said, toner is not a ‘must-have’ product in the routine. If you need a toner or not, it depends on what you rest of the skincare routine and budget looks like.
2. How to choose a toner
For very oily and acne-prone skin, choose a product with pore cleansing ingredients like salicylic acid.
However, if you are using acne treatments or other actives to keep oily skin at bay, I would suggest you stick to a basic hydrating or soothing toner to avoid over-drying and irritating your skin.
All skin types benefit from anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients present in the toner to reverse the stress your skin faces on a daily basis.
3. Do pores open or close?
A toner is not a magic product that will make your pores ‘close’.
Pores do not open or close.
What a good toner will do, is unblocking the pores and/or stimulation of collagen production, which, with regular use, will make the pores look smaller.
4. Whether to buy an essence, or a toner, or a facial mist
There is no clear-cut demarcation of when a product should be called essence, toner, or facial mist.
Essence is usually supposed to be a more concentrated version of an ingredient, but that is not a rule.
They are variations of the same watery product you apply before putting on a thicker serum or moisturizer. If you are not a skincare pro, choose one of them.
The 4 best toners for oily skin and large pores
ZELEN Life Toner (Best for clean skincare, organic)
- Anti-inflammatory (soothing) and moisturizing
- One product for all skin moods
The best toner for:
Natural skincare lovers and those with oily skin with dehydrated patches.
Lavender, geranium, honey
The ZELEN Life Toner is “luxury in a bottle” for natural skincare lovers. It is handmade and formulated with organic lavender, geranium, and honey.
Lavender flower oil imparts the toner a heavenly aroma and, helps to soothe any inflammation and healing the irritated skin. (2) This means it is great for reducing acne breakouts and redness. It is also rich in antioxidants which assist in minimizing the appearance of wrinkles and promote a brighter tone. It also acts as a great moisturizer, promoting a healthier and elastic complexion.
It also includes rose geranium, which has antioxidants to fight the free radicals your skin generates through exposure to UV rays and pollution. (1) Free radicals are primarily responsible for the premature aging of the skin. It also helps to unclog pores from dirt and dead skin cells, reducing the appearance of large pores.
What this toner also contains is my favorite ingredient in all the natural world skincare ingredients- Honey. This absolute multitasker of ingredient is antibacterial and works wonders in repairing skin wounds and damage. It is a humectant and helps in providing great hydration to the skin without making it oily (3)
What is the experience using it?
This toner is very lightweight. So it absorbed instantly into my skin without leaving any greasiness behind. You will instantly feel your skin refreshed, calm, and ready to apply your preferred moisturizer or serum.
The bottle of this toner is a state of the art that screams ”luxury”. It is constructed with recyclable glass that is not only friendly to the environment but also feels premium. It comes with a spray pump which, makes it easy to apply the correct amount on the cotton pad (3-4 spray pumps is the recommended amount).
The scent is very light, and it is a blend of its natural ingredients (strong geranium and honey notes with a hint of lavender). Unlike other toners, it doesn’t contain any alcohol or synthetic fragrances, making it suitable for sensitive skin types as well.
However, if you are looking for a vegan toner, then this one is not for you as it contains honey. Another great option you could consider is Boscia Rosewater Mist. It is vegan-friendly and also formulated with organic ingredients, such as rose flower, aloe vera, and witch hazel.
- Suited for oily skin but does not dry out the skin
- Antioxidant, soothing ingredients to counter sun damage and irritation from other factors
- Great natural aroma that is very lightweight and calming
- Mild: Can be combined with other products with active ingredients
Things to think about:
- Since the product has natural ingredients, it could be sensitizing to eczema-prone skin
- Not vegan but cruelty-free
If you love clean skincare products and love some luxury in your routine, the ZELEN Life Toner could be your go-to toner around the year. While most products for oily skincare dry the skin out, a soothing, moisturizing toner like this could be the addition your skincare routine needs.
- Value for money
Cane + Austin Acne Retexture Pad (Best for acne)
- Come with the wipes- travel friendly
- Great exfoliating ingredients
The best toner for:
Salicylic acid 2%., acetone, alcohol (13% v/v), glycolic acid, hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) extract
One of the most important steps in skincare when it comes to large pores and acne is exfoliation. That’s where Cane + Austin Acne Retexture Pads come in. The product is formulated with exfoliating acids such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, witch hazel, acetone, and alcohol.
