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8 best soothing and hydrating toners for combination skin

Maintaining the health of combination skin doesn’t have to be a hassle. Here’s our guide to some of the best toners for your skin type.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Dec 19, 2023 • 12 min read
Medically reviewed by Camille Dixon, PA-C
Best Toner for Combination Skin
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Dec 19, 2023 • 12 min read
Medically reviewed by Camille Dixon, PA-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

What is combination skin?
More

There’s no one-size-fits-all in skincare. What works for one person may not necessarily have the same results for someone else. But it’s only natural to want the best! Luckily our team of licensed dermatology providers are regularly reviewing and assessing products on the market and are happy to offer a few recommendations! So here, you’ll find the products that hold up to our standards.

While we believe they’re not a necessary part of a solid skincare routine, toners may provide some additional benefits to your skin. If you decide to incorporate one into your skincare routine, it’s important to choose the right one for your skin type. And if you have combination skin, that can seem challenging since your complexion has both oily patches and dry areas vying for your attention at the same time!

Luckily, there are plenty of toners specifically formulated to cater to your unique skin type.

Let’s take a closer look at different toners on the market today and toner ingredients that can leave your combination skin feeling refreshed and soothed.

What is combination skin?

Combination skin is characterized by an oily T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) and dry cheeks. The oily areas produce excess sebum, while the dry areas feel tight and flaky. This skin type is sometimes called seasonal skin because it can change from oily to dry depending on the season. Generally, the skin may be more oily in the summer and dry in the winter.¹

Opting for skincare products with beneficial ingredients can help you address your combo skin concerns.

Ingredients to look for in a toner

When you have combination skin, toners with mild exfoliating agents, hydration enhancers, and free radical fighters are good options.

Let’s take a closer look at each category:

Mild exfoliating acids

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) are mild exfoliants that help improve your skin’s appearance. AHAs, like glycolic acid, lactic acid, and mandelic acid, are water-soluble and act on both the epidermis and dermis.² They effectively slough off dead skin cells, reduce the appearance of dark marks, decrease blemishes, and help firm the skin.³

On the other hand, BHAs, like salicylic acid, are oil-soluble and can deeply penetrate your pores.⁴ They work wonders at removing excess oil and dirt, giving your skin a fresh, clean feel, which makes them a great choice for those with combination-oily skin.

You should seek toners with a blend of these acids to address dryness and oiliness. However, keep in mind that everyone’s skin is different! It’s always best to consult a dermatology provider for professional advice regarding your skin and the best ingredients for your needs.

Hydration enhancers

Toners that contain humectants tend to be effective because they attract and bind water. They help to restore and maintain the skin’s hydration and moisture.⁵ Because of this, humectants can balance the hydration levels of dry and oily areas without stripping or irritating the skin. One of the most effective humectants is hyaluronic acid.⁶

Hydration-boosting toners can also work well with other products that target specific skin concerns. To help lock in moisture, you can follow up your toner with a rich shea butter-infused moisturizer. Shea butter is derived from the kernels of the sheu tree.⁷ It’s a natural ingredient rich in beneficial compounds that offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants like vitamin Cresveratrol, and ferulic acid, are great ingredients for toners aimed at combination skin because they fight free radicals.⁸ These unstable molecules, produced naturally by your body and increased by external stressors like UV rays and pollution, can cause significant skin damage and premature aging.⁹

Antioxidants step in to neutralize free radicals, protecting your skin from oxidative stress.¹⁰ Their anti-inflammatory properties are also very beneficial for combination skin, which often battles a mix of oily, acne-prone areas and dry, sensitive patches. Not only do these ingredients help reduce common issues like hyperpigmentation or dark spots caused by environmental factors, but they also contribute to improving your skin’s overall appearance.¹¹

So, incorporating toners with antioxidants can offer comprehensive benefits beyond addressing oiliness or dryness.

Our top picks: The best toners for combination skin

To make your search for the right toner easier, we’ve curated a list of top picks, each uniquely formulated to cater to the diverse needs of combination skin. From gentle exfoliation to deep hydration, these toners offer a variety of benefits to help you achieve a more balanced and radiant complexion.

