The 10 Best Exfoliating Toners of 2022 for Glowing Skin

Transform dull uneven skin with Rose Ingleton’s Superfruit Exfoliating Tonic 8% AHA Solution.

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best exfoliating toners

Exfoliating toners have come a long way. Once oversaturated with skin stripping ingredients, toners were known to dry out skin causing irritation and redness. Thankfully, these alcohol-based toners have evolved into skin glowing formulations. Exfoliating toners are made with chemical exfoliants such as AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids), BHAs (beta hydroxy acids), PHAs (poly hydroxy acids). These acids each work differently to treat skin by controlling sebum production, minimizing pore size, balancing pH levels and addressing hyperpigmentation. It gets better, these tonics are enhanced with antioxidants and hydrating ingredients that can seamlessly integrate into even the most sensitive skincare routines.

Choosing the right exfoliating toner depends on what your skin needs. To narrow down the search we asked Dr. Melanie Palm, board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon in San Diego, Calif. And Dr. Cheryl Karcher, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of Center Aesthetic & Dermatology in NYC to weigh in on what to look for when it comes to choosing the best exfoliating toner. We are beaming from Rose Ingleton’s Superfruit Exfoliating Tonic 8% AHA Solution for its immediate glow while keeping the skin barrier healthy and hydrated.

These are the best exfoliating toners:

Best Overall: Rose Ingleton Superfruit Exfoliating Tonic

Rose Ingleton Superfruit Exfoliating tonic-8-aha-solution

Sephora

What We Love: It instantly restores the skin barrier.

What We Don’t Love: It tingles slightly.

A resurfacing treatment in a bottle formulated by board-certified dermatologist Rose Ingleton, this exfoliating toner features a combination of eight-percent glycolic acid with licorice to visibly reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and pore size. Ingleton’s signature Jamaican Superfruit blend drenches skin in hyaluronic acid and essential antioxidants to deliver the ultimate glow. It also helps clear up any acne (and the scarring that may come with it).

Because it is relatively strong, it might tingle a bit when you first start to use it. But as you get used to it, the less you’ll experience it.

Active Ingredients: Glycolic Acid, Licorice Root, SuperFruit Jamaican Blend | Size: 6 fl oz

Best Budget: Versed Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Toner

Versed Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Toner

Versed Skin

What We Love: It’s a natural alternative to hydroquinone + Vitamin C delivers brighter skin.

What We Don’t Love: It could make your skin dry.

Concentrated with four powerful exfoliating actives, this pH balancing toner drastically reduces the appearance of PIP (post inflammatory pigmentation also known as post breakout dark spots). Bearberry extract, a natural alternative to hydroquinone, works with kojic acid and azelaic to brighten skin. Lactic and glycolic acid bring fresh skin up to the surface to reveal a youthful glowing complexion. Versed dials brightening up a notch by adding vitamin C to protect against environmental stressors and keep your skin glowing — all under $20. The powerful acids while brightening and clarifying may also dry out the skin. But slap on a hydrating moisturizer afterwards and you should be good to go.

Active Ingredients: Bearberry, Kojic Acid, Azelaic Acid | Size: 1.7 fl oz, 4 fl oz

Best Splurge: Biologique Recherche Lotion P50V

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50V

What We Love: It’s a facial in a bottle.

What We Don’t Love: The scent is overwhelming.

Surely, this list would not be complete without mentioning this cult favorite — from texture to tone, P50 does it all. It has a “run don't walk'' approach to exfoliating and toning, unlike anything I have ever seen as a Medical Aesthetician. Not only is there an option for all skin types, it is definitely worth the splurge. The results are almost immediate — with just a few swipes you get glowing, dewy skin as if you just gave yourself an at-home facial.

I recommend P50V without phenol, a lighter version of the original P50 formulated with lactic, malic and salicylic acid combined with calming antioxidants such as niacinamide and walnut extract. P50V brightens your complexion, balances oil production, helps acne, diminishes pigmentation and restores pH levels.

