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Toners are often misunderstood and subsequently given a bad reputation in the cosmetic product world.
Toner for the right skin type, with the right ingredients, can offer excellent results for the right skin condition.
It is essential to know what your skin type is, what you are treating and how to treat it. Otherwise, toners (or any product, for that matter) will cause more harm than good.
The rest of the article will cover things to consider when buying a toner, a review of the best toners for blackheads and how they were chosen, as well as frequently asked questions about toners for blackheads.
Before you buy: 3 things you have to consider when purchasing a toner for blackheads
1. Confirm your skin type
People who get blackheads will have oily or shiny skin and often acne breakouts. Skin can appear thick, rough, and dull.
2. Check ingredients
Make sure the toner you select has the right ingredients to treat blackheads correctly. Look for ingredients such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or lactic acid. Or plant-based botanicals with natural antibacterial properties such as lavender and geranium.
3. Avoid certain ingredients
Make sure the toner is oil-free, non-comedogenic. Mineral oil and petrolatum will make your oily skin and blackheads worse. Sometimes alcohols, witch hazel, menthol, and sulfates can irritate your skin even if you are oily, so use these products cautiously.
The 4 best toners for blackheads
ZELEN Life Toner (Best for clean skincare)
- Plant-based natural toner with organic ingredients
- pH balancing
The best toner for:
Lavender, geranium, honey
ZELEN Life is a fresh skincare brand with the aim of providing luxury organic skincare products that work, at an affordable price. This is evident with their Toner. Its main ingredients are lavender, rose geranium, and honey.
Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils on the market today. It is a perennial shrub that is native to the Mediterranean (1) and is used in many areas of medicine and skincare. It treats bacterial and fungal infections while also inflammatory conditions, like acne, eczema, and psoriasis (1-4). It is also rich in antioxidants which form a barrier on the outer layer of the skin, protecting it from environmental stressors such as UV radiation and free radicals that harm our collagen. This prevents premature aging and increases collagen production.
Rose geranium is a flower that is native to several areas in Africa (4-8). It helps to accelerate wound healing and is also very effective in reducing the effects of aging, such as tiredness, wrinkles, and fine lines due to its rich antioxidant properties.
Honey has been used since ancient times because of its antibacterial, and antioxidant properties (9-10). It penetrates deep into the skin and hydrates it from within, creating a plumped, elastic, and healthier texture. It also gently exfoliates the skin, by removing dead skin cells and dirt that clogs the pores. This is excellent for preventing acne breakouts.
You can apply this toner as a mist or on a cotton pad. Just 3 to 4 sprays are just enough to get all of its benefits. It is very lightweight and doesn’t leave a sticky layer, as it is quickly absorbed by the skin. You will instantly feel your skin fresher, balanced, and brighter.
You will definitely smell its light honey aroma while applying it. In combination with geranium and lavender, the scent is definitely one you would remember. These are plants that are well-known for their aromatherapy uses. However, while I would have loved the scent to be stronger, unfortunately, it fades away after a few seconds. But no artificial fragrance is present in this toner.
Its bottle also looks premium and is constructed by recyclable glass. While that means it is not as convenient to carry around, it will surely stand out on your skincare shelf at home.
Lastlty, while this toner is cruelty-free, it is not vegan. If you are looking for a vegan toner, then consider Caudalie Vinopure Pore Minimizing Toner. It is formulated with natural ingredients such as organic grape and essential oils (lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, etc.) to reduce excess oil and minimize the appearance of large pores.
- Balances skin tone and hydrates the skin due to honey
- Rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties
- Great natural scent that is subtle and not overpowering
Things to think about:
- Scented – Even though it has natural scents, some people cannot tolerate or dislike scents.
- Essential oils – Some people find essential oils to be irritating.
This toner is gentle enough for all skin types. It is also a natural plant-based toner that can help with acne.
- Value for money
Caudalie Vinopure Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Toner (Best for larger pores)
- Decreases oil production and blackheads
- Improves texture of the skin
- Rich in antioxidants and antibacterial properties
The best toner for:
This toner is best for people with oily skin who would like to minimize the appearance of their pores.
Rosewater, natural salicylic acid, grape, organic essential oils
Caudalie’s Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Toner’s main ingredients are rose water (rosa damascene water), natural salicylic acid (from wintergreen), grape water, and a combination of organic essential oils.
