The 7 Best Toners for Dry, Flaky Skin, According to Dermatologists

Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Calming Toner soothes and strengthens the skin.

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These Are the 7 Best Toners for Dry, Flaky Skin
Photo: Amazon/InStyle

Using a toner in your daily regimen can offer a multitude of benefits for your face and neck, especially if it's a formulation that tackles a specific concern, such as dry skin. Whether you've always dealt with dryness, have gone overboard on exfoliation, or simply live in a drier climate, regular applications of a hydrating toner can make all the difference in the feel and appearance of your skin.

Navigating all the toner options available can be overwhelming, so we've done the work for you and rounded up the best hydrating toners to remedy your dry, flaky skin. We tapped dermatologists for their hydrating toner recommendations and evaluated products based on their formulations and if they were free of potential irritants. Paula's Choice Skin Recovery Calming Toner impressed us with its ability to soothe dry skin and boost its strength with lipids and vitamins.

If you are looking to reveal smoother, more supple skin, these are the best toners for dry skin.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Paula's Choice Skin Recovery Calming Toner

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What We Like: This milky toner soothes red, flaky skin.

What We Don't Like: The squeeze top can waste some product.

The Paula's Choice Skin Recovery Calming Toner sits at the top of our list for a handful of reasons; the lightweight, milky toner brings skin-defending antioxidants, essential lipids, and vitamins to the skin, soothing redness, dry flakes, and dullness upon contact. It also has hyaluronic acid which draws water into the skin for extra moisture, according to board-certified dermatologist DiAnne Davis, M.D. We love the cooling effect it has and that it may even be suitable for eczema-prone complexions.

Key Moisturizer: Hyaluronic acid | Size: 6.4 oz | Fragrance Free: Yes

Also available at Paula's Choice and Dermstore

Best Value: Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water with Rose Water

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What We Like: This generous bottle will last you a long time and packs hydrating ingredients.

What We Don't Like: It may take a few cotton balls to remove all your makeup.

Micellar water is a good way to remove excess makeup and dirt gently. "Micellar water will fully cleanse your skin without leaving it too squeaky clean and you will not have any after rinse tightness," says board-certified dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla, M.D. The Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water brings all the clarifying benefits of the brand's beloved original formulation, but with an extra hydrating boost; the addition of rose water and glycerin instantly soothes sensitive, flaky skin. Not only does it remove makeup and leftover grime without over drying, but reviewers say it's irritation-free on their sensitive skin, including around the eye area. It's also cruelty-free and doesn't have any added alcohol or fragrances.

Key Moisturizer: Rose Water, glycerin | Size: 13.5-23.7 oz | Fragrance Free: Yes

Also available at Ulta and Target

Best Splurge: Fresh Rose & Hyaluronic Acid Deep Hydration Toner

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What We Like: This toner feels luxurious with its rose scent and real rose petals.

What We Don't Like: Those pretty petals can clog the opening of the bottle.

Described as a "true cult classic" by reviewers, this toner from Fresh Beauty remedies a variety of concerns, including large pores, dullness, and uneven texture. Equipped with the powers of hyaluronic acid, rose water, and angelica leaf extract, the deeply hydrating formula rejuvenates stressed-out skin, leaving it soft and supple with every application. Bonus: Each bottle contains real rose petals, making it all the more special.

Key Moisturizer: Hyaluronic acid, rose water | Size: 3.3-13.53 oz | Fragrance Free: No

Also available at Nordstrom and Ulta

Best for Sensitive Skin: Avène Gentle Toning Lotion

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What We Like: The brand's thermal mineral water balances your skin's pH.

What We Don't Like: It has added fragrance.

For those that struggle to implement new products due to extremely fickle skin, this gentle toning lotion from celebrity-adored brand Avène is a safe bet. It helps to reset the skin's pH balance after over-cleansing and even protects against pollution. Use it as a makeup remover, or as a precursor to your moisturizer for additional soothing and hydrating benefits. Your skin will soak up the toner's main ingredient, thermal spring water, which has been clinically proven by the brand's studies to effectively calm the skin. "Avène's thermal spring water has a low mineral and sodium count, which does not dry out the skin and is rich in silica to make the water soft and soothing," board-certified dermatologist Melissa K. Levin, M.D., previously told InStyle.