Exfoliation with AHAs like glycolic acid stimulates skin cells’ renewal, improves skin texture, and reduces pigmentation. (7) It promotes collagen production while minimizing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
2% salicylic acid goes deep in the oil glands of the skin, removes the debris, and prevents the pore from clogging. This ultimately fends off acne. (8) It is also rich in anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, which increases its action against blemishes and irritations.
These two acids in combination, improve skin roughness and make the pores look smaller.
These pads also contain 13% alcohol. Alcohol (in low but significant concentration) mattifies the skin by removing the oil layer. It also improves the penetration of all other ingredients, for a stronger result. However, it is a controversial ingredient in the skincare industry. It has been proven to aggravate skin irritations and harm the protective surface of the skin when used in large amounts. If you have sensitive skin, make sure to test the product before using it on a regular basis.
Witch hazel is a plant that has also been proven to assist with acne breakouts. Specifically, non-inflammatory acne such as blackheads and whiteheads. This is due to its active tannins and antioxidant properties. In addition, it is also extensively used to treat burns such as sunburns and razor burns.
Lastly, acetone is a chemical that also acts as a dirt and oil remover. It has strong antiseptic properties that assist in wound healing and acne treatment. However, it can be very drying.
Due to the very drying nature of the ingredients included in these pads, I wouldn’t recommend them for any other skin types except oily acne-prone skin. They are very easy to apply and lightweight on the skin. However, you might feel sensitized upon application due to the inclusion of acids and alcohol. Whatsmore, while it claims to be unscented, it has a chemical scent that might be irritatating if you have sensitive skin.
These pads are very effective in minimizing the most stubborn acne. However, if you are looking for gentler toner without the harsh ingredients, then consider the ZELEN Life Toner or Boscia’s Rosewater Mist. They are both excellent for light acne due to the inclusion of natural ingredients, such as honey, lavender and witch hazel, basil oil, respectively.
- Regular use reduces the pore size
- Improves and prevents acne, as well as acne induced pigmentation
- Glycolic acid promotes collagen generation, which improves fine lines
- Alcohol mattifies the skin
Things to think about:
- Should not be used daily
- Not for skincare beginners
- Should be supplemented with a good moisturizer, otherwise will dry the skin out
A solid exfoliating toner for oily skin with visibly large pores and acne outbreaks. It is not suitable for daily use, though, and remember to always put on a broad-spectrum sunscreen during the day if you use it regularly.
- Value for money
Boscia Rosewater Mist with Witch Hazel (Best for makeup users)
- Another natural, organic option
- Dewy look on application
- Great scent
The best toner for:
Applying under the makeup or as a finishing spray.
Rosewater, witch hazel, aloe vera, clove oil, basil oil
Boscia Rosewater Mist is a popular product amongst makeup lovers. It gives a non-oily dewy glow to the skin, making it perfect for application with makeup. Its main ingredients are rosewater, witch hazel, aloe vera, clove oil, and basil oil.
Rosewater has many benefits when applied to the skin. It regulates excess oil, reduces the appearance of redness, provides intense hydration, and minimizes the appearance of large pores. Also, it smells amazing!
Witch hazel is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and astringent that also balances the skin’s excess oil without stripping its natural moisture. (9) As said previously, it helps reduce the appearance of acne and tighten up the pores. Aloe vera is one of the most well-known ingredients in skincare. It soothes the skin, revitalizes, and hydrates it. It is very effective in treating conditions such as sunburns, eczema, flakiness, and redness.
Clove oil and basil oil are antimicrobial and play a small role in preventing the growth of bacteria causing acne. (10) Basil oil is also rich in vitamin C, assisting in the promotion of a brighter complexion and the reduction of signs of aging, such as wrinkles and fine lines.
Overall, this is a very refreshing toner that provides a cool and calming sensation upon application. It is very lightweight and can be applied both, using a cotton pad or as a mist. Just 4-5 pumps are enough to get all of its benefits.
