If your skin is oily, you're familiar with what we call the midday glare — you know, when it's only 1 p.m. and you can practically see your reflection in the layer of oil already peeking through your makeup. Quick-fix remedies like blotting papers and touching up with setting powder can cut down on shine instantly, but it's only a matter of time before it comes creeping back.
That's where an effective skin-care regimen comes in, and the addition of a good toner can be a serious game-changer. Some people swear by them for adding that extra kick in their skin routine; others may classify the post-cleansing step as more work. But the right toner can make all the difference in the overall look and feel of your skin, especially if you're fighting a losing battle against grease.
According to dermatologist Hadley King, MD, in addition to their other benefits (which vary based on your formula of choice), toners can help clear oily buildup from the skin. "They don't decrease oil production, per se," she says. "However, they're great for removing excess sebum and exfoliating, and they can have an astringent effect to reduce the appearance of large pores temporarily."
However, not all toners are created equal: Some formulas get a bad rap for being excessively drying, which Dr. King says is due to the use of alcohol. "Traditionally, toners were alcohol-containing solutions that could potentially dry out the skin and cause irritation," she explains. "Now, many of them are alcohol-free and contain helpful ingredients to soothe and help treat various skin concerns."
For oily skin, Dr. King says, the key is seeking out toning liquids with exfoliating ingredients, like salicylic acid and witch hazel, to help cleanse oily pores. To help you sort through the countless options on the market right now, we rounded up some of the best formulas for fighting the afternoon sheen, ahead.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
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Boscia Resurfacing Treatment Toner with Apple Cider
With glycolic acid to reveal a more vibrant complexion, salicylic acid to purify pores, and apple cider vinegar to balance your complexion, this is one potent cocktail to use when your skin needs some sprucing up.
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AcneFree Witch Hazel Mattifying Face Toner
For acne-prone clients, Dr. King recommends this drugstore liquid. "Not only does this have glycolic acid to exfoliate the surface of the skin gently, but it also has aloe vera, which soothes irritation and inflammation," she says.
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Glamglow Supertoner Exfoliating Acid Solution Toner
This "super toner" is deserving of its boastful name: Six different acids, including lactic, mandelic, and salicylic, work to clarify the skin and assist with cell turnover so that acne, excess pigment, dullness, and scarring vanish over time. Activated charcoal will also help absorb impurities and improve the appearance of blemishes.
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Youth To The People Kombucha + 11% AHA Exfoliation Power Toner
Kombucha works wonders for your gut, and this bottle, which contains black tea ferment, does the same for your face. The prebiotic properties help rebalance your skin's microbiome, while lactic and glycolic acids exfoliate away oil buildup and dead skin. If you have hyperpigmentation, or your complexion just feels lackluster, this is sure to give it a boost.
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Thayers Witch Hazel Alcohol Free Toner
Dermatologist Shari Sperling, MD, gives this alcohol-free formula a thumbs-up for clearing up oil and dullness without drying out your face. "This works as an astringent and helps to shrink the appearance of large pores," she says. Sweep it on over just-washed skin and you'll feel instantly refreshed.
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Malin + Goetz AHA Treatment Solution
This toner isn't quite a liquid, but the gel-like formula can be smoothed on with your fingers or a large, soft cotton pad. Niacinamide and witch hazel help reduce excess sebum, while a blend of lactic and glycolic acids work to keep things firm and bright.
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Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid
Salicylic acid is the star ingredient in this cult-favorite toner, which Dr. King says is perfect for oily skin. The 2% BHA liquid also contains green tea and antioxidants to soothe and protect your skin while also making it gentle enough to use morning and night (if your skin needs it) for a clear, mattified complexion.