The 10 Best Toners for Acne-Prone Skin

Our top pick is La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner, which rids skin of dirt and debris while banishing blemishes.

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Best Toners for Acne-Prone Skin
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If you're struggling with acne, it might be time to add a toner to your daily skincare routine. But before choosing just any formula, it's important to consider your unique skin type to find the right toner for you.

To find the best toners for acne-prone skin, we spent hours researching the most popular options on the market. We narrowed down the list by considering factors like ingredients, benefits, and value. For expert advice on choosing a toner, we spoke with Michele Farber, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist practicing with Schweiger Dermatology Group, and Hadley C. King, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology.

"Toners are liquids that are applied after cleansing, before additional topical products," says Dr. King. Like cleansers or moisturizers, toners can offer "various benefits depending on the active ingredient, ranging from hyaluronic acid for hydration to salicylic acid for oil control to glycolic acid for exfoliation and treatment of uneven pigment," adds Dr. Farber.

Our best overall pick is the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner. The exfoliating formula contains salicylic and glycolic acid, making it an excellent choice for those with oily, acne-prone skin.

Here are the best toners for acne-prone skin.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall Toner for Acne: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner

Best Toners for Acne-Prone Skin
Amazon.com

Also available at Ulta and Target.

Who it's for: People looking for an effective toner for acne that smooths skin texture.

Who it isn't for: People with normal or dry skin may not reap as many benefits as oily and combination.

This clarifying toner from La Roche-Posay stops acne in its tracks while giving your complexion an overall boost. The liquid formula is free of oil, fragrance, and parabens and created specifically for those with oily, acne-prone, and combination skin. It contains 0.5 percent salicylic acid (a beta hydroxy acid, or BHA) and glycolic acid (an alpha-hydroxy acid, or AHA). This exfoliating duo works overtime to make your skin look and feel its best. The AHAs remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin to smooth its texture, while the BHAs penetrate under your skin to clear clogged pores. That's how this toner refines the appearance of pores and clears up blackheads, whiteheads, and acne blemishes.

For best results, you can use this toner up to twice daily, in the morning and/or evening. If you want to take your routine to the next level, use La Roche-Posay's Effaclar Medicated Acne Face Wash before toning—it's step one of the brand's acne-treatment system.

Price at time of publish: $16

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid and glycolic acid
  • Size: 6.7 ounces

Best Budget Toner for Acne: The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7-Percent Toning Solution

Best Toners for Acne-Prone Skin
sephora.com

Also available at Target.

Who it's for: People who want a highly potent formula that won't break the bank.

Who it isn't for: People with sensitive or peeling skin.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7-Percent Toning Solution packs a punch without a steep price tag. The unscented, alcohol-free formula is best for those on the market for a toner that targets dullness and uneven texture (in addition to acne, of course). While this toner doesn't fight existing acne as salicylic acid does, it prevents future breakouts since it contains glycolic acid—an ingredient that keeps the surface of your skin free from pore-clogging debris.

To help combat any potential irritation, this toner contains Tasmanian pepperberry derivative. This ingredient is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules that work to keep skin calm and soothed. And just a heads up: You should avoid using this toner more than once daily because it's very potent, so overdoing it can cause irritation and potentially worsen acne.

Price at time of publish: $10

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: Glycolic acid, Tasmanian pepperberry derivative, ginseng root, and aloe vera
  • Size: 8 ounces

Best Splurge Toner for Acne: Dr. Barbara Sturm Balancing Toner

Best Toners for Acne-Prone Skin
sephora.com

Also available at Nordstrom and Dr. Barbara Sturm.

Who it's for: People looking for a toner without exfoliating properties.

Who it isn't for: People who don't want to invest in high-end skincare.

Dr. Barbara Sturm's Balancing Toner is a bit more expensive than others on our list, but it's a mild formula that's entirely free of exfoliating ingredients—and it will soothe sensitive, irritated skin prone to breakouts. That said, it's an excellent option for those who want to use a toner every day without having to worry about potential irritation. (It's a great way to remove excess oil and debris that your cleanser didn't tackle.)

Beyond removing oil and makeup residue, this formula contains an ingredient called sugar biovector, which helps regulate the skin's delicate pH balance. Believe it or not, your skin's pH can be altered just by tap water's alkalinity, which can negatively affect your complexion. Ensuring your skin's pH is balanced is important because a pH of "around 5.5" is crucial for "proper skin cell turnover and functioning of enzymes needed to maintain skin hydration, antimicrobial defenses, and barrier function," Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, previously said.

Price at time of publish: $75

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: Sugar biovector, beta-glucan, and hyaluronic acid
  • Size: 5.07 ounces

RELATED: The 9 Best Facial Cleansers for All Skin Types

Best Natural Toner for Acne: Aromatica Tea Tree Balancing Toner

Best Toners for Acne-Prone Skin
Amazon.com

Who it's for: People looking for a natural toner that's better for their skin and the environment.

