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The Beauty Edit

Why These New-Age Toners Are Beauty's New Darlings

Skincare toners used to be one of the cornerstones of beauty routines, with the classic mantra ‘cleanse, tone, moisturise’ engraining the product into our consciousness.

Yet, as regimes became more streamlined, traditional formulas began to fall out favour, as they tended to be harsh and stripping on the skin, with alcohol-heavy formulas.

Now though, skin toners are back with a vengeance and its well-worth taking notice. Google searches for ‘skin toner’ have increased by 43% over the last 12 months, with launches by trusted experts including Maryam Zamani and Byoma joining the fray.

“Skin toners have evolved hugely over the last few years to become true multi-tasking skincare essentials,” reveals the facialist Emma Brown, whose clients include Salma Hayek and Cara Delevingne. These new formulas can balance your skin’s pH and boost the absorption of your existing routine (so you get better results across the board), while also being packed with skincare benefits designed to exfoliate, brighten, hydrate and decongest your skin, whatever its type or tone.

To help you find the best one for you, this is our guide to the best toners for all skin concerns.

What are toners?

Beauty toners are liquids designed to be used after cleansing and before the rest of your skincare products, such as your moisturiser. You can apply them by decanting some of the liquid into your hands or, more commonly, by applying them onto a cotton pad before sweeping across your face.

Toning products come in different textures – from very watery to more viscous, mainly depending on preference – and they contain ingredients targeted towards most of the common skin concerns, such as hydration, breakout-reduction and brightening.

The newer formulas tend to be quite multi-purpose too, meaning they are able to gently exfoliate your skin, for a brighter-looking glow and sebum-reduction, while still hydrating and nourishing so as to avoid dryness and redness from irritation.


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What ingredients should you look out for?

Depending on your skin goals, toners now contain any combination of leading skincare ingredients that experts trust. These includes:


Alpha-hydoroxy acids, such as lactic acid and glycolic acid, work on the surface of the skin via exfoliation, encouraging the sloughing off of dead skin cells to reveal new skin below. This leads to the appearance of brighter, smoother looking skin, while tackling specific concerns such as dark spots too.


Beta-hydroxy acids, most commonly salicylic acid, are able to delve a little deeper into the pores. This helps to decongest your complexion, as they can work to remove excess sebum and dirt that could be causing irritation and breakouts. As such, formulas containing BHAs are popular for breakout-prone complexions or anyone who struggles with hormonal pimples.


The gentlest type of exfoliating acid, this ingredient is a larger molecule meaning it can provide gentle exfoliation and brightening effects, without leaving sensitive skin dry and sore. You’ll often find it in formulas that look to refresh and smooth the skin, while still being suitable for reactive skin types, such as those with rosacea.

Hyaluronic acid and glycerin 

Two hero hydrating ingredients, finding glycerin and/or hyaluronic acid high-up in the ingredients list is a good sign of a nourishing formula. If you have dry skin patches or need a little extra hydration, especially post-flight, a refreshing toner will provide the refresh you need. Other ingredients to look for include rose water, snail mucin and allantoin.


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Who are toners suitable for?

Due to their formulas normally being tailored to specific skin concerns, beauty toners can be suitable for all skin types, given you can choose the one that’s right for you. Hydrating formulas, for example, can be beneficial for both drier and more sensitive complexions, while balancing and exfoliating types are better suited for oilier, congestion-prone skins. Depending on how well your skin can tolerate exfoliation, there is also a brightening option for all skin types.

Are there any drawbacks to beauty toners?

Unlike cleansing and SPF, toners aren’t necessarily integral to your beauty routine. They should be viewed more like a booster to provide a little extra of what your skin needs, whether that is hydration, balancing or brightening.

They are also different to micellar waters – although they look similar – so are not designed to be used to take off your makeup. Your skin can become congested if you try and use them in this way, although they do clear away small traces of dirt. (Try La Roche-Posay’s Micellar Water if makeup removal is more your concern).

Some toners, especially those that contain AHAs, are not designed to be used everyday, as they can be over-exfoliating. For this reason, always read the instructions and be especially careful if you have sensitive skin.

The best toners for Glow

The best toners for Hydration

The best toners for Breakouts

The best toners for Gentle brightening


At-home peels for dark spots


Lead image credit: MZ Skin

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