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Top 7 Best Toners for Acne: Are They Good for Breakouts?

the best toners for acne

How well does a best toner for acne work? What exactly can a toner do in order to minimize the appearance of breakouts?

Which ingredients work best against acne and is this the kind of skincare product that should be incorporated into your routine? Is it worth spending the money?

As you see, in this post we’ll talk about much more than finding the best toner for acne. It’s also important to know if it’s something that might benefit you and what to look for.

Before that, I want to mention that facial toners are an extension of your cleansing routine, preparing the skin for serums, treatments, and moisturizers.. They further cleanse the skin, while including ingredients that target specific problems.

If you want to try something that not many people know of, you can read my post on the benefits of lavender water, it can be used as a toner for all skin types, including those prone to breakouts, and so much more.

Top 7 Best Toners for Acne

When it comes to choosing the best toner for acne, I will try to focus my attention on more affordable options.

That will be completely easy because there’s two things that facial toners usually have in common:

  • they’re cheap
  • and they come in pretty large quantities

Nowadays, most are alcohol-free, which is great.

A toner will last for many months to come, you will maybe need at most 3 bottles in a year.

There are a lot of great options to choose from but I will try not to overwhelm you with too many choices.

1. Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, 4 oz – High Concentration of Salicylic Acid

This is actually a chemical exfoliant for face but it can definitely be used instead of a facial toner. You can just buy this one and skip buying two separate products.

The 2% salicylic acid concentration is pretty impressive for what you get over-the-counter.

This exfoliant/best toner for acne is definitely serious when it comes to relieving your skin of problems like large pores, clogged pores, excess sebum production, redness, blackheads, and it can even reduce fine lines & wrinkles.

It’s not surprising that the list of ingredients is quite small. Besides salicylic acid, there’s also green tea extract.

But it’s not irritating, it can be used by those with sensitive skin, too.


Since it has a high concentration of salicylic acid, it’s best to just use it at night. The next day you have to wear sunscreen before going out.

You should apply it in the evening, right after cleansing and leave it on the skin to work its magic while you’re sleeping. Don’t rinse it off, you won’t achieve any results.

For the mornings, you can get a hydrating facial toner. I will recommend one like that just below.

2. Haruharu Wonder Black Rice Hyaluronic Toner, 5.1 oz – Hydrating Best Toner for Acne

This is perfect for acne-prone skin that’s also extremely sensitive. It’s great for soothing the skin, especially if you’re dealing with powerful acne treatments that make your skin feel tight and uncomfortable.

I saw that some users were impressed with how this best toner for acne that focuses on hydrating the skin has helped them with handling hormonal acne.

It’s also perfect for those who are looking for skincare products that contain mostly natural ingredients. This one has 95% natural ingredients.

Among the most important are:

  • betaine (anti-inflammation, boosts collagen)
  • rice extract (enhances firmness of the skin)
  • hyaluronic acid (pulls out moisture from the air and into the skin)
  • lavender oil for natural fragrance
  • and a bunch of other natural ingredients that I can’t pronounce

Haruharu also boasts of the patented Ultra Deep Technology that helps deliver those wonderful ingredients deep within the skin.

3. Pixi Glow Tonic, 8 oz – Exfoliating Toner for Acne

The price might be a bit higher than it’s the norm for a best toner for acne but it also comes in a large quantity that can last for as long as half a year.

Let’s see what else it has to offer in terms of minimizing breakouts.

Most important of all is that it contains 5% glycolic acid. Glycolic acid helps remove dead skin cells, it exfoliates the skin in order to prevent clogged pores. It also works for all skin types.

That’s a high concentration and this is also called an exfoliating toner.

Glycolic acid, which is an AHA, also brightens up the skin.

Aloe vera is included for soothing the skin and maintaining a healthy skin barrier. The last notable ingredient is red ginseng for energizing the skin.

It’s also alcohol-free but it does contain fragrance.

4. Neutrogena Acne Stress Control, 8 oz – Cheapest Best Toner for Acne

You can’t really beat that incredibly low price and that quantity. Add to that how well it works for acne-prone skin and you instantly understand why it’s so popular.

It’s also a powerful product.

That’s pretty much how Neutrogena acts: powerful top ingredients for the most affordable prices.

It contains 2% salicylic acid. That’s the kind of concentration that facial chemical exfoliators have.

Neutrogena decided to make a toner just as powerful as an exfoliant to help people deal with their breakouts. That’s pretty impressive.

If you already have experience with exfoliation, your skin will adapt to it instantly.

I wouldn’t recommend it for those with sensitive skin because it contains alcohol, which can irritate it.

5. Pacifica Acne Warrior Clearing Astringent, 8 oz – Cheap and Powerful

If you can’t find the above Nuetrogena, consider getting this Pacifica Astringent.

They both come in large quantities, have similar cheap prices, and have a 2% salicylic acid concentration to target breakouts intensely.

Take the name astringent seriously, I wouldn’t consider this one if you have sensitive skin or if you’re not used to chemical exfoliators. It also contains alcohol.

Other than that, it’s truly great.

Unlike the Neutrogena one, the Pacifica Astringent boasts of an addition of other helpful ingredients: witch hazel, niacinamide (can make pores look smaller), cucumber extract (soothes skin), aloe vera, and other extracts to mainly sooth the skin.

It also contains peppermint oil, which will offer an invigorating feel. I personally like the cooling sensation.

6. La Roche-Posay Serozinc Face Toner, 5 oz – Best Toner for Acne with Zinc

I have a soft spot for La Roche-Posay because they have a lot of amazing skincare products, especially for oily and acne-prone skin.

This best toner for acne is one of them. And I love the fact that it’s sprayed on the face. Nothing is wasted when that soft mist lands on your face. I pat it into my skin with my fingers until it’s all absorbed.

