The Best Toners For Sensitive Skin

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If you have sensitive skin, you know all too well that using the wrong product even just once can lead to irritation and inflammation that can set you back for weeks. When it comes to toners, you may have thought the only options were harsh astringents that should be avoided entirely (and to be fair, if you grew up in the '90s or early 2000s, that's pretty much true). But dermatologist Geeta Yadav, who spoke to Elite Daily for this article, says that the best toners for sensitive skin will actually help to rebalance — and even soothe — your skin, typically using a blend of hydrating and calming ingredients (instead of drying alcohols and astringents). "Beyond the better-known benefits of helping to control oil and removing lingering dirt and makeup that may not have been thoroughly washed away by your cleanser, toner helps rebalance your skin," says Dr. Yadav, who explains that most cleansers disrupt the skin's natural pH balance. "The more acidic pH of toner helps reharmonize your skin," she tells Elite Daily, adding that the pH balance of your skin is important when it comes to keeping skin moisturized and protected from bacteria.

The Expert

Dr. Geeta Yadav, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist in Canada. She is the founder of Facet Dermatology, where she specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology. Dr. Yadav holds a master's degree in International Health from Johns Hopkins University and completed her dermatology training at the University of Toronto.

What To Consider When Shopping For A Toner For Sensitive Skin

Dr. Yadav says that those with sensitive, oily skin will benefit the most from toner because of its ability to control excess sebum production, but even drier skin types can benefit from toners made with hydrating and soothing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, niacinamide, and blue tansy. No matter what type of sensitive skin you have, there's one ingredient everyone should skip: alcohol. "Alcohol can be very drying and irritating," Dr. Yadav says. "Avoid astringent toners that have alcohol as one of the first ingredients on the back of the bottle, which means it is formulated with a high concentration of the ingredient."

Toner Tips For Sensitive Skin

Using a toner is pretty straightforward (saturate a cotton pad with product, then swipe it over your face), but knowing when to apply it, and how often, requires a more individualized approach. "Those with sensitive skin should always perform a patch test before committing to full face use," Dr. Yadav stresses. Depending on your preference and your skin's needs, you can apply your toner morning and night or just once nightly. Either way. Dr. Yadav says that toning should take place after cleansing, and should be followed up with the rest of your skin care routine.

However, there are some occasions when you'll want to skip the toner. "If your skin barrier is highly compromised from using retinoids, severe acne, or another skin condition, you should avoid toner," Dr. Yadav recommends. "At the very least, discuss adding anything new to your routine with your dermatologist," she suggests for anyone set on incorporating a toner into their skin care regimen.

Shop The Best Toners For Sensitive Skin

In a hurry? Here are the best toners for sensitive skin:

  1. Best Budget-Friendly Toner For Sensitive Skin: Heritage Store Rosewater Toner
  2. Best Toner For Acne-Prone, Sensitive Skin: Hero Cosmetics Clear Collective Balancing Capsule Toner
  3. Best Pore-Minimizing Toner For Sensitive Skin: Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner
  4. Best Soothing Toner For Sensitive Skin: Etude House SoonJung pH 5.5 Relief Toner
  5. Best Soothing & Protecting Toner For Sensitive Skin: EltaMD Skin Recovery Essence Toner
  6. Best Toner Mist For Sensitive Skin: Yon-Ka Paris Dry Skin Toner

1. Best Budget-Friendly Toner For Sensitive Skin

There are nearly 5,000 five-star ratings on Amazon for this Heritage Store Rosewater Toner. Designed to enrich skin with hydration, the alcohol-free and fragrance-free formula combines glycerin and hyaluronic acid with other multi-tasking ingredients. Aloe vera leaf juice provides skin with more moisture, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties that can be soothing to sensitive skin (particularly those with conditions like acne or eczema). And then there's rose flower oil in here, which gives the toner its fresh, floral scent (along with various other skin care benefits).

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, Aloe Vera, Rose Flower Oil Alcohol-Free: Yes Fragrance-Free: Yes Size: 8 oz.

Relevant Review: "Really gentle on my face and doesn't leave it dry. Also removes a lot of impurities. I have really sensitive skin and combination skin. Lately, it's been drier than usual. This leaves my skin soft and not dry at all like some other toners I've used."

2. Best Toner For Acne-Prone, Sensitive Skin

When you're trying to treat breakouts, it's important that you're also hydrating your skin, as dry, irritated skin can just lead to more breakouts (and more oil). The Hero Cosmetics Clear Collective Balancing Capsule Toner focuses on delivering moisturizing ingredients to your skin with glycerin and hyaluronic acid while it simultaneously exfoliates with mandelic and glycolic acids. To regulate oil production, you'll also find non-irritating ingredients like zinc PCA and witch hazel extract in here (the latter of which can even have a soothing effect on skin). Designed to be pressed into skin while it's still damp from cleansing, the alcohol-free and fragrance-free toner also contains soft oil capsules packed with moringa oil and coenzyme Q10 to strengthen the skin's moisture barrier immediately upon application.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Green Tea Leaf Water, Witch Hazel Extract, Zinc PCA, Willow Bark Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Snow Mushroom, Mandelic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Vitamin E, Moringa Seed Oil, Allantoin, CoQ10 Alcohol-Free: Yes Fragrance-Free: Yes Size: 4.4 oz.

