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  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

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How to choose the best toner for dry skin (plus a few of our favorites!)

Many toners contain harsh ingredients that can be too irritating for dry skin; here are some tips for finding one with gentler, moisturizing ingredients.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Feb 29, 2024 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
Best Toner for Dry Skin
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Feb 29, 2024 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, 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.

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Summary

  • Toners aren’t essential, but some people like them to remove the last traces of dirt or makeup after cleansing.

  • Toners with alcohol, alpha hydroxy acids, or fragrances may be too irritating for dry skin.

  • Instead, look for toners with hyaluronic acid, glycerin, aloe, or other hydrating ingredients.

  • Micellar water makes a great alternative to toner for dry skin.

While toner isn’t an essential step in every skincare routine, some people find its use beneficial for removing lingering traces of dirt or impurities after cleansing. However, if you have dry skin, finding a toner that won’t be too harsh or exacerbate facial dryness can be a challenge.

That’s why we asked Curology’s team of licensed dermatology professionals to let us know which common ingredients to avoid in toners if you have dry skin, provide recommendations for gentle toners that might be suitable, and explain how to incorporate them into your skincare routine effectively.

What can a facial toner do for your skin?

A facial toner is designed to be used after cleansing your skin. Its main role is to remove any last traces of dirt, makeup, or oil that might still be lingering on your face. This can help ensure that your skin is thoroughly clean before the next step in your skincare regimen.

Many toners also claim to offer additional benefits. For example, some claim to be formulated to target specific skin goals like anti-aging, anti-acne, or minimizing the appearance of pores.¹

However, it’s important to be mindful of the ingredients in toners. Many toners contain alcohol, which can be drying, especially if you have sensitive or dry skin. When choosing a toner, it’s a good idea to look for one that suits your skin type and addresses your particular skin concerns.

So, while a facial toner isn’t an essential step in everyone’s skincare routine, it can be a useful addition for some. It can help remove dirt and other products from your face and provide targeted benefits, depending on its formulation. As with any skincare product, choosing the right one for your skin type and needs is key.

Toner ingredients to avoid if you have dry skin

It’s important to be cautious about the ingredients in your skincare products to avoid worsening dry skin. Harsh soaps or cleansers can contribute to stripping skin of its hydration and making dry skin worse.²

Here are some ingredients you should consider avoiding if you have dry or sensitive skin

  • Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs): While AHAs are great for exfoliation and removing dead skin cells, they can also be quite drying.

  • Alcohol: Many toners contain alcohol, which can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to increased dryness and potentially causing irritated skin.

  • Fragrances: Fragrances in skincare can irritate all skin types, especially dry or sensitive skin. They can cause redness and irritation and further dry out the skin.

Instead, look for toners with ingredients that help to moisturize the skin. Some that may benefit dry skin include:

  • Glycerin: A humectant that attracts water, helping to keep skin hydrated and plump.⁴

  • Hyaluronic acid: Another humectant, hyaluronic acid is excellent for deep hydration.⁵

  • Ceramides: These are lipids that help form the skin’s barrier and help the skin retain moisture.⁶

  • Aloe: A soothing ingredient that can help calm and hydrate dry skin.⁷

  • Squalane: A lightweight, non-greasy oil that mimics the skin’s natural oils, providing hydration without clogging pores.⁸

By choosing a facial toner with moisturizing ingredients and avoiding those that can be drying or irritating, you can help keep your dry skin nourished, hydrated, and healthy.

Our picks for the best toners for dry skin

For those battling dry skin, we asked our team of licensed dermatology providers to put a list together of their favorite toners. As always, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider for personalized options that are suited to you.

Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner

What we like about it:

  • Alcohol-free

  • Contains hyaluronic acid to help prevent moisture loss

  • Formulated with rose water to calm and soothe

Thayers Rose Petal Toner

What we like about it:

  • Alcohol-free formula

  • Contains aloe vera to help calm and hydrate skin

  • Cruelty-free and vegan formula

CeraVe Alcohol-Free Hydrating Toner

What we like about it:

  • Alcohol-free and fragrance-free formula

  • Improves hydration with ceramides and hyaluronic acid

  • Formulated for normal to dry skin, and sensitive skin

Versed Baby Cheeks Hydrating Milk Toner

What we like about it:

  • Gentle formula made with humectants to help retain moisture

  • Algae extract, bamboo extract, and coconut water give a milky texture

  • Vegan and cruelty-free formula

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Wild Oat Toner

What we like about it:

  • An alcohol-free toner

  • Hydrates with hyaluronic acid, squalane, and honey

  • Formulated for dry, normal, or combination skin

Thayers Milky Hydrating Face Toner With Snow Mushroom And Hyaluronic Acid

What we like about it:

  • Alcohol-free and fragrance-free formula

  • Hydrates with hyaluronic acid and snow mushroom

  • Formulated for sensitive and dry skin

Paula’s Choice Nourishing Milky Toner

What we like about it:

  • Milky formula to hydrate and calm redness

  • Gentle enough for rosacea-prone skin

  • Formulated for sensitive and dry skin types

How to include toner in your skincare routine

Including a toner in your skincare routine is a personal choice, and it’s not a necessity for everyone. In fact, using too many skincare products can potentially irritate your skin.⁹ The key is to focus on the basics: a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen.*¹⁰ These are the cornerstones of a good skincare routine.