Let’s dive into its ingredients:
Rosa damascena has been used for centuries, as far back as the Crusades (1). It was initially used as a perfume but during the 11th century, it began being used as an anti-inflammatory agent. It exerts good anti-bacterial effects against P. acnes, the number one bacteria implicated in acne (1, 11).
Salicylic acid has also been used for centuries. It is very effective in balancing oil production, exfoliating dead skin cells, and unclogging pores, reducing the effects of blemishes and blackheads (1).
The salicylic acid in this toner, however, is derived from natural wintergreen. Naturally derived salicylic acid has all the benefits of synthetic salicylic acid without the possible side effects of the artificially created one, such as dryness, itching, redness. This provides fewer chances of irritations when applying the product.
Grape water contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (1, 12). Its use dates back to ancient Egypt, where they used it for its ability to lighten up the skin. It moisturizes and refreshes the skin while providing a calming effect that soothes.
Finally, it includes a combination of essential oils that consist of lemongrass, lavender, lemon balm, peppermint, rose geranium, and rosemary. They all exert powerful anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects (2, 5, 8, 13-16). Peppermint also has astringent properties to help decrease oily skin (13).
This toner definitely feels lightweight upon application. I didn’t experience any tingling sensation despite its inclusion of alcohol denat, which is used in its formulation to remove excess oil and assist other ingredients in penetrating the skin easier. Alcohol denat is a controversial ingredient in skincare and can be very harsh on the skin if applied excessively. It can cause dryness and destroy the natural protective barrier of the skin. Thus, if you have dry to sensitive skin types, I suggest avoiding this toner.
This heavy inclusion of alcohol is evident in its scent too. It is a little bit strong and more on the chemical side for my taste. Nevertheless, it doesn’t contain any artificial fragrance.
If you are looking for a toner with a better naturally derived scent, then consider the ZELEN Life Toner. It contains ingredients known for their aromatherapy qualities, such as lavender, geranium, and honey, to create a lightweight and calming smell.
Understandably, this toner’s price tag is not for everyone. If you are looking for a budget-friendly option, then consider La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner. It contains AHA and BHA acids that help not only in minimizing the appearance of larger pores, but also acne.
- Good for oily skin types
- Balances oil production and blackheads
- Minimizes the appearance of larger pores
- Includes several natural ingredients
Things to think about:
- Alcohol – It might be too drying for some people.
- Essential oils – Some people find these to be irritating.
This is a great naturally derived toner for blackheads and large pores, which also contains ingredients for soothing the skin and antioxidants to protect against sun damage.
- Value for money
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner (Best budget-friendly)
- Exfoliates dead skin cells
- Decreases oil production
- Decreases pigmentation
The best toner for:
This toner is suitable for people with oily skin who want to minimize their mild acne without spending a fortune
Salicylic acid, glycolic acid, thermal water
La Roche Posay Efflaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner is a an excellent toner that targets those with mild acne. Its main ingredients are salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and thermal spring water.
Hydroxy acids, such as salicylic acid and glycolic acid, help decrease oil production and unclog pores to help control acne and blackheads (1). Hydroxy acids are divided into two categories: alpha-hydroxy-acids (AHA) and beta-hydroxy-acids (BHA).
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), such as glycolic acid, have great moisturization capabilities, reduce acne, and assist in lessening wrinkles and fine lines. Beta hydroxy acids (BHA), like salicylic acid, penetrate deeper into the skin and are rich in anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. They control oil production from the inside out and remove dead skin cells to unclog the pores, making them also very effective for acne treatments. Thermal spring water has been shown to calm irritations such as, eczema, redness, psoriasis, etc. It protects the skin from free radicals and reduces the risk of sunburn.
Despite the above, this toner contains some other plant-based ingredients that also deserve a mention:
Ophiopogon japonicus is a perennial grass found in Japan and China, which helps hydrate the skin and has been proven to treat conditions, such as atopic dermatitis (17). Scutellaria baicalensis is a flowering plant which, has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties (18-20). It functions to decrease pigmentation of the skin to brighten complexion (20).