Thayers Cucumber Facial Toner

This is a soothing and gentle toner, great for combination skin. It’s alcohol-free and infused with the calming properties of cucumber, aloe vera, and witch hazel. This toner is designed to maintain your skin’s moisture barrier without causing dryness or clogging pores.

Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner

This option is a lightweight and hydrating toner formulated to address concerns like breakouts, blackheads, and enlarged pores common in combination skin. It contains niacinamide, along with moisture-balancing ingredients like glycerin and ceramides, for a smooth, refreshed look.

Murad Clarifying Toner

This toner can help restore your skin’s pH balance and moisture levels. It includes clarifying ingredients like witch hazel, and the best part is that its formulation seems to be a safe and gentle choice for sensitive and combination skin.

I'm From Rice Toner

I'm From Rice Toner is a Korean toner made with a high concentration (up to 77.78%) of rice extract that gently exfoliates your skin. It’s particularly effective for combination skin, offering a mild and natural way to refine and smooth your complexion.

Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Toner

This option is a lightweight lotion toner designed to visibly tighten pores and minimize imperfections while helping to control oily shine. It includes natural ingredients such as lavender and peppermint essential oils, natural salicylic acid, rosemary essential oil, and organic grape water, catering to the specific needs of combination skin. It does contain alcohol denat which may cause dryness, so those with drier skin types should use caution.

Ren Clean Skincare Radiance Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Toner

This fast-acting toner offers a brightening effect by gently exfoliating your skin. It’s formulated to visibly tighten your pores and is suitable for daily use on combination skin.

Fresh Rose & Hyaluronic Acid Deep Hydration Toner

This luxurious toner is infused with real rose petals, rose fruit extract, damask rose extract, angelica leaf extract, and hyaluronic acid. It’s designed to deeply hydrate and refine your skin, making it a great choice for combination skin that requires moisture and pore-refining benefits.

Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Toner

Providing deep hydration without alcohol, this toner is formulated with aloe vera extract and hyaluronic acid. It’s especially beneficial for the drier areas of combination skin, offering effective moisturization without causing oiliness or breakouts.

Remember, everyone’s skin is different, so always make sure to speak with a dermatology provider for proper advice regarding your skin.

We hope this list helps you find your perfect match for healthier, more radiant skin!

Adding a toner into your skincare routine

Incorporating a toner into your skincare routine can make a difference, especially if you’re dealing with concerns like acne. A study suggests using a toner (containing ingredients like witch hazel water, aloe leaf juice, and glycolic acid) as part of a 3-step facial treatment regimen for treating acne can be effective when performed every morning and evening.¹²

Here’s a simple guide on how to add toner to your daily skincare routine:

Start with cleansing: Always begin with a clean face. Use a noncomedogenic cleanser that suits your skin type to remove dirt, oil, and impurities. This step preps your skin for the toner.

Apply toner: After cleansing, it’s time for the toner. Apply the toner gently with a cotton pad or your hands, avoiding harsh rubbing.

Follow with acne or anti-aging treatmentIf you’re treating acne or anti-aging, follow the toner with a targeted acne or anti-aging treatment. This could be a product prescribed by your dermatologist or an over-the-counter solution.

The key takeaways

  • Combination skin features an oily T-zone and dry cheeks, with possible seasonal fluctuations.

  • Toners may help balance your skin’s pH level and also help prepare your skin for your next skincare products.

  • Maintaining a slightly acidic skin surface pH is necessary for optimal barrier function and protection against environmental factors.

  • Mild exfoliating acids (AHAs and BHAs), hydration enhancers (such as hyaluronic acid), and antioxidants (like vitamin C) are great ingredients to look for in toners for combination skin.

  • Our top toner recommendations include Thayers Cucumber Facial Toner, Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Toner, and Murad Clarifying Toner.

  • Incorporating toners into your skincare routine twice daily, after cleansing, can help you maintain your skin health and pH balance.

  • With personalized skincare solutions, Curology offers you a chance to have a skincare routine tailored specifically to your unique skin concerns Claim your offer today for a personalized approach to skincare with Curology.

Explore personalized skincare with Curology

So you’ve got your go-to toner; now what?

