Best toner and face toner reviews from cheap to luxury and for oily to dry skin

Best toner: Discover which face toner best suits your skin type and budget

27th January 2023 | Author: Victoria Woollaston-Webber

Looking for face toner recommendations? We’ve got you covered with our pick of the best toner for all skin types


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Best toner reviews

How we test toners

Scoring Methodology 

Best toner spreadsheet

When you’re on a budget it can be tempting to abandon your search for the best toner and ditch it from your skincare routine, but it has many more benefits than you may realise.

Put simply, toner gives your skin a quick burst of hydration while removing dead cells from the surface. This helps remove any dirt missed by your cleanser and helps stop any traces of cleanser from clogging up your skin. It also results in brighter, smoother-looking skin. You can learn more in our What does toner do? article.

What’s more, just like a primer prepares your skin for makeup, toner can be seen as a primer for the rest of your skincare products.

FURTHER READING: How to make your own homemade toner on the cheap

It helps freshen the skin for your serum and makes it easier for your skin to absorb your moisturiser. If you’ve spent a lot of money on serums and moisturisers but scrimp on the toner, you’re doing your skin (and your wallet) a disservice.

In a bid to find the best face toner in the UK, we recently started a group test review series on TikTok.

As part of this series, we’re testing the hydration levels of different skincare products – from the best serums, to the best moisturisers, essences, and balms. Now we’ve added face toners to the mix.

We’re tracking the scores for each of the best face toners on a spreadsheet which you can find here, or by clicking the button below.

We’ve started listing the best toners that have been tested as part of this series, as well as the toners that we’ve used in real life and which we highly recommend. At the top of this article are the top scoring face toners according to TikTok as well as the best toners for different skin types and concerns.

If you’re interested to learn more about how we test serums, jump straight to that section.

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Best toner

This list is due to change and evolve as more tests are completed. These are the best toners as of January 2023. We’ve started listing the best serums and best moisturisers separately here. 

  1. Fenty Skin Fat Water Toner Serum: Buy now (UK) | Buy now (US) 
  2. Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner: Buy now (UK) | Buy now (US)
  3. COSRX Propolis Synergy Toner: Buy now (UK) | Buy now (US)
  4. Clinique Moisture Surge Face Spray: Buy now (UK) | Buy now (US)
  5. Klair’s Daily Skin Hydrating Water: Buy now (UK) | Buy now (US)
  6. The Body Shop Vitamin E Toner: Buy now (UK) 

 

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Fenty Skin Fat Water Toner Serum

£27 | Buy now (UK) | Buy now (US) 

Fenty Skin Fat Water Toner reviewFenty Skin

Part face toner, part serum, the Fenty Skin Fat Water ticks a lot of boxes when looking for top-quality skincare.

It’s not cheap – coming in at £27 – but it effectively does the work of two separate products in one. And, judging by our wide skincare group tests, it outperforms them all.

It gets its name from the fact it feels closer to a gel than a standard toner. It doesn’t feel heavy on the skin, and manages to soothe redness and irritation while hydrating the skin. 

In our hydration tests, Fenty Skin’s Fat Water increased the hydration of our skin by 10. 7 percentage points, or a percentage increase of 41.5%. Only the COSRX HA 3 serum comes close.

It’s vegan and cruelty-free and it has low irritation and comedogenic ratings.

This means that it’s unlikely to cause irritation or clog your pores – although these figures should only be used as a guide because the overall formula, when mixed with all the other ingredients, could change these ratings.

There are some flaws to this product. It contains ingredients that are considered “icky”, according to the INCI Decoder database. Namely fragrance.

It also contains a dye called Red 33 which, while not listed as an icky ingredient, is frowned upon. This is because the use of dyes has been known to disrupt the delicate balance of the skin barrier.

Elsewhere, it’s a pain to squeeze out of the tube but don’t let these points put you off, it’s a great product and the best face toner we’ve tested.

FURTHER READING: Fenty Skin UK: Rihanna looks to add Fenty Hair to her growing beauty empire

Buy now from Boots

Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner

£9.50 | Buy now

Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner reviewmamabella | mamabella

One of the most recent products we’ve tested in our hunt for the best face toner is the Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner.

Pyunkang Yul is a Korean-beauty staple and the toner performed incredibly well in our TikTok tests.

It increased the hydration levels of our skin by 12.4 points, or 33.1% after five minutes.

Despite then dropping by 4.4 points after an hour, it gave our skin a total hydration boost of eight points, or 24%.

In addition to being affordable, it also contains no icky ingredients on the INCI Decoder database, promises zero irritation, and has a comedogenic rating of 1.

This means the chances of it clogging your pores are low.

The consistency is watery and this means you don’t need to use a lot, and it absorbs quickly.

This can be used as a toner, after your cleanser, or as an essence.

If you want to try this face toner, we currently have a 10% discount code for YesStyle.

Just type MAMABELLA at the checkout to get money off this already affordable skincare icon.

Buy now from YesStyle

COSRX Propolis Synergy Toner

£16 | Buy now (UK) | Buy now (US)

COSRX Propolis Synergy Toner reviewmamabella | mamabella

This Propolis Synergy toner is part-toner, and part-essence and gets its name from the fact it contains 72% Black Bee propolis.

