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A face toner is one of those things you can use in your skincare routine for a number of skin concerns. Some contain ingredients to hydrate and balance whereas some contain ingredients to exfoliate and tighten. When it comes to toners for oily skin and large pores, you need a little bit of both and then some. Ideally, your toner should exfoliate, reduce acne, unclog pores, and help push out the gunk stuck inside open pores. But the best toners for oily skin and large pores do all these while avoiding dehydrating your skin in the process. But how? And with what? Let me paint a better picture, which will help you understand what your toner should look like.
Hyperactive oil glands cause excess oil production in the skin. And when things get out of control, that excess oil, combined with dead skin cells, ends up clogging your pores, which we commonly refer to as blackheads (1).
And clogged pores tend to look enlarged on the one hand and tend to be the breeding ground for acne on the other hand.
Simply from this description, you can infer that your toner should, first and foremost, reduce excess oil production.
It means that while a simple hydrating toner is amazing for people with oily skin, you need something more targeted to address excess oil and open pores.
From there on, you should look for ways to deal with existing pores that are clogged but have an opening. Even though there’s no cookie-cutter way to deal with oily skin and pores, here are the pointers you need to find the right toner for your skin.
How to Choose a Toner For Oily Skin and Large Pores
Acne, your skin’s sensitivity, its familiarity with active ingredients, and other skincare products you use in your routine all factor into finding the toner for your unique skin. So here’s how to choose a toner for oily skin and large pores and what to look for in them.
Ingredients to Look For
The ingredients in your toner depend on a few factors. For example, if you want to decongest your pores, which will, in turn, improve their appearance, you should look for exfoliants.
Both salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid, and glycolic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid, are excellent choices in a toner to use for minimizing oil and pores.
Your Skin Type
On the flip side, not all skin types can tolerate exfoliants. People with sensitive and redness-prone skin may have trouble using exfoliants. In that case, instead of trying to exfoliate your skin, consider taking a different approach by using other ingredients.
For example, niacinamide is helpful in managing excess oil production and reducing the visibility of large pores (2). It’s also anti-inflammatory for the skin.
So by handling your skin’s oil production, you prevent your pores from getting further clogged. And in time, less oil will allow your skin’s turnover cycle to get rid of clogged pores.
Other Products in Your Routine
And lastly, if you’re already using acne treatments like retinoids or peeling solutions, you don’t want your toner to be as potent as those because too many actives in a routine may end up dehydrating your skin or irritating it.
In that case, you can use your toner as a way to make life easier. You can consider astringents when you need a quick way to reduce shine and refine pores.
These are not treatments. But they’re great for quick solutions. And the most popular of the bunch is witch hazel, which has a tightening effect on the skin (3).
The Best Toners For Oily Skin and Large Pores
Find below the best toners to manage oily skin and minimize large pores.
This is the mainstream type of toner to effectively deal with oily skin and large pores. It’s an exfoliating toner made with salicylic acid. So it helps push out blackheads by resurfacing the skin. But because it’s alcohol-free, it’s not a drying toner, which might aggravate acne on some people. Plus, it’s made with FAB’s signature anti-inflammatory complex. Green tea, allantoin, feverfew extract, and colloidal oatmeal make an amazing bunch for soothing inflammation on oily skin.
So while you exfoliate with salicylic acid, you’re ensuring that your toner doesn’t make things worse. The fragrance-free toner also utilizes witch hazel to tone the skin and papaya enzymes for superficial exfoliation. In case you haven’t heard, enzymes are helpful for getting rid of flakiness on the skin, which is something people with combination skin deal with all the time. So overall, this is a super gentle, alcohol-free face toner perfect for managing oily skin with large pores.
Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, willow bark extract, colloidal oatmeal
Key Benefits: Exfoliates and clears up clogged pores, calms acne
Size: 5 oz/150 ml
Good To Know: Alcohol-free, fragrance-free, vegan, cruelty-free
Astringents may sound intimidating at first. However, they’re for quick relief and they help when your skin is excessively oily. This one is made with witch hazel, menthol, and camphor. And all three of these are astringents that provide quick relief for the skin. The toner also contains alcohol, which gets rid of any oil on the skin that gives you a shiny complexion.