Who it isn't for: People who don't like the smell of tea tree oil.

The Aromatica Tea Tree Balancing Toner is EWG Verified, which ensures it's free from concerning chemicals and adheres to strict health standards. Not only that, but you'll also love the benefits this K-beauty favorite delivers to oily and acne-prone skin. It contains tea tree leaf extract that eliminates acne-causing bacteria, niacinamide to fight hyperpigmentation and boost brightness, and organic aloe vera juice to soothe and calm irritation. And finally, in keeping with the brand's sustainability initiatives, the bottle is made of recycled glass packaging to ensure there's less waste.

Price at time of publish: $43

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: Tea tree leaf extract, aloe vera, chamomile flower extract, and niacinamide
  • Size: 6.7 ounces

Best Exfoliating Toner for Acne: Ren Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic

Best Toners for Acne-Prone Skin
Amazon.com

Also available at Sephora, Dermstore, and Ren Clean Skincare.

Who it's for: People looking for a toner that contains both AHAs and BHAs.

Who it isn't for: Some people find this toner to be mildly sticky, which may be unpleasant to some.

The Ren Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic is a brightening powerhouse designed to make your skin appear radiant. This alcohol-free toner gets the job done with exfoliating—and hydrating—lactic acid that banishes dead skin cells and salicin to minimize the appearance of pores. And that's not all: The formula also contains azelaic acid to enhance your skin's natural glow while helping with hyperpigmentation.

Just note that the brand advises those with very sensitive skin to dilute the formula before applying it—at least until their skin adjusts to its exfoliating properties. To do so, try dampening a cotton pad with water before adding the toner.

Price at time of publish: from $20

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: Lactic acid, salicin, and azelaic acid
  • Size: 3.3, 8.5, and 16.9 ounces

Best Gentle Toner for Acne: Obagi Medical Nu-Derm Toner

Best Toners for Acne-Prone Skin
dermstore.com

Who it's for: People looking for a gentle cleanser suitable for all skin types, including sensitive.

Who it isn't for: People looking for an exfoliating toner.

The Obagi Medical Nu-Derm Toner is alcohol-free, so it's ideal for removing excess oil and impurities without stripping your skin of moisture. It's meant to be used twice a day—once in the morning and once again in the evening. This gentle toner for acne is powered by gentle ingredients and herbs such as aloe vera and witch hazel. It helps remove impurities and dead skin while restoring your skin's natural pH.

Price at time of publish: $43

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: Witch hazel, aloe, panthenol, and sage leaf extract
  • Size: 6.7 ounces

Best Hydrating Toner for Acne: Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner

Best Toners for Acne-Prone Skin
Amazon.com

Also available at Sephora and Glow Recipe.

Who it's for: People who want to minimize the appearance of pores without stripping their skin of moisture.

Who it isn't for: People who don't think they'd like the sweet watermelon fragrance.

Glow Recipe's Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner will hydrate skin and reduce the appearance of pores—and like all of the brand's viral products, it comes in a pretty bottle worthy of prime real estate on your vanity. This toner also has an impressive ingredient lineup, boasting polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) that gently exfoliate, along with BHAs and a hydrating trio of watermelon extract, hyaluronic acid, and cactus water.

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: PHA, willow bark (BHA), watermelon extract, hyaluronic acid, and cactus water
  • Size: 5.07 ounces

Price at time of publish: $34

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Best Toner for Oily, Acne-Prone Skin: Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore-Minimizing Toner

Best Toners for Acne-Prone Skin
Amazon.com

Also available at Sephora, Dermstore, and Caudalie.

Who it's for: People who want to reduce the appearance of large pores and oiliness.

Who it isn't for: Those who prefer alcohol-free products.

Anyone with oily, acne-prone, and combination skin types will appreciate the benefits of the Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore-Minimizing Toner. It uses salicylic acid to unclog your pores of oil and make them look less noticeable and shiny. This toner also contains grape and rose water for an antioxidant boost and a dose of hydration. Essential oils like lavender, lemongrass, and peppermint also help keep pesky blackheads at bay.

Price at time of publish: $28

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid and grape and rose water
  • Size: 6.7 ounces

Best Toner for Acne and Dark Spots: OleHenriksen Glow2OH Dark Spot Toner

Best Toners for Acne-Prone Skin
sephora.com

Also available at OleHenriksen.

Who it's for: People who want to target dark spots and brighten their skin.

Who it isn't for: People who don't like a skin-tingling sensation.