Lastly, this toner also includes alcohol denat which, as mentioned previously, is a much debated ingredient in the skincare industry. It is potentially drying and on the harsh side if you don’t have oily skin. Therefore, like Caudalie, this cleanser while being lightweight and non-greasy, can have a drying effect on the skin.
As for its scent, it is not as strong as Caudalie’s. On the contrary, it is very light. However, I wouldn’t characterize it as pleasant as it is also a little bit more medicinal.
Concluding, while this toner is great for acne, if you are looking for a toner that has stronger antiaging action, then consider Peter Thomas Roth 8% Glycolic Solutions Toner. It’s formulated with 8% glycolic acid, witch hazel, and aloe vera, which are incredibly effective in reducing the appearance of acne blemishes, and wrinkles.
- Glycolic acid to help with fine lines and exfoliate dead skin cells
- Salicylic acid to control oil and unclog pores
- Very affordable price
Things to think about:
- Alcohol – This can be drying for some people.
- Medicinal odor – Some people might dislike the odor.
This is a great toner that not only helps with oily skin and acne but also has anti-aging benefits. It may be too irritating for dry and sensitive skins.
- Value for money
Peter Thomas Roth 8% Glycolic Solutions Toner (Best anti-aging)
- Exfoliates dead skin cells
- Decreases oil production
- Decreases fine lines and wrinkles
The best toner for:
This toner works best for people with oily skin with blackheads who need strong antiaging action as well.
8% glycolic acid, witch hazel, aloe vera, chamomile
Peter Thomas Roth 8% Glycolic Solutions Toner is a toner that is formulated, not only to reduce the appearance of acne breakouts but also signs of aging. Its main ingredients include 8% glycolic acid, witch hazel, aloe vera, and chamomile.
Glycolic acid, as said above, exfoliates dead skin cells, which reduces blackheads and acne while helping with anti-aging (1). It promotes collagen production and speeds up cell regeneration. As a result, it promotes fewer wrinkles and fine lines. It also aids in retaining the moisturization of the skin due to its humectant properties. All of these result in a smooth, brighter, and softer complexion.
Witch hazel has long been used as an astringent to remove oil, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties (21-22). It is also proven to also assist in the reduction of non-inflammatory acne such as blackheads and whiteheads. These are linked to its active tannins and its antioxidant properties. However, while witch hazel can be very beneficial, it can also dry out if used very frequently. Similar to alcohol denat. (which is also included in this toner.) The combination of aloe vera with chamomile soothes the skin, since they are rich in wound healing and anti-microbial properties (23-26).
As can be seen from its ingredients, this is a very powerful toner. With this in mind, I would suggest, if you are not used to ingredients such as AHA – apply it 2 to 3 times per week rather than daily. This is because AHA can increase skin sensitivity from the sun. Thus, it can make your skin prone to sunburns.
However, this toner feels very lightweight on the skin and is easily absorbed. While I experienced it not as drying as La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner, I found my skin needing more hydration after using it.
What about its bottle design?
The bottle design deserves a mention for its functionality. It features a dispenser pump on top, which makes it very easy to apply the correct amount onto a cotton pad. The bottle is also well built and doesn’t feel cheap.
While this toner offers great wrinkle reduction and acne-fighting properties, it is pretty dehydrating and contains a lot of acids that might irritate dry and sensitive skin types. If you are looking for a gentler solution that is also very hydrating, then consider the ZELEN Life Toner. It includes lavender, geranium, and honey which, are well-known for their performance against acne, dehydration, and aging. On the plus side, it is also cheaper, without sacrificing any of its premium properties.
- Glycolic acid will exfoliate dead skin cells
- Witch hazel will decrease oil production
- Chamomile and aloe soothe the skin
Things to think about:
- Witch hazel and alcohol – Some people may find this combination to be irritating.
- It is pricier.
This is a great toner that not only helps with oily skin and blackheads but also has anti-aging benefits. It may be too irritating for dry and sensitive skin.
- Value for money
How we chose these products
When making our selections of the best toners for blackheads, we undertook a detailed selection process.
We analyzed the composition of each product, and we checked it against specific criteria. Firstly, we ensured the products are made from high-quality ingredients proven effective at treating acne and blackheads.
We made sure all our choices are non-comedogenic, so they will not cause acne formation. We also considered chemicals, so they also do not contain any parabens or sulfates, which have been linked to allergic reactions.
