10 Exfoliating Toners That Make Getting Glowy Skin Shockingly Easy
Picking a favorite skincare product is like being forced to pick a favorite child, but whenever someone asks me the one I can't live without, I almost always say exfoliating toner. It wasn't until I started recommending one to every friend who would ask what their skincare routine was missing did I realize how much I loved them. Now, I use an exfoliating toner on a daily basis before bed to keep my combination skin in check. The result: a glowier, smoother, and softer complexion.
Years ago, toners were primarily formulated as an astringent, with dehydrating alcohol as the hero ingredient. Eventually, the industry evolved and split the toner category into two branches: toners that hydrate and soften, and toners that exfoliate. The latter does so using a family of active acids, like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), and polyhydroxy acids (PHAs). While each family functions differently (lactic acid, an AHA, smooths out the surface of the skin by promoting cell turnover; salicylic acid, a BHA, can cut through oil and bacteria hiding deep inside your pores; gluconolactone, a PHA, resurfaces skin and helps other skincare ingredient penetrate deeper) the main goal for each one is singular: to promote a brighter, radiant complexion.
Before you find the best exfoliating toner for you, there are a few things you should know. First, too much daily exfoliation can be, well, too much. How often you use an exfoliating toner in your routine totally depends on the formulation and your skin's sensitivity. If a toner includes a lot of AHAs, using it every other day will suffice, while BHAs are known to be of a gentler nature so they can be used daily. The best method is to introduce any new skincare product with active ingredients slowly and avoid using in tandem with other exfoliating tools or product, like a physical scrub, acid serum, or cleansing brush — and don't forget to wear sunscreen. Acids can make your skin more reactive to the sun, so protection is key.
Bottom line: listen to your skin as you go; pain or tingling isn't an immediate sign that something is "working." If a product consistently causes discomfort, it may be too powerful for your skin and that means it's time move on to the next. Luckily, I have a lot of favorite exfoliating toners that are compatible for every skin type and texture out there, so you've got options.