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10 Best Salicylic Acid Toners for Smoother Skin in 2021

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In my 15 years of battle with acne, I have made many mistakes and didn’t know about lots of ingredients that my oily skin needs. But there was one ingredient that everybody (derms, magazines, friends) would praise for controlling excess sebum and breakouts. And that was, you guess it right, salicylic acid. If you have decided to add this acid to your skincare routine, you can start with a salicylic acid toner — you’ll find the best of them here. But why toners, and why salicylic acid?

Toners are often underestimated and ignored, but it’s that in-between skincare step that cleanses your skin a bit more, targets specific concerns depending on its formula, and preps the skin for the next steps. Toners are the second step in your skincare routine, right after cleansing and before serum, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Do you know what toner does to your skin? It removes the residues that the cleanser didn’t take away, restores the skin’s pH, ensuring a healthy skin barrier, and adds benefits to the skin. A salicylic acid toner aims to unclog pores, reduce inflammation and excess sebum, and gently exfoliate the skin for a brightener, clearer look.

What is salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid is part of the beta-hydroxy acids (BHA) family, naturally derived from the bark of willow trees, and occurs as a free acid in many plant species. Its structure makes it oil-soluble, aka it penetrates the lipid barrier and works to slough off dead skin cells that clog the pores. Hence, fewer chances for breakouts to develop. 

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Who can use salicylic acid toner?

You can use a salicylic acid toner if your skin is oily and prone to whiteheads and blackheads. On the flip side, if your skin is super sensitive or eczema-prone, you’d better stay away from a salicylic acid toner since it can be too harsh for you and cause irritation.

Is toner with salicylic acid good for acne?

Salicylic acid toners work best for superficial acne (whiteheads and blackheads) and work to prevent future blemishes. This multi-tasker has it all from exfoliating, revitalizing, restorative to bacteria-fighting powers. So yes, if your skin is prone to mild acne, a salicylic acid toner might be that step you need in your skincare regimen.

What is the best toner with salicylic acid?

As I have oily skin, I’ve been using salicylic acid for almost a year, and I would never go back to another sebum-fighter product. As I expect you to want to try this ingredient too, here are the best salicylic acid toners that can help you with acne, breakouts, and excess sebum.

Clinique salicylic acid toner

Best salicylic acid toner for breakouts

Clinique Acne Solutions Clarifying Lotion

If you want a toner that reduces excess sebum, unclogs pores, and leaves a matte finish, this Clinique product is for you. Because it’s infused with 1.50% salicylic acid, it helps clear away impurities that clog your pores, minimizing the chances of breakouts from appearing. The addition of laminaria saccharina extract — moisturizing brown algae — reduces shine and defends against dryness, while caffeine gives antioxidant protection.


SkinCeuticals Conditioning Toner

Best salicylic acid toner for acne

SkinCeuticals Conditioning Toner

This salicylic acid-containing toner is best for acne because it facilitates pores unclogging while eliminating excess oil and dead skin cells with the help of glycolic acid. SkinCeuticals’ toner does that without ever drying the skin since it’s also infused with eucalyptus oil, which not only soothes but has antibacterial and antiseptic properties, perfect for pimples.


Best salicylic acid toner for large pores

Best salicylic acid toner for large pores

Perricone Rinse Intensive Pore Minimizing Toner

While you can’t change your pores’ size, you can make them look smaller with this salicylic acid toner. Pores appear less noticeable when they’re cleared out of oil and dead cells, and this toner is perfect for this job. It aims to minimize pores look and reduce sebum by infusing your skin with salicylic acid. Also, it’s made with peptide, glycerin, castor oil, and copper to improve skin moisture, while zinc fights existing blemishes. 


Best salicylic acid for dry skin

Best salicylic acid for dry skin

Strivectin Tri-Phase Daily Glow Toner

If you have dry skin, this toner with salicylic acid is one of the best for you. It’s packed with a mix of ingredients that aim to brighten and nourish the skin, preparing it for the next steps. The blend of salicylic, mandelic, lactic, malic, citric, and benzoic acids target excess oil and gently exfoliate the skin. More than that, squalanehyaluronic acid, rice amino acids, and honey instantly smooth the skin and balances its pH. Smooth, hydrate, and brighten — for that, this toner is king.


Natural Salicylic Acid Toner

Best natural toner with salicylic acid

Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Toner

This guy not only cleanses and purifies the skin, but it aids in reducing the apparition of blemishes, prevents pores clogging, refines uneven tone, and minimizes pores’ look without drying the skin. It does all that helped by salicylic acid, a ton of antioxidants from grape seeds, and a complex of essential oils to keep the skin moisturized. Natural, non-comedogenic, antibacterial, this salicylic acid toner is all your skin needs if it’s on the sensitive side.


Chantecaille Phytoactive Solution Toner

Best for sensitive skin

Chantecaille Phytoactive Solution Toner

Another option for sensitive skin is this toner that relies on a natural, gentle alternative of salicylic acid: willow bark extract. It’s the perfect in-between skincare step that minimizes sebum, exfoliates, moisturizes, and purifies. Glycolic, phytic, lactic acids round out the powerhouse ingredient list, working together to even skin’s tone and smoothen it. The mattifying and pore-reducing effect is given by marine extract.


Biossance Salicylic Acid Toner

Best salicylic acid alternative

Biossance Squalane + BHA Toner

For a clean, gentle toner made with the natural salicylic acid’s alternative, white willow bark, pick this one. It aids to exfoliate the skin, unclog pores and reduce oil, assisted by caviar lime extract, a natural AHA that also encourages skin texture repair. The sugarcane-derived squalane aids hydration and helps deliver ingredients to the skin. Clarify, purify and hydrate, all with Biossance toner.


Lancome Face Toner with Salicylic Acid

Best salicylic acid toner for dark spots

Lancome Clarifique Face Toner

Have a look at this toner made with salicylic and glycolic acids, which aims to exfoliate, nourish and plump the skin at the same time. While it moisturizes skin with beech bud, sunflower, and grapeseed oil, the acids in the formula, plus the papaya enzymes, exfoliate the skin and remove dead skin cells to reveal brightener skin. If dark spots bother you give this toner a try, it’ll worth it! 


La Roche Posay Effaclar Toner

Best salicylic acid + glycolic acid toner

La Roche Posay Effaclar Toner 0,5 % Salicylic Acid

On the gentler side is this toner made with 0.5% salicylic acid and 2% glycolic acid, an AHA known for its tiny molecule that can penetrate the skin easily. This combo is best to dissolve dead skin cells, eliminate oil, and even tone. The addition of castor oil and plant extracts nourish and soothe the skin and preps it for your favorite serum and moisturizer.


best drugstore salicylic acid toner

Best drugstore salicylic acid toner

Neutrogena Triple-Action Toner

If you are wondering which is the best drugstore salicylic acid toner, the answer is Neutrogena Triple-Action Toner. It contains 2% salicylic acid and was made with acne-prone skin in mind. Not only it aims to treat acne even before it appears, but it eliminates oil for a shine-free look and prevents future clogs. Plus, it calms the skin with cucumber extract, while green tea delivers a relieving, relaxing feeling.


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