We put several toners to the test — all easy on the face and the wallet — and Mario Badescu’s Glycolic Acid Toner quickly broke away from the pack. Yes, this bottle is at the higher end of our $ price range, but we say it’s worth the price. Even with a field that included budget favorites like Thayers’ Witch Hazel Toner, Mario Badescu eked out the win by giving our testers better results and a more refreshed feeling.
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.
That’s all thanks to a primo ingredient list. With 2% glycolic acid — a highly effective and gentle exfoliator that absorbs quickly — the toner helps to reduce buildup and slough off dead cells, leaving skin clear and radiant. It also includes grapefruit extract to fight free radicals and aloe to soothe and protect.
We’ll admit that “glycolic acid” may sound like something you’d never want near your face, but trust. It definitely won’t sting (tingle, maybe), and it’s a well-known anti-ager that accelerates the skin-cell renewing process. Even our designated acne-prone tester gave the toner two thumbs up, saying their face looked “tighter, smoother, and brighter, with significantly fewer breakouts.” And they’re not alone! Many online reviews called this product a miracle salve for acne woes. Other testers echoed the sentiment, remarking on their improved skin tone and moisture.
One last caveat: there are toners on the market to address any skin concerns you could have. And while the Glycolic Acid Toner worked wonders for all of our testers, other formulas might work better for you. Luckily, Mario Badescu offers a full lineup of toners, from its good-for-all-skin-types Witch Hazel and Rosewater Toner to sensitive-skin favorite Aloe Vera Toner. Whatever you choose, Mario Badescu definitely has you (and your face) covered.