Dark spots and dullness are no match for the OleHenriksen Glow2OH Dark Spot Toner. The star ingredients in this formula are glycolic acid and lactic acid, two types of AHAs known for minimizing age spots and discoloration from UV damage while improving skin texture. With daily use, you might even notice a reduction in dark spots in as little as seven days, according to the brand.

This product contains witch hazel water to brighten the skin and reduce the appearance of pores. It also has soothing botanical extracts and a sweet, lemony scent. Keep in mind that the brand notes that it's normal to experience a tingling sensation when you first sweep it across your skin—think of it as a sign that the acids are doing their job.

Price at time of publish: from $19

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: Glycolic acid, lactic acid, and witch hazel water
  • Size: 2.2 or 6.5 ounces

RELATED: The 8 Best Foundations for Every Skin Type, According to Our Testing

Best Toner for Acne and Redness: Paula's Choice Regular Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution With 2-Percent Salicylic Acid

Best Toners for Acne-Prone Skin
Amazon.com

Also available at Paula's Choice, Sephora, and Dermstore.

Who it's for: People looking for a toner that helps combat redness and irritation.

Who it isn't for: People who would prefer a better value—this is one of the smallest bottles on our list.

Bid adieu to acne-related redness—and acne itself—with the help of this toner from Paula's Choice. This formula contains allantoin, a skin-soothing ingredient that calms redness and sensitivity. Teamed with exfoliating two percent salicylic acid and hydrating hyaluronic acid, this powerful trio helps banish blemishes, unclog congested pores, and fade red post-acne marks. It's recommended that you ease into this product by using it every other day to start and note your skin's response before implementing it into your morning and evening routine.

This toner is just one step in Paula's Choice Clear Line, which is designed for acne-prone skin. While you don't have to switch to every product in the collection to see results, some people may find it more convenient to follow a curated skincare routine.

Price at time of publish: $34

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, allantoin, and hyaluronic acid
  • Size: 4 ounces

Final Verdict

Our top pick is the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner, which clears acne while improving the skin's overall appearance. If you're looking for a lower-price option, we recommend The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7-Percent Exfoliating Toning Solution, a highly potent formula that improves skin clarity while boosting your complexion's radiance.

How to Shop for Toners for Acne

Ingredients

When shopping for a toner, consider what skincare concerns you want to target so you can find the right active ingredients to fit your needs. Some common ingredients found in toners for acne are salicylic acid (BHA) for oil control, witch hazel to refine pores and reduce inflammation, niacinamide for redness and oil control, and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) to clear out pores.

Skin Type

You should also consider your skin type (Is it oily? Acne-prone? Dry?) to ensure the toner is the right fit. For example, alcohol-based toners are better for oily skin since they can be drying, while toners with active exfoliating ingredients like salicylic acid or AHAs may be irritating to sensitive skin, says Dr. King. Likewise, "some are formulated specifically to be hydrating and moisturizing, which is particularly helpful if your skin is dry, and may be particularly well-suited for dry winter weather," she says.

Skincare Routine

After you find the right toner for your skin, it's time to implement it into your skincare routine. If you've selected a toner with exfoliants, note that you shouldn't use it every day from the start. It's important that you work your way up to it slowly, according to Dr. Farber. Pro tip: "Oily skin will tolerate more frequent application of active ingredients, while it is best to start one-to-two times weekly on sensitive skin," she says.

Questions You Might Ask

What does toner do?

"Toners across the board help remove oil and refresh the skin after cleansing," says Dr. Farber. That said, they aren't one-size-fits-all products, as some formulas benefit specific skin types or concerns more than others. It ultimately comes down to its active ingredients. For example, Dr. Farber notes that actives like hyaluronic acid are ideal for hydration, while salicylic acid is best for oil control and glycolic acid is ideal for exfoliation and uneven pigment.

Is toner bad for acne?

Toner can help treat acne, but it's important to be mindful of what products you pair it with. While salicylic acid is helpful for oil control, Dr. Farber says "it needs to be combined properly with other skincare ingredients to prevent over drying, which can cause breakouts."

You should also keep in mind that more doesn't necessarily mean better. To avoid overdoing it, "it's best to have a few targeted active ingredients," says Dr. Farber.

How do you apply toner, and when do you apply it during your skincare routine?

The best way to apply toner is after cleansing, before essence or serum, says Dr. King. Apply the amount designated on the product packaging to a cotton ball or pad before sweeping it across your skin. She also recommends blotting—not rubbing—"particularly if the toner contains exfoliating ingredients."

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by Marisa Petrarca, a contributing writer for Real Simple with over five years of editorial experience crafting product reviews and lifestyle content. To compile this list, she spent hours researching the best toners for acne. She also consulted Michele Farber, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist practicing with Schweiger Dermatology Group in Philadelphia, PA, and Hadley C. King, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology, for recommendations on choosing the best toner for you.

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