If you have a skin condition like rosacea, it’s generally recommended to avoid using a toner, as it can exacerbate the condition.¹¹ However, if you don’t have rosacea and decide to incorporate a toner into your routine, doing a patch test first is wise. This helps to see if your skin will react well to the toner before applying it to your entire face.¹²

The correct order in your skincare routine is crucial when you add a toner. Apply the toner after cleansing your face. This step helps to remove any last traces of impurities and prepares your skin to absorb the next products more effectively. To apply, dampen a cotton ball or cotton round with the toner and gently sweep it across your face. Be careful to avoid the eye area.

Once you’ve applied the toner, follow up with any other leave-on treatments and then your moisturizer.

Curology and dry skin

If you’re struggling to find the right skincare products for your dry or sensitive skin, consulting with a licensed dermatology provider, like those at Curology, can help.

Started in 2014 by a board-certified dermatologist, Curology makes personalized skincare guidance more accessible. After a quick skin quiz and a few selfies, you’ll be paired with a licensed dermatology provider. They’ll help create a personalized skincare routine that treats your skin concerns, including acne, rosacea, dark spots, fine lines, and clogged pores.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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If appropriate, they can prescribe a personalized formula (Custom Formulaᴿˣ** or Future-Proofᴿˣ) that combines up to three clinically proven active ingredients. Your formula will target your specific skin concerns and can be adjusted over time.

FAQs

Should I use toner every day for dry skin?

Whether to use toner daily for dry skin depends on how your skin reacts to it. If you choose to include a toner in your routine, it’s crucial to select one that doesn’t contain potentially drying or irritating ingredients like alcohol or fragrances.¹³ These can exacerbate dryness. If you find even a gentle toner too drying, consider using it less frequently or skip it altogether. Listening to your skin’s needs and responding accordingly is key.

Is micellar water a toner?

Micellar water isn’t a toner; it’s a cleanser and makeup remover that also has moisturizing properties. However, due to its hydrating qualities, micellar water can serve a similar function to a hydrating toner, making it a good alternative for those purposes.

Does toner go on dry or wet face?

It’s best to apply toner after cleansing your face. This helps to remove the last traces of dirt or makeup. It also prepares your skin for the next steps in your routine, such as serums, treatments, or moisturizers. 

What toners should you avoid for dry skin?

For dry skin, it’s important to avoid toners containing potentially irritating or drying ingredients. Avoid toners with alpha-hydroxy acids, alcohol, and fragrances.¹⁴ These components can exacerbate dryness and might lead to irritation. Opt for gentler, hydrating toners instead.

Should I skip toner if I have dry skin?

It’s true that toner isn’t a necessity, so if you have dry skin and find that using a toner is drying or irritating, it’s perfectly okay to skip it. Every skin type is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. 

As an alternative, consider micellar water. It can serve a similar purpose to toner while also being gentler and more hydrating, which might be more suitable for your dry skin.

• • •

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

  1. Anurukvorakun, O. and Numnim, S. Development and Clinical Efficacy Evaluation of Facial Toner Containing Houttuynia cordata Thunb. Cosmetics. (2023, September 21).

  2. Kim, S., et al. A consistent skin care regimen leads to objective and subjective improvements in dry human skin: investigator-blinded randomized clinical trial. The Journal of Dermatological Treatment. (2021, June 22).

  3. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia. (July-August 2017).

  4. Harwood, A., et al. Moisturizers. StatPearls. (2022, August 21).

  5. Harwood, A., et al. Moisturizers. StatPearls. Ibid.

  6. Harwood, A., et al. Moisturizers. StatPearls. Ibid.

  7. Rahmani, A.H., et al. Aloe vera: Potential candidate in health management via modulation of biological activities. Pharmacognosy Reviews. (July-December 2015).

  8. Huang, Z.R., et al. Biological and Pharmacological Activities of Squalene and Related Compounds: Potential Uses in Cosmetic Dermatology. Molecules. (January 2009).

  9. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Skin Care Tips Dermatologists Use. (n.d.).

  10. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Skin Care Tips Dermatologists Use. Ibid.

  11. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 6 Rosacea Skin Care Tips Dermatologists Give Their Patients. (n.d.).

  12. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Test Skin Care Products. (2021, August 10).

  13. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia. Ibid.

  14. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia. Ibid.

Elise Griffin is a certified physician assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in physician assistant studies from Nova Southeastern University in Jacksonville, FL.

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, so our team of licensed dermatology providers reviews and assesses countless products on the market to offer a few recommendations. So here, you’ll find the products that hold up to our rigorous standards.

**Subject to consultation. Results may vary. Restrictions apply. See website for full details and important safety information.

• • •
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 thoughts on sun protection: *Sunscreen is only one part of UV protection—cute sun hats and shades are also recommended.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Elise Griffin, Physician Assistant Curology

Elise Griffin, PA-C

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