The price is good and the quantity is sufficient.

It’s called Serozinc so you can figure out that the main focus is on zinc, it’s a zinc sulfate solution that’s cleansing and soothing. There are only two other ingredients: water and sodium chloride (salt).

What made me give it a try is that it’s also recommended to use after shaving so, I knew it should also help with the redness that pimples bring to the face.

I haven’t noticed my pores looking smaller and I still get breakouts but it does calm my skin and it feels great, refreshing.

In my opinion, it’s not drying out my skin and I have sensitive skin. It’s very gentle, considering that in the evenings I follow it up with a salicylic serum and a pretty powerful chemical exfoliant.

But if you moisturize properly, you will be able to maintain a healthy-looking skin. It might sound as a contradiction to some but people who have acne-prone skin can have a healthy-looking skin, as well.

7. SkinCeuticals Equalizing Toner, 6.8 oz – Expensive and Powerful

If you’re a big fan of this brand and you are already prepared to pay a pretty high price for a best toner for acne, you should check it out.

It’s geared towards those with combination or oily skin, striving to help them achieve a cleared complexion. Hence the name Equalizing Toner, which is a really good name.

It also states that it reduces redness caused by breakouts, while exfoliating dead skin cells thanks to its fruit acid blend.

The fruit acid blend consists of glycolic acid, citric acid, malic acid, tartaric acid and lactic acid. They definitely have gathered them all.

Aloe vera is the second ingredient mentioned so, we definitely know that this toner strives to create the balance between exfoliating and soothing the skin. Witch hazel extract is also among the ingredients.

It’s great for all skin types, including sensitive skin.

Facial Toner: Benefits for Acne-Prone Skin

  • controls excess oil production
  • less sebum means fewer clogged pores, which should help decreasing the number and frequency of breakouts
  • helps exfoliate the skin if it has ingredients like salicylic acid, witch hazel or glycolic acid
  • nourishes and soothes irritated skin if it has ingredients like aloe vera or hyaluronic acid
  • can help make pores look smaller
  • applying it gives a refreshing feeling

Best Toner for Acne Ingredients

Toners are skincare products that only contain a few ingredients. The focus is usually on one or two very well-known ingredients. I like their simplicity and the fact that most of them are quite affordable.

When looking for a best toner for acne look for:

  • salicylic acid – a beta hydroxy acid that’s oil soluble, penetrates deep into the skin in order to remove dead skin cells and help keep pores unclogged, it’s also mild and can be used by those with sensitive skin, too
  • glycolic acid – the most effective alpha hydroxy acid, a powerful exfoliant to remove dead skin cells, brighten up the skin, and even stimulate collagen production, it has a lot of benefits
  • zinc – it’s an ingredient that stands out for me, it has worked really well as far as I can tell but everyone’s skin reacts differently, keep that in mind
  • hyaluronic acid – a humectant with powerful hydrating capabilities, it doesn’t clog pores, it can be used by every skin type, including those with oily skin and acne-prone skin
  • aloe vera – has cooling and anti-inflammatory properties, it soothes, moisturizes, heals the skin, and can reduce breakouts
  • witch hazel – it can cleanse the skin of excess oil, which can help with acne but it’s also rich in antioxidants and can help relieve inflammation

How to Use a Facial Toner

how to use a facial toner

A facial toner is the first product that’s applied immediately after cleansing the face.

So, you wash off your face, pat it dry with a soft towel, and then immediately apply the toner.

It’s like applying water on the skin so, don’t use a lot.

If I’m not using the spray kind, which is used like a face mist, I like pouring it in my hand, spreading it between my two hands and then tap the toner all over my face until there’s no more liquid left.

More easily, you can also saturate a cotton pad and then gently sweep it across the face and neck until it’s dry.

After that, you can apply serums, chemical exfoliants, acne treatments, a moisturizer, and a sunscreen during the day.

A facial toner is used twice daily.

Check out my article on whether you should exfoliate before or after toner.

My Experience with Toners for Acne

Before going into all that, I want to tell you that I’m in my thirties and for almost two years now, my acne has gone from mild to quite moderate territory.

I have always been acne prone but once I started college my breakouts became a very rare occurrence, I was at the point where I was getting pimples only when traveling.

But then all that changed. It started when something went very wrong in my professional life and I’m only left to assume that the stress messed up my skin as I have never experienced before.

Then, the pandemic started. I couldn’t go to a dermatologist because my parents are quite old and not quite the healthiest people, I was a late child. Which is why I decided that I would deal with my acne on my own.

It was a challenge and I tried a lot of skincare products and I spent more money than I would have expected.

I knew about toners but I researched what a toner for acne can actually do. The fact that I’m still using one, means that I was impressed.

I experimented with quite a few: hydrating ones focused on hyaluronic acid, witch hazel facial toner, and now I’m using one with zinc. I loved all of them, I love the simplicity of toners and that’s why I decided to finally write this post on the best toner for acne.

How My Breakouts Diminished

I must admit that my acne went back to mild when I started eating healthier, I gave up sweets and everything unhealthy completely. I started drinking more teas, eating mostly vegetables and fruits and nuts and taking a bunch of vitamins and zinc.

And when I focused on what I can do to in terms of my work instead of staring into space and feeling sorry for myself. It wasn’t easy because I’m a pretty pessimist person and prone to depression but it is what it is.

Although I have the acne scars to testify to how badly it was. I will deal with those when I will be able to go see a dermatologist.

Until then, I’m still convinced that a best toner for acne can be a product that can help with managing breakouts in conjunction with other products, like a fantastic cleanser, a chemical face exfoliator, and a good moisturizer.