Active Ingredients: Lactic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Malic Acid | Size: 1.7 fl oz, 5 fl oz

Best Drugstore: Carbon Theory Tea Tree Oil & Citric Acid Breakout Control Facial Purifying Tonic

CARBON THEORY TEA TREE OIL & CITRIC ACID BREAKOUT CONTROL FACIAL PURIFYING TONIC

Ulta

What We Love: The infused pink grapefruit and tea tree oil regulate your natural oil production.

What We Don’t Love: It’s not great for sensitive skin.

Don’t let the name fool you — even if you don't have breakouts, this purifying exfoliating toner is a drugstore steal. As a natural antiseptic, tea tree oil assists in keeping your skin clean while pink grapefruit extract, lactic acid, citric acid, and willow bark exfoliate dead skin cells and balance oil production. If your skin is oily, this exfoliating toner will minimize shine.

Reviewers with sensitive skin, though, complain that it was a bit too harsh for them, with many saying they can’t use it more than twice a week, if that. We suggest patch testing it on yourself first before going all in to see how you react.

Active Ingredients: Tea Tree, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid | Size: 8.45 fl oz

Best for Sensitive Skin: January Labs Daily Brightening Tonic

January Labs Daily Brightening Tonic

January Labs

What We Love: It’s super gentle, making it excellent for sensitive skin.

What We Don’t Love: It may not be strong enough for oily or acne prone skin.

This all-in-one gentle exfoliating toner soothes skin and balances pH after you cleanse. Lactic acid stimulates cell turnover and locks in moisture, making it particularly good for anyone with dry, sensitive skin. This daily tonic is made with active botanicals such as chamomile and aloe vera to calm and nourish skin. Looking for more hydration? PCA, a humectant, draws in moisture while Glycerin soothes parched skin.

Active Ingredients: Lactic Acid, Aloe Vera, Witch Hazel | Size: 2 fl oz, 5 fl oz

Best for Brightening: Summer Fridays Soft Reset AHA Exfoliating Solution

SUMMER FRIDAYS SOFT RESET AHA EXFOLIATING SOLUTION

Sephora

What We Love: 16 percent AHAs and Niacinamide exfoliate and brighten skin.

What We Don’t Love: It can be overpowering for anyone new to exfoliators.

Summer Fridays delivers the perfect trifecta for brightening skin — Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid and Niacinamide. This Soft Reset blends together 16 percent of the AHAs — which exfoliate skin while keeping pores clean, balancing oil production and reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation — while Niacinamide helps to soothe skin, brighten and lock in moisture. This exfoliating toner leaves you with a bright complexion and filter finish.

If you’ve never used an exfoliator before, though, this may not be the best one to start with because of how strong it is. We recommend this one for more experienced users.

Active Ingredients: Lactic Acid, Niacinamide, Glycolic Acid | Size: 3.4 fl oz

Best for Acne: Farmacy Deep Sweep 2% BHA Pore Cleaning Toner

4.7
Farmacy Deep Sweep Toner

What We Love: Salicylic and Lactic acid keep pores squeaky clean.

What We Don’t Love: It dries out the skin.

When it comes to tackling breakouts, reducing sebum production, and unclogging pores, salicylic acid is a powerhouse. (It also happens to be Dr. Karcher’s favorite ingredient for exfoliating toners.) But Deep Sweep doesn't stop at salicylic acid — the product includes lactic acid to exfoliate, brighten, and lock in moisture while the salicylic acid clarifies. Papaya extract also serves as an enzymatic exfoliation, softening skin while dissolving congestion, and nourishing moringa calms inflammation, regulates oil production while simultaneously protecting the skin barrier.

Active Ingredients: Salicylic Acid, Moringa, Papaya | Size: 1.7 fl oz, 4 fl oz

Best for Oily Skin: Biossance Squalane + BHA Pore-Minimizing Toner

4.8
Biossance Squalane + BHA Pore-Minimizing Toner

Sephora

What We Love: Squalane provides maximum hydration.

What We Don’t Love: The scent may not be for everyone.

Having squalane in your exfoliating toner is a sure way to get a powerful dose of hydration. For oily skin, the goal is to remove excess oil without stripping skin, so squalane, derived from sugarcane, repairs the skin barrier and provides plenty of moisture. This exfoliating toner combines Willow Bark Extract, a natural form of BHA, which controls sebum production and Caviar Lime — rich in AHA and polyphenols to brighten skin. The result? A glowing complexion with refined pores and even skin tone.