It gives the skin a temporary tightening feeling, which reduces the look of pores. However, this is not the best choice if you have sensitive skin. Because both alcohol and menthol may irritate the skin, cause redness, and aggravate acne. Keep in mind that this is not a treatment. So it won’t help you get rid of pores or breakouts in the long run. Think of this as a blotting paper in liquid form.
Key Ingredients: Witch hazel, camphor, aloe
Key Benefits: Eliminates excess oil, reduces shine, tightens
Size: 8.4 oz/250 ml
Good To Know: Contains alcohol and fragrance
On the flip side, Kiehl’s has this pore-minimizing toner made with our beloved mattifying ingredient, which is clay. Clay is hard to come by in face toners and more common in face masks. But this dual-phase, water-like formula works incredibly well to reduce shine and minimize the appearance of pores almost immediately.
Plus, it has anti-inflammatory allantoin and aloe to calm skin and witch hazel to refine pores. You can try this one if you’re looking for something more potent than an astringent toner but gentler than a treatment toner. It’s fragrance-free and perfect for reducing excess oil.
Key Ingredients: Clay, allantoin, witch hazel, aloe
Key Benefits: Mattifies skin, refines pores, reduces oil
Size: 8.4 oz/250 ml
Good To Know: Fragrance-free, contains alcohol
If you have oily skin, and enlarged pores but your skin is also sensitive, you might be intimidated to use glycolic acid toners. However, this is one of those pleasant exceptions. Though it’s made with 5% glycolic acid, it’s gentle enough to use daily. It’s not clear what the pH of the toner is because glycolic acid needs to be around 3.5 for optimum efficiency.
But from my experience, and what I read from reviews, I can tell that this does not feel like it’s 3.5 at all! I’m assuming that’s why it doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin. While glycolic acid helps to gently exfoliate, ginseng and witch hazel tighten the skin and refine the look of pores. The glycolic acid toner is alcohol-free and makes exfoliation a breeze. And it literally leaves the skin glowing. And it’s one of the gentlest toners for oily skin and large pores.
Key Ingredients: Glycolic acid, ginseng, aloe, witch hazel
Key Benefits: Tightens pores, removes blackheads, brightens skin
Size: Various sizes
Good To Know: Alcohol-free, cruelty-free
If your skin can tolerate something a little bit more potent, you can try The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid Solution. pH-wise, it’s more penetrating than Pixi.
As long as you don’t have sensitive skin, you can use the toner to resurface the skin, improve the look of enlarged pores, and brighten the skin too. It’s alcohol-free, fragrance-free, and packs a blend of amino acids to hydrate the skin, which is beneficial if you have dehydrated oily skin.
Key Ingredients: Glycolic acid, aloe, amino acids
Key Benefits: Exfoliates, refines pores, evens skin tone
Size: 8 oz/240 ml
Good To Know: Alcohol-free, fragrance-free, oil-free, cruelty-free, vegan
Witch hazel is like a double-edged sword. It’s anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and even helps with excess oil. But too much of it can irritate. But to avoid that, this toner delivers witch hazel into the skin with an alcohol-free base. Though alcohol increases skin penetration and dries down oil, it’s best to avoid it if your skin is prone to acne.
The super-affordable toner combines witch hazel with soothing aloe and anti-inflammatory rose water. It’ll help you manage excess sebum and prevent clogged pores. The toner is almost all-natural, 98%, but 100% effective.
Key Ingredients: Witch hazel, rose water, aloe
Key Benefits: Tightens pores, controls shine, soothes
Size: 12 oz/355 ml
Good To Know: Alcohol-free, cruelty-free, vegan
Niacinamide is another multi-tasker that offers a lot for oily skin. It reduces excess oil production, hydrates the skin, minimizes the look of pores, and brightens the skin. So a niacinamide toner is a great option for those of you who can’t tolerate exfoliants or astringents in their toner.
