- Toners can help cleanse and hydrate sensitive skin.
- When choosing a toner for sensitive skin, look for products that are alcohol- and fragrance-free.
- Stop using your toner if you notice any irritation, redness or burning.
Those with sensitive skin are often wary of using a toner for fear of drying out or further irritating their already fragile skin. However, the right toner can be very effective for sensitive skin – provided you choose the right product for your skin type.
What Is Toner and What Is It Used For?
A toner is a liquid skin care product that is designed to hydrate the skin and to remove any remaining debris or cleanser after washing. It also prepares the skin to better absorb any other creams or lotions you may wish to apply.
Several formulations are available that can be very beneficial for sensitive skin. Many have humectant properties, which means they attract and retain moisture. This can help combat the dryness and itchiness that is often associated with sensitive skin. Other toners may contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatories which can help reduce redness and irritation.
For exfoliation, some toners have either alpha hydroxy (AHA) or beta hydroxy (BHA) acids. Those with sensitive skin may want to avoid toners with a high concentration of acids, particularly AHAs, as they can cause irritation.
Best Toners for Sensitive Skin
Alcohol-free toners are the best option for people with sensitive skin. Simple alcohols such as ethanol, methanol, denatured alcohol and isopropyl alcohol should be avoided as they are too harsh for people with this skin type.
Common irritants such as dyes and synthetic fragrances should also be avoided as these ingredients can aggravate sensitive skin.
Sensitive oily skin
Sensitive dry skin
For sensitive dry skin, look for an alcohol-free toner that contains hydrating ingredients such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid (HA). Anti-inflammatory ingredients such as vitamin C and green tea can also be useful for soothing sensitive dry skin.
Sensitive acne-prone skin
If you have severely sensitive skin, you may find SA to be overly drying. Monitor how your skin reacts and reduce your usage if you notice any adverse effects.
How to Use a Toner for Sensitive Skin
Apply your toner after using your cleanser to remove any traces of makeup, oil and grime that may remain on your skin.
To avoid irritating sensitive skin, always err on the side of caution when introducing any new product into your skin care routine. Start by applying a very small amount of toner and limit yourself to using it every second or third night.
Discontinue use if you notice any signs of irritation, such as:
- Burning sensation
- More breakouts than usual
Natural DIY Toner for Sensitive Skin
If you want more control over your toner’s ingredients, you may want to consider making your own toner.
The following recipe features rose water, which is believed to soothe irritated skin and prevent the growth of bacteria. It also contains aloe vera gel, a natural moisturizer, and tea tree oil, which is known for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
- 2 drops of tea tree oil
- 2 tsp rose water
- 1 tbsp of aloe vera gel
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stir well and store in a small glass container; discard after 1 week.
Toners can be beneficial for people with sensitive skin. Not only do they clear the skin of possible irritants, but they can also help keep your skin healthy and hydrated. Toners can be used even on sensitive skin that is particularly dry, oily or acne-prone.
When choosing a toner for sensitive skin, look for ingredients with anti-inflammatory, hydrating, and antimicrobial properties. Some of the best ingredients to look for in a toner are glycerin, HA, and witch hazel. Conversely, be sure to avoid potentially irritating ingredients such as alcohol or synthetic fragrances.
Do not overapply, and discontinue use if you notice any signs of irritation.
- Milani, M., & Sparavigna, A. (2017). The 24-hour skin hydration and barrier function effects of a hyaluronic 1%, glycerin 5%, and Centella asiatica stem cells extract moisturizing fluid: an intra-subject, randomized, assessor-blinded study. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 10, 311–315. doi:10.2147/CCID.S144180
- C. F. Carson, K. A. Hammer, T. V. Riley. (2016) Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties. Clinical Microbiology Reviews Jan 2006, 19 (1) 50-62; DOI:10.1128/CMR.19.1.50-62.2006
- Decker, A., & Graber, E. M. (2012). Over-the-counter Acne Treatments: A Review. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 5(5), 32–40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3366450
- Katiyar, S.K., Ahmad, N., Mukhtar, H. (2000) Green tea and skin. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10926734