Propolis extract is antibacterial and contains antioxidants, both of which make this toner great for acne-prone skin, breakouts, irritation, and sun damage. It’s made from a resin that honey bees produce by mixing saliva and beeswax together, along with tree sap. Bees use it like a ‘glue’ to help seal gaps in their beehives.

The propolis extract then forms part of what COSRX calls its Full-Fit Pro Barrier Complex. This also includes honey, and Royal Jelly extract.

Honey is great for speeding up how quickly your skin cells regenerate, which determines how quickly your skin heals. It’s also anti-inflammatory. This is particularly good for people who have blemishes or eczema.

While Royal Jelly has been linked with helping to boost collagen production and can protect skin against the effects of ultraviolet radiation.

That’s not to say this toner is a sunscreen, it just helps protect the skin against UV effects.

In our hydration test, this essence-toner increased the hydration levels in our skin by 7.8 points (22.1%) after five minutes. After an hour, these levels dropped slightly – by 1.3 points – which gave the toner an overall increase of 6.5 points (19.1%).

It doesn’t contain any ingredients that the INCI Decoder website classes as “icky” and its ingredients have an Irritation rating of 0, and a very low comedogenic rating of 1. This means the chances of this toner causing irritation or breakouts are unlikely.

As you would imagine, a toner that relies on natural extracts from honey bees isn’t classed as vegan.

The brand doesn’t test products on animals, meaning it’s technically cruelty-free though.

Buy now from PureSeoul | Buy now from Ulta


The Body Shop Vitamin E Toner

£9 | Buy now 

The Body Shop Vitamin E Tonermamabella | mamabella

We haven’t tested many toners as part of our TikTok series yet but the worst performing of the lot has been The Body Shop Vitamin E Toner.

That’s not to say it’s terrible, it’s just running with incredibly strong competition with the likes of Fenty Skin’s Fat Water and Pyunkang Yul’s Essence Toner.

In our hydration test, this Body Shop toner increased levels by 5.7 points or 18%.

After an hour, this dropped by three points giving a total rise of a relatively low 2.7 points, or 9.4%.

On the INCI Decoder database, it is then shown as containing a high number “icky” ingredients.

Namely, fragrance as well as a number of perfuming ingredients including citronellol, alpha-isomethyl ionone, linalool, geraniol, citral, eugenol, and more.

This gave this face toner a total of 6.4 points out of a possible 10.

Thankfully, despite all of these icky ingredients, the rest of the formula has a zero irritation rating and a comedogenic rating of 1.

Consistency-wise, this toner has the same viscosity as the Pyunkang Yul essence toner and you only need a very small amount to cover your entire face.

On the plus side, it’s also cheap in comparison to other toners in this list and the brand is cruelty-free, so it does have a few things going for it.

FURTHER READING: Clean beauty: What are clean beauty products and how can I shop more consciously?

Buy now from The Body Shop

Below are our previous face toner recommendations, based on real-world tests. However, because not all of these have been tested in the same way as those featured in our best face toner TikTok series we’ve listed them by skin type and concern. As more toners are tested on TikTok, some of these toners may move up.

  • Best luxury toner: La Mer The Tonic: Buy now – £72
  • Best toner for redness and irritation: The Ordinary Glycolic Acid: Buy now£6.80
  • Best toner for blemishes: Grüum Rejuvenating Tonic: Buy now £7
  • Best toner for dull skin: Pixi Glow Tonic: Buy now£18
  • Best toner for sensitive skin: Clarins Extra Comfort Toning Lotion: Buy now£24

Best luxury toner: La Mer The Tonic

£72 | Buy now

Why we love it: Definitely an expensive choice, which will put it out of most people’s price ranges but this toner from La Mer goes some way towards justifying its high price tag with a host of luxury ingredients, including La Mer’s pioneering Miracle Broth.

The brand story goes that La Mer’s Miracle Broth was developed by aerospace physicist Dr. Max Huber who had suffered burns in a lab accident and wanted to develop a lotion to help deal with the scarring and skin damage.

Some 6,000 experiments and 12 years of searching led to the development of a fermentation process that turned sea kelp and other pure ingredients into Miracle Broth.

It works to purify, nourish and refresh the skin. It purifies, it nourishes, it refreshes the skin, leaving you with a healthy glow, reduced redness and irritation and no signs of any dirt, grease or grime from the day. Especially great for people living in areas with high pollution levels.

FURTHER READING: What does toner do – and why is it so important?

Buy now from All Beauty

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

£6.80 | Buy now

Why we love it: We are huge fans of The Ordinary brand because it produces simple, yet highly effective products for bargain prices and its toner is no exception.

Its Glycolic Acid Toning Solution is a must-have for anyone looking to stick to a budget while still achieving amazing results.

It gently exfoliates the skin, improving the skin’s texture and brightness, and includes alpha hydroxyl, which isn’t too harsh and doesn’t leave the skin feeling tight.

For a toner, it has an amazing smell with Tasmanian pepper berry, ginseng, and aloe vera, which also works well to reduce redness or irritation.