I found it to give the right amount of hydration without leaving the skin feeling sticky afterward. You will definitely notice your skin softer and dewy. It is very suitable to be used after the application of makeup, as it effectively removes the powderiness that makeup products leave.
What about the scent?
This toner has a subtle rose scent due to its inclusion of rosewater and rose flower. It doesn’t last long and doesn’t contain any synthetic fragrances, reducing this way the chances of irritation.
However, I noticed that it is not very effective in reducing the appearance of more advanced acne. If you are looking for a toner specifically for reducing your acne breakouts then Cane + Austin Acne Retexture Pads or MenScience Androceuticals might be more suitable for you. Cane + Austin Acne Retexture Pads contains AHA in combination with BHA acids to provide strong exfoliation. Whereas, MenScience Androceuticals contains AHA in combination with tea tree and green tea extracts.
- Rich in organic antioxidant, moisturizing and soothing ingredients
- Witch hazel mattifies the skin
- Great to use with makeup
Things to think about:
- Potential allergens in the ingredient list. Not suitable for sensitive skin
A toner for regular makeup users that controls the oil production without disturbing the hydration levels. People with sensitive skin and a history of allergies need to be careful, though.
- Value for money
MenScience Androceuticals Advanced Face Tonic (Best for men)
- A multipurpose toner- a shortcut approach to many benefits.
The best toner for:
Men (since it is primarily advertised for the male population), and those who like to keep their skincare routine short.
Aloe vera, glycolic acid, lactic acid, green tea, vitis vinifera (grape), chamomile, tea tree.
MenScience Androceuticals is a luxury skincare brand that emphasizes creating products for men (even though women can also use them). MenScience is well-known for providing high-quality products that have proven to work and are free from harmful chemicals. Their Androceuticals Advanced Face Tonic is evidence of that.
At first glance, I was surprised at the ingredient list of this toner. It has every ingredient an entire good skincare ‘routine’ should have. Key ingredients: are aloe vera, glycolic acid, lactic acid, green tea, grape, chamomile, and tea tree.
To begin with, the combination of strong (glycolic acid) and mild (lactic acid) chemical exfoliators are known to remove the dead top layer of the skin to make the pores look smaller while increasing the overall radiance of the skin. As said previously, glycolic acid enhances skin texture and decreases pigmentation by stimulating skin cell renewal. (7) It encourages the formation of collagen while reducing signs of aging. It is also very effective against acne due to its antibacterial properties.
Green tea and tea tree are also great antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agents which assist in fighting acne (6) and other skin-related conditions such as blemishes, swelling, redness, psoriasis. They are also rich in antioxidants. Grapes are rich in resveratrol which is a marvelous ingredient in skincare products. It fights free radicals and has been shown to increase elasticity and reduce signs of aging, such as wrinkles and fine lines. Grape oil also promotes skin absorption and is anti-inflammatory, making it effective against pimples.
Unlike other toners on the list, this one needs to be applied using a cotton pad, as it doesn’t come with a spray pump. It is not drying (i.e. such as Cane + Austin Acne Retexture Pads) but you will definitely feel that is not super hydrating too. Nevertheless, you definitely feel your skin cleaner and softer after application.
Lastly, its bottle deserves a mention, as it doesn’t represent the product’s quality and price. The lid is not very effective at keeping the product from leaking, even when it’s closed. Similar to my experience, other users have also commented that the lid would open unexpectedly that resulted in product loss. I’m sure it will be fine on the bathroom shelf but not the most suitable if you want to take it with you when traveling.
- Exfoliating ingredients to keep the skin rejuvenated and fresh
- Contains ingredients with calming and hydrating properties
- Alpha hydroxy acids, as well as tea tree oil to fight against acne, a common problem with oily skin
Things to think about:
- A LOT of active ingredients. Might be irritating, especially if you already use products or treatments with concentrated actives
- Not suitable for sensitive skin
- The bottle lid could have been better. No spray pump is available.
A good power-packed toner, which promises to do more than an entire skincare routine. It would work well when you like your skincare routine to be the basic CTM- just add a mild moisturizer to this dynamo, and you should be good to go. Not to be applied on irritated skin, though.