A personal favorite of mine, this is an amazing toner for minimizing enlarged pores. It’s oil-free and alcohol-free, and it goes perfectly well under makeup when you want your foundation to look smooth. Besides niacinamide, it has witch hazel to improve the look of pores. And it packs acerola cherry, which is packed with vitamin C, to brighten the skin and fade discolorations too. Your skin is going to drink this!
Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, witch hazel, acerola cherry
Key Benefits: Reduces shine and excess oil, reduces the visibility of large pores
Size: 5 oz/150 ml
Good To Know: Alcohol-free, vegan, cruelty-free
This is another niacinamide toner. But this is especially helpful if you have lingering acne marks or dark spots. Because in addition to niacinamide, it has a very stable and gentle form of vitamin C. So it won’t aggravate acne from irritation.
Plus, it contains licorice extract as well as arbutin, which is the hot new anti-pigmentation ingredient. The drugstore toner is gentle, non-drying, alcohol-free, and budget-friendly. It offers an easy way to hydrate oily skin, minimize oil production, and refine enlarged pores.
Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, vitamin C, arbutin
Key Benefits: Minimizes pores, brightens, hydrates
Size: 4 oz/120 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, alcohol-free, cruelty-free
If you want to exfoliate your skin without worrying about dehydration, consider YTTP’s mandelic acid solution. This is the perfect recipe to exfoliate and hydrate at the same time. It’s made with 3% mandelic acid for gentle and superficial exfoliation. And it contains 2% salicylic acid to penetrate inside the pores and dissolve dead skin cells.
And it has 1% gluconolactone, a polyhydroxy acid, which is more hydrating than it is exfoliating. So you get to target acne and clear up pores while also ensuring that your skin is hydrated and plump. Plus, the alcohol-free toner is packed with superfoods to care for the skin too. And it contains soothing green tea and chamomile to calm irritation and redness.
Key Ingredients: Mandelic acid, salicylic acid, gluconolactone, vitamin C
Key Benefits: Gently exfoliates, decongests, softens the look of pores
Size: 4 oz/118 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free, alcohol-free
This alcohol-free Korean toner comes in pre-soaked pads for convenience. And they contain willow bark extract, which is a natural source of salicylic acid. And it tends to be gentler than salicylic acid with more anti-inflammatory benefits.
So if you’re looking for a very gentle way to exfoliate, treat and prevent acne, this might be the better choice. Plus, it hydrates and soothes with vitamin B5 and packs tea tree leaf oil for its anti-bacterial and anti-acne benefits. If pads aren’t your cup of tea, check out BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. It’s a very similar formula in liquid form.
Key Ingredients: Willow bark extract, allantoin, vitamin B5
Key Benefits: Unclogs pores, treats and prevents acne
Size: 70 pads
Good To Know: Alcohol-free
Last but not least, this is a natural toner you can use to reduce oil and minimize the appearance of large pores. It’s made with 2% salicylic acid for proper exfoliation to decongest the skin. And it also has glycolic acid as well as gluconolactone to get rid of the dead skin cells clogging your pores without dehydrating the skin.
It’s got amazing humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin too, which provides a nice level of hydration for parched skin. And to calm redness and irritation, the toner infuses the skin with anti-inflammatory prickly pear.
Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, glycolic acid, gluconolactone, aloe
Key Benefits: Removes dead skin cells, reduces acne
Size: 5 oz/150 ml
Good To Know: Alcohol-free, cruelty-free
So these are some of the best toners for oily skin and large pores. If you’ve found what you were looking for, keep reading for some tips to maximize the results you get from your toner.
Read Next: The Best Face Masks For Pores
- Sutaria AH, Masood S, Schlessinger J. Acne Vulgaris. [Updated 2021 Aug 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459173/
- Fox, L., Csongradi, C., Aucamp, M., du Plessis, J., & Gerber, M. (2016). Treatment Modalities for Acne. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 21(8), 1063. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules21081063
- Draelos, Z. D. (2015). Chapter 34: Botanicals [E-book]. In Cosmetic Dermatology: Products and Procedures (2nd ed., p. 269). Wiley-Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118655566