FURTHER READING: Glycolic acid: From peels to toners and serums, what is glycolic acid and what does it do to the skin?

Buy now from Cult Beauty

Grüum Gösta Rejuvenating Facial Tonic

£7 | Buy now

Why we love it: Whereas the majority of the entries in our best toner list are liquid toners that are applied using a cotton pad, or a reusable equivalent, this Gösta Rejuvenating Facial Tonic is a misting version.

It contains witch hazel, to tone the skin, antiseptic chamomile which is perfect for clearing the skin of spots and blemishes and bacteria, plus orange to refresh the skin, leave it feeling bright and fresh.

Not only is this misting tonic hugely affordable, at £7, it can also be used as a primer, and as a way to refresh your skin during the day. We love how this tonic feels on the skin and makes our face feel tighter without making it feel like it’s been dried out.

Despite its foreign-looking name, this tonic is made in England from 98% naturally derived ingredients and is cruelty-free, free from sodium laureth sulfate, parabens, and synthetic fragrances.

FURTHER READING: The truth about the acids lurking in your skincare – from hyaluronic, to glycolic, lactic and salicylic

Buy now from Beauty Bay

Pixi Glow Tonic 

£18 | Buy now

Pixi Glow Tonic

Why we love it: Don’t be put off by the bright colours of Pixi’s range of skincare products; it makes them appear almost acidic and potentially harsh, but they’re far from it.

The Pixi Glow tonic is an exfoliating, alcohol-free, cruelty-free toner designed to give you smoother, brighter, and clearer skin.

Like The Ordinary’s toning solution, Pixi’s Glow Tonic uses glycolic acid (5%) to gently buff dead skin and impurities which helps to refine the appearance of pores and stimulate cell renewal.

Enriched with Ginseng to improve circulation and Aloe Vera to replenish vital moisture, the hydrating tonic helps to restore a natural balance and soothe the skin. Expect a smooth, energised and glowing finish.

It comes with myriad botanical extracts, including ginseng to improve circulation and aloe vera to moisturise and balance the skin and because this formulation isn’t too harsh, it suits all skin types including sensitive skin. 

It’s not cheap, but you can buy a smaller, travel-sized 100ml bottle for £10 if you wanted to try it before splashing out on the larger, 250ml version.

FURTHER READING: How to layer your skincare: Knowing the best skincare order will help make the most of your products

Buy now from Look Fantastic

7. Clarins Extra Comfort Toning Lotion

£24 | Buy now

Why we love it: Clarins Extra Comfort Toning Lotion has one of the lightest formulas in our list of best toners and, as consequently, it’s ideal for dry or sensitive skin. 

The soothing formula, which contains linden, sweet almond, marshmallow and mango, leaves skin feeling soft and supple without stripping it of moisture resulting in a healthy-looking glow.

It also slides over the skin to remove anything sitting on the skin including dirt and grime and any traces of cleanser missed in the previous step. 

FURTHER READING: Best cleanser: Discover which face cleanser best suits your skin from oily to dry and acne-prone

Buy now from Boots

How we test toners

For each best face toner test, we use a gadget called the Mili Pure to record the hydration level of the skin on our hand. We then wash them with cold water, to make the skin damp. We then apply each toner or essence onto the damp skin.

We wait five minutes at which point we take a second skin hydration reading. After an hour, we take a third reading.


Best face toner: Scoring methodology

To determine a product’s total score, which determines where it sits on the leaderboard, we add together the points in the Vegan, Cruelty-Free, Hydration Percentage, and INCI Score categories. We then subtract the price per 30ml, and the Irritation and Comedone Rating scores.

  • Price: The recommended retail price (RRP) for the product in question.
  • Price (per 30ml): The price of the product, per 30ml.
  • Vegan: Fully vegan brands score 10. Brands that offer vegan products but aren’t fully vegan score 5. Brands with no vegan options score 0.
  • Cruelty-free: Cruelty-free brands score 10. Brands that don’t test on animals, but who partner with organisations or countries that do, score 5. Brands that offer no assurances about animal testing score 0.
  • Hydration points: The percentage point difference between the baseline hydration test, and the five-minute hydration test.
  • Hydration percentage: The percentage difference between the baseline hydration test, and the five-minute hydration test.
  • INCI score: Using the INCI Decoder website, we determine how many of the ingredients in a product’s formula are considered to be “icky.” A product with no “icky” ingredients scores 100%, which we convert to a score of 10. A product with 10 ingredients and two of them are “icky” means the product is 20% “icky” and 80% “good.” The 80% is then converted to a score of 8.
  • Irritation Rating: All ingredients listed on the INCI Decoder website come with an irritation score, out of 5. The score for this category is taken from the highest-rated ingredient.
  • Comedogenic Rating: All ingredients listed on the INCI Decoder website also come with a comedogenic rating, out of 5. The score for this category is taken from the highest-rated ingredient.

Note: The Irritation and Comedogenic ratings should be seen as a guide only. You can find out more about this here.

You can also learn more about how serums work in our science of serums article, and explore the INCI Decoder and its ratings in our skincare ingredient checker guide.


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