Key Moisturizer: Thermal spring water | Size: 6.7 oz | Fragrance Free: No

Also available at Ulta and Dermstore

Best Clean: Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner

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What We Like: This simple toner packs in all the good ingredients in a clean, cruelty-free formula.

What We Don't Like: It can cause breakouts on acne-prone skin.

If you're seeking a paired-down, simple formula, the Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner is one of the best options out there. It's free of alcohol, fragrance, parabens, and essential oils, and instead brings aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, chamomile, and cucumber to the skin, leaving it refreshed and nourished. The formula is made without 1,300+ ingredients banned by the brand and is certified cruelty-free and vegan. You can easily toss this spray bottle into your gym bag or suitcase for a refreshing mist on-the-go.

Key Moisturizer: Hyaluronic acid, aloe, cucumber | Size: 1-4.2 oz | Fragrance Free: Yes

Also available at Dermstore and Credo Beauty

Best Mist: Sukin Organics Hydrating Mist Toner

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What We Like: This toner is conveniently packaged in a small spray bottle.

What We Don't Like: It can leave your skin a little shiny.

The vegan and cruelty-free formula from Sukin Organics features chamomile and rosewater to moisturize and purify stressed-out skin. It can be spritzed onto the face before or after cleansing, and even over makeup for a quick refresh. Shoppers are fans of the light floral scent and the refreshing feeling it leaves on their skin throughout the day. Did we mention that one bottle sells every 40 seconds on Amazon and Emma Watson is a fan?

Key Moisturizer: Rosewater, chamomile | Size: 4.23 oz | Fragrance Free: Yes

Also available at Walmart and Target

Best Exfoliating: InstaNatural Glycolic Acid Toner with Vitamin C

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What We Like: This formula uses gentle acids and vitamin C to brighten the skin.

What We Don't Like: The spray can be a little finicky.

To refine the complexion without irritation, reviewers say the InstaNatural Glycolic Acid Toner with Vitamin C is the one for the job. Compared to other acids, glycolic acid is fairly gentle, providing daily exfoliation without irritation, according to board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of BalmLabs, Robin Schaffran M.D. The exfoliating benefits of glycolic acid, brightening effects of Vitamin C, and hydrating powers of hyaluronic acid unite to minimize the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and large pores, and combat dullness. The multi-purpose treatment also preps the skin for a more effective absorption of the rest of your skincare.

Key Moisturizer: Hyaluronic acid | Size: 1-4 oz | Fragrance Free: Yes

Also available at Target and iHerb

Related: The Best Exfoliating Toners

What to Keep in Mind

Ingredients

Like most skincare products, not all toners come with a one-size-fits-all approach. While some formulations contain acne-fighting ingredients, such as salicylic acid, which will do wonders for oily or combination skin types, board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara M.D., suggests that those with dry complexions opt for nourishing ingredients like "hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or even a bit of rose water." It's also especially vital to avoid toners with alcohol, as the additive can contribute to a compromised moisture barrier, which will dry out the skin even further.

Fragrance

If you have dry skin and suffer from issues like eczema and rosacea, it's best to avoid products with added fragrances that can further irritate your skin. "Sensitive skin is almost universally found in the same people who may experience rosacea, eczema, dry skin, allergies and asthma," says board-certified dermatologist Shari Marchbein, M.D. "For those with skin sensitivities, I recommend using fragrance-free products and being cautious with any product or chemical/ingredient that may exacerbate irritation or inflammation."

Your Questions, Answered

Why do I need a toner?

As board-certified dermatologist Hadley C. King M.D. previously told InStyle, "Traditionally a toner is used as the final step in cleansing, designed to remove residue from the cleanser and the last traces of dirt and any pollutants from the day that the cleanser may have missed."

But that's not all a toner can effectively bring to the skin: Dr. Gohara says applying a toner after cleansing the skin also paves the way for the rest of your products to absorb more effectively. "Old school toners had a bad rep for being too drying on skin. Newer formulations add hydration and clear the canvas, so to speak, so that other ingredients can penetrate better."

How often should I use a toner?

A toner is great to use during your nightly routine as it will help to remove any leftover makeup or dirt your cleanser left behind. Some people also enjoy using a toner in the morning after cleansing as well. If your skin is dry or irritated, try once a day or even every other day. This is also true if you're using a toner with potent ingredients, such as AHAs or salicylic acid. For those with dry skin, it's best to start slow with a new toner, using it a few times a week until you know your skin can tolerate the formula and you feel comfortable using it more often.

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