Active Ingredients: Willow Bark Extract, Caviar Lime, Squalane | Size: 4 fl oz

Best K-Beauty: Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow BHA + PHA Pore-Tight Toner

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow BHA + PHA Pore-Tight Facial Toner

Amazon

What We Love: A thirst quenching hydrating and exfoliating toner.

What We Don’t Love: The watermelon scent can be overpowering.

A little goes a long way with this watermelon-infused exfoliating toner. Hyaluronic, Licorice, Cucumber and Cactus water deliver an immense amount of hydration while Salicylic Acid exfoliates, dissolves congestion and refines pore size. This pH-balancing toner is great for all skin types, providing moisture and revealing your natural glow.

Active Ingredients: Watermelon, Cactus Water, Salicylic Acid  | Size: 1.3 fl oz, 5 fl oz

Best Anti-aging: Josh Rosebrook Daily Acid Toner

JOSH ROSEBROOK DAILY ACID TONER

Credo

What We Love: Amino acids and Sea Kelp restore collagen and firm skin.

What We Don’t Love: We wish it came in a larger size.

This silky, antioxidant-rich, exfoliating toner is formulated with four acids — pyruvic, malic, citric, and glycolic — that work together to transform skin. Hibiscus flower acid and Irish moss extract reveal your bright and glowing complexion by removing impurities, regulating oil production, dissolving dead skin cells, and stimulating collagen production. Amino acids, aloe vera, and sea kelp rejuvenate and firm skin, supporting the skin barrier.

Active Ingredients: Glycolic Acid, Hibiscus Flower, Sea Kelp | Size: 3.3 fl oz

What to Keep in Mind

Ingredients

When it comes to chemicals exfoliants, each acid is responsible for addressing different skin concerns. AHAs, like glycolic and lactic acid, are water soluble and great for stimulating collagen production and removing debris, where BHAs like salicylic acid dissolve oil production making it a great option for oily or acne-prone skin. If you run on the dry side, PHAs soothe and hydrate skin acting as a humectant.

Sensitivity

Using an exfoliating toner that is too harsh for your skin can make skin dry and flakey. If you're not sure which exfoliating toner is right for your skin type, we suggest you start by spot treating behind your ear before you apply it to your entire face and neck.

Dr. Karcher says “exfoliating toners slough off the top layer of dead skin cells”  which makes your skin more sensitive to the sun. Whether you apply your exfoliating toner in the morning or at night, always wear sunscreen during the day.

Your Questions, Answered

What does an exfoliating toner do?

“Exfoliating toners have multiple purposes,” says Dr. Karcher. The role of an exfoliating toner is to balance pH levels, dissolve dead skin cells, regulate oil production, and prep skin for the rest of your skincare routine.  "The use of a toner can have the added benefit of mechanical removal of skin debris. Simple application of a skincare product such as a serum does not lift off dull skin cells." says Dr. Palm.  Exfoliating toners “restore the skin's natural pH after cleansing. Cleansing with most face washes makes the skin more alkaline,” says Dr. Karcher. The result, glowing skin, improved texture, and a brighter complexion. Dr. Karcher adds ”exfoliating toners are helpful because they contain acids that rebalance the skin's barrier to an acidic level so the skin can be healthier and work properly.”

How often can you use an exfoliating toner?

Depending on the formulation, exfoliating toners can actually be used once or twice daily. However, we recommend you ease into using an exfoliating toner. Dr. Palm says to use “a liquid exfoliant once or twice a week at first to gauge how your skin reacts to it.” You can gradually start using an exfoliating toner more frequently as your skin adjusts. When in doubt, read the back of the bottle for instructions.

Why Shop With Us

Lauren Hackney Behringer has over 10 years experience as a medical aesthetician, health coach, writer, and beauty industry expert. She is also a devoted skin care enthusiast, always ready to try the latest beauty product to give you an honest review. She interviewed Dr. Michelle Palm, and Dr. Cheryl Karcher board-certified dermatologists with years of schooling and a thorough understanding of the skin barrier and how to optimize skin health.

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