But before we go any further, allow us to clear the air. If you hold some not-so-fond memories of toners that lit your face on fire, like we do, rest easy knowing those days are over. Back, oh, as early as 10 years ago, toners contained an absurd amount of alcohol that left skin dry, irritated, and hot AF (and not in a good way). Most toners today are made with gentler ingredients and without alcohol, and focus on prepping the skin for moisture rather than stripping it of natural oils.
So the best way to think of toner is not as the painful stuff of teenage acne but as a primer for the grownup’s skincare routine. And we mean that literally. Not only does toner cleanse skin and refine pores, it also preps the skin to absorb other products, like serum and moisturizer. And, as you’ll see more notably with our $$ and $$ picks, toners are often packed with all sorts of extra skincare benefits, like natural hydrating and soothing ingredients.
Compared to one runner-up in this price category, Mario Badescu left our skin feeling consistently smoother, resulting in more testers reaching for it. In terms of application, a simple spout flips up at the top, making for a seamless transfer from plastic bottle to cotton pad. Nothing particularly fancy, but effective. After a simple swipe of the scentless blue fluid across the face and neck, our testers felt a significant difference throughout day, and, when applied at night, an even better feeling the morning after.