Relevant Review: "I have sensitive skin with atopic eczema and using this has really reduced the amount of breakouts I get on my face. The scent is mild but not overbearing, and the texture is like a more gelatinous serum with beads. It does moisturize, and sometimes I leave out my regular moisturizer. Overall, I used it over the course of 30 days to test and really saw my acne (which was minimal, so I'm not sure how it works for severe acne) and eczema reduce [...] My skin tone has become more balanced and the toner really seeps into my skin, making it feel very soft and bouncy. 10/10 would recommend!"

3. Best Pore-Minimizing Toner For Sensitive Skin

Niacinamide, the star ingredient in this Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner, is one of Dr. Yadav's favorite ingredients for sensitive skin because it both calms inflammation and minimizes the appearance of pores by clearing them of the oil and debris that can make them appear enlarged in the first place. To make the toner even more sensitive skin-friendly, it's formulated with soothing chamomile flower extract, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and skin barrier-restoring ceramides.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Niacinamide, Chamomile Flower Extract, Hydrolyzed Jojoba Esters, Panthenol, Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides Alcohol-Free: Yes Fragrance-Free: Yes Size: 6.4 oz.

Relevant Review: "This toner has done wonders for my skin. I have sensitive skin, and my skin has never been irritated after using this toner. My skin looks very clear, and my pores definitely appear reduced. I use this every day (morning and night) with a reusable cotton pad, and I absolutely love it."

4. Best Soothing Toner For Sensitive Skin

You'll find soothing ingredients in all of the toners on this list, but Etude House's toner is a K-beauty favorite that was specifically formulated to rebalance the skin's pH level. Panthenol, vitamin E, and green tea leaf extract are some of the typical ingredients you'll find in this toner to moisturize and calm skin, but there are a few additional, lesser-known ingredients worth mentioning, too. Centella asiatica, a traditional medicinal herb, has moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties, and scutellaria baicalensis root extract (sometimes known as Chinese skullcap), is an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine that has soothing properties. There's no alcohol or fragrance in this hypoallergenic toner, and it's also free from most other potential irritants, as well.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Panthenol, Centella Asiatica, Vitamin E, Green Tea Leaf Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract Alcohol-Free: Yes Fragrance-Free: Yes Size: 6.76 oz.

Relevant Review: "This toner feels amazing when applied. I have very acne prone and sensitive skin but this toner makes my skin plump and clean without the irritating tightness you find in other toners. It applies like a dream, no scent, and I can really feel it moisturizing me. It doesn’t react negatively with other products and is just a great, smooth base for layering skincare. It will be a staple in my skin care routine!"

5. Best Soothing & Protecting Toner For Sensitive Skin

Another soothing option geared toward drier skin types that are sensitive, this EltaMD Skin Recovery Essence Toner is dermatologist-tested and free from alcohol, fragrance, and dyes (the blue color comes naturally courtesy of malachite extract). To help repair the skin barrier in an effort to reduce further irritation, EltaMD created a patented blend of amino acids that work with ingredients like glycerin to moisturize skin, too. Then there's that malachite extract that was mentioned earlier, which helps to remove any impurities that may have been missed by your cleanser while also providing protection against environmental aggressors.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Malachite Extract, Arginine, Glycine, Taurine Alcohol-Free: Yes Fragrance-Free: Yes Size: 7.3 oz.

Relevant Review: "This is very soothing and makes my skin feel smoother instantly after using it. Within a few seconds I can feel it clearing up my pores. This stuff is great! No strong fragrances or anything. I have very sensitive skin and this worked out perfectly for that, no irritation at all! Love this stuff! This big bottle will last me forever too."

6. Best Toner Mist For Sensitive Skin

For an on-the-go refresh, or for a daily toner that doesn't require any cotton pads, there's this Yon-Ka Paris Dry Skin Toner. Housed in a mist bottle, you can spray this lotion-like toner directly onto your face and gently pat it into your skin for a hydrating boost. In here, glycerin and castor oil are combined with essential oils like lavender, rosemary, and thyme to soothe and moisturize skin while giving the toner a refreshing scent, sans synthetic fragrances. However, it is important to note that essential oils may be a trigger for some sensitive skin types (as can any ingredient, really), which is exactly why you should always follow Dr. Yadav's rule of doing a patch test first.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Castor Oil, Rosemary Oil, Lavender Oil, Thyme Oil Alcohol-Free: Yes Fragrance-Free: Yes Size: 6.76 oz.

Relevant Review: "I have been using Yonka products for years; this is one of my favorites. It's light, refreshing, and the smell is amazing. Really good for my sensitive skin. It's just the right amount of moisture and doesn't make my face break out. My after-shower face routine is not complete without it."


Dr. Geeta Yadav, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of Facet Dermatology.