- Value for money
How we chose these products
We chose the best toner for oily and acne-prone skin based on several factors.
First, we sorted out the best toners available for oily skin. Our priorities were a scientifically sound ingredient list, an efficient formulation, and the brands that we can trust to produce high-quality products. We also took into consideration the availability to a wide range of our readers across the globe.
We made sure that none of the toners are exorbitantly high-priced so that they fit into your routine seamlessly. Even in the reasonably priced bracket, we kept in mind all budget points.
We picked out top products for all the variations of oily skin type with large pores-uncomplicated oily skin, acne-prone skin, inflammation, etc. Furthermore, we picked out a couple of natural options for those who like their skincare the organic way.
The last and most important step was to include feedbacks from various platforms and channels. We made sure that reviews are trustworthy and come from reliable sources.
Through this extensive process, we tried to make sure that we found one product for everyone. I hope we were able to.
Frequently asked questions
How to apply the toner?
While the right way to apply is to soak a cotton pad in the toner and dabbing it on your face, many people also use their fingers to apply toners.
Neither method is wrong.
Applying it with fingers will cause a little product wastage, though. Also, make sure when applied with a cotton pad, the pad is not rubbed on the skin, just gently dabbed.
How often should I use the toner?
It completely depends upon the active ingredients in your toner. A toner with salicylic and glycolic acid should be used a maximum of 3-4 times a week, once daily, preferably at night. But a toner just with moisturizing or soothing ingredients like rosewater can be used even twice a day.
If I spray water, rather than using toner, and follow it up with a moisturizer, would it have the same effect on my skin’s hydration?
No, a toner with hydrating ingredients followed by a moisturizer is way more efficacious in hydrating the skin and giving the moisture boost compared to water and moisturizer.
Using a toner not only delivers more hydrating ingredients but also helps the moisturizer to penetrate better and bind more water. (12)
It was said that the toner balances skin’s pH, is it true?
When the soaps and face washes were harsh and with pH above 6, a toner with a little acidic pH of <5.5 was supposed to balance the acid mantle of the skin.
But we know now that the acid mantle of skin balances itself and does not need a toner to do that.
Additionally, using a cleansing product with high pH is very detrimental anyway and should be avoided in the first place, rather than using a toner to balance it out.
Can toner make my face less oily long term?
Temporarily yes. But the oil production is regulated by the hormones called androgen.
No toner or, as a matter of fact, any other product applied from outside can regulate oil production on a long term basis.
A toner can only mattify your face for a few hours. A long term improvement in oily skin needs a dermatologist based treatment like isotretinoin (11) or hormonal therapy.
With so many skincare products available in the market, designing a routine for oily skin with large pores could be challenging.
The product shouldn’t just control the oil and reduce the appearance of pores but also maintain a healthy skin barrier and control acne breakouts.
A toner doing all that and a little more could be a great addition to your skincare routine, and I hope we were able to help you make a choice.
Do you know someone with oily skin who would benefit from this list?
If you do, share this article with them. Also, do you love toners too? Let us know in the comments.
If you liked this article and are interested in more such articles to help you navigate the myriad of options suitable for your skin type–subscribe to our email list to get the top choices delivered right to your inbox.
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- Cardia GFE, Silva-Filho SE, Silva EL, et al. Effect of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Essential Oil on Acute Inflammatory Response. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018;2018:1413940. Published 2018 Mar 18. doi:10.1155/2018/1413940
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- Thring TS, Hili P, Naughton DP. Antioxidant and potential anti-inflammatory activity of extracts and formulations of white tea, rose, and witch hazel on primary human dermal fibroblast cells. J Inflamm (Lond). 2011;8(1):27. Published 2011 Oct 13. doi:10.1186/1476-9255-8-27
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- Regulates pH, tightens pores and helps acne breakouts
- Organic formula that moisturizes and soothes the skin
- Active botanicals with antibacterial and wound healing properties
- Prevents and improves acne flare ups
- Reduces fine lines
- Shrinks pore size
- Loaded with antioxidant ingredients
- Witch hazel mattifies the skin
- Boosts skin hydration
- Made with exfoliating ingredients
- Helps acne-prone skin
- Calming effect and increases moisture