Some believe parabens are linked to hormone disruption and reproductive issues as well. Others believe sulfates may clog your pores and make acne worse.
We also looked at what actual users had to say about their experiences. Some of these opinions have been included in this article (in the “Things to think about” sections).
When taking into account customer reviews and ratings, we checked the volume of reviews to ensure they were reliable and genuine.
The end result was a shortlist of what we consider the best options to suit different skin types, skincare needs, and budgets.
Frequently asked questions
What is a toner?
Toners are products that help cleanse the skin. They are usually in liquid form, but some are lotions.
Toners were initially marketed just for oily skin, but now the right toner, with the right ingredients, can be used for any skin type.
Toners may also contain other ingredients to help with oily skin, acne and blackheads, dry skin, wrinkled skin, dark spots, irritated skin, and even help prevent sun damage.
What do toners do for blackheads?
The toners that work best for blackheads will exfoliate dead skin cells and decrease oil production, which are things that cause acne and blackheads.
The top ingredients that can accomplish these tasks are alpha or beta hydroxy acids or a combination of the two.
Like glycolic and lactic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids work well at exfoliating dead skin cells and smoothing fine lines. Beta hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid, help decrease oil production, eliminate dead skin cells, and help with acne.
Some toners contain other ingredients that will help hydrate your skin, soothe your skin, help prevent damage from the sun, or decrease pigmentation.
Who can benefit from a toner?
Any skin type can benefit from the correct toner, but they work best for oily skin types.
Toners are selected based on your skin type. Toners with hydroxy acids work well for people with oily skin who are prone to acne and blackheads. These would be too irritating for people with dry or sensitive skin because of the ingredients.
You must know your skin type and what ingredients are appropriate to treat it for you to get any benefits from a toner.
When do I use a toner?
Toners are used after cleansing your face. You can start out using it once a day, and if it is well-tolerated, you can increase its use to twice a day. If your skin gets red and irritated, stop using it until your skin returns to normal.
Then, do not use it as frequently. If toners irritate our skin, that will just lead to increasing oil production and worsening of your blackheads.
How do I apply a toner?
After washing your face, you can apply a toner with cotton balls. Gently wipe your face with the cotton ball soaked with toner.
Do not scrub or rub, as this may irritate your skin and cause increased oil production. Do not wash your face after applying it. Let it fully soak in before applying any products over it.
Proper layering of products is the key to success in your skincare regimen.
Do I have to use a toner for my blackheads?
You do not have to use a toner for blackheads. There are other ways to treat them, such as retinoids.
Also, they should be used with caution if you are using other acne products.
The combination may be too irritating and lead to a paradoxical increase in oil production instead of decreasing oil.
Some people cannot tolerate a toner in their acne regimen because of all the acne products they are using. The combination may be too irritating.
Others with very oily tough skin, can combine toners with acne products and have no irritation at all. It just depends on your skin. All skincare should be personalized to your skin and your personal needs.
Where do I apply toner?
You can apply toner anywhere on your body that you need it. Most people apply it to their face because that is where they need it most.
Some people have very oily acne-prone skin on their chest and back, so it is fine to use it there.
It just depends on what your skin will tolerate. You may not be able to use it as often on the body as you do on the face. You also may not be able to use the same product on your body as you do on your face.
Skincare products need to be personalized to your skin type, skin needs, and body parts being treated.
Toners can be a beneficial addition to skin care regimens for people suffering from acne and blackheads.
You must read the ingredients carefully to determine if they are correct for the problems you are treating.
The toners discussed here are by no means the only toners on the market. There are many good toners available. The best toner for you is the one that fits your skin, and it’s particular needs.
Do you have any toners you can recommend?
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- Balances pH, shrinks larger pores and helps fine lines
- Organic formula, lavender and geranium fight blackheads
- Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, assists acne breakouts
- Great for oily skin as it reduces oil production
- Antibacterial ingredients and antioxidants
- Contains salicylic acid, unclogs pores and controls blackheads
- Hydrates and soothes the skin
- Glycolic acid assists in reducing fine lines
- Natural oil-free formula
- Contains witch hazel, reduces oil production
- Exfoliation properties, removes dead skin cells
- Glycerin, chamomile and aloe vera, moisturize and soothe skin