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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If you’re unsure which products will complement your skincare routine, a licensed dermatology provider at Curology can help you create a personalized regimen. Claim your offer* for a personalized prescription formula for your skin concerns today.

FAQs

What toner is best for combination skin?

For combination skin, look for toners with mild exfoliation, hydration, and free radical-fighting properties. Ingredients like AHAs, BHAs, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants like vitamin C, resveratrol, and ferulic acid are beneficial. Products like Thayers Cucumber Facial Toner, Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Toner, and Murad Clarifying Toner are great options, each addressing the unique needs of combination skin.

What is my skin pH supposed to be?

The natural pH of your skin’s surface is supposed to be slightly acidic, typically ranging between 4 and 5.5.¹³ This acidic environment is essential for maintaining your skin’s barrier function and overall health.¹⁴

How often should I use a toner for combination skin?

You can use a toner twice daily as part of your morning and evening skincare routine as your skin tolerates it. After cleansing, apply the toner to help balance the skin’s pH, hydrate dry areas, and control oiliness in the T-zone. This regular use helps maintain skin health and addresses the varying needs of combination skin effectively.

Can a toner replace a moisturizer for combination skin?

While toners are excellent for balancing skin pH and providing some hydration, they don’t offer the same level of moisture or barrier protection as a moisturizer. For combination skin, it’s important to follow up with a lightweight moisturizer after toning to ensure all areas of your skin are adequately hydrated and protected.

Why do I need balanced skin pH?

Balancing your skin’s pH is crucial because it plays a significant role in skin health. Your skin’s surface is naturally acidic.¹⁵

An optimal skin surface pH maintains your skin’s barrier function and integrity.¹⁶ Disrupting this balance can lead to skin issues like dryness, irritation, and acne. So maintaining the acidic nature of your skin’s surface is key to preserving its health and preventing skin problems.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework, so you don’t have to:

  1. Oliveira, R., et al. An Overview of Methods to Characterize Skin Type: Focus on Visual Rating Scales and Self-Report Instruments. Cosmetics. (2023, January 11).

  2. Moghimipour, E. Hydroxy Acids, the Most Widely Used Anti-aging Agents. Jundishapur J Nat Pharm Prod. (Winter 2012).

  3. Tang, S.C. and Yang, J.H. Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin. Molecules. (2018, April 10).

  4. Moghimipour, E. Hydroxy Acids, the Most Widely Used Anti-aging Agents. Jundishapur J Nat Pharm Prod. Ibid.

  5. Chen, H.J., et al. Moisture retention of glycerin solutions with various concentrations: a comparative study. Sci Rep. (2022, June 17).

  6. Draelos, Z.D., et al. Efficacy Evaluation of a Topical Hyaluronic Acid Serum in Facial Photoaging. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). (August 2021).

  7. Lin, T.K,., et al. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. (2017, December 27).

  8. Chen, J., et al. Oxidative stress in the skin: Impact and related protection. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. (2021, July 27).

  9. Chen, J., et al. Oxidative stress in the skin: Impact and related protection. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. Ibid.

  10. Chen, J., et al. Oxidative stress in the skin: Impact and related protection. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. Ibid.

  11. Chen, J., et al. Oxidative stress in the skin: Impact and related protection. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. Ibid.

  12. Rodan, K., et al. Efficacy of a twice-daily, 3-step, over-the-counter skincare regimen for the treatment of acne vulgaris. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. (2017, January 4).

  13. Prakash, C., et al. Skin Surface pH in Acne Vulgaris: Insights from an Observational Study and Review of the Literature. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  14. Prakash, C., et al. Skin Surface pH in Acne Vulgaris: Insights from an Observational Study and Review of the Literature. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  15. Prakash, C., et al. Skin Surface pH in Acne Vulgaris: Insights from an Observational Study and Review of the Literature. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  16. Prakash, C., et al. Skin Surface pH in Acne Vulgaris: Insights from an Observational Study and Review of the Literature. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

Camille Dixon is a certified Physician Assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Midwestern University in Downers Grove, IL.

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• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
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Camille Dixon, PA-C

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