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A toner is basically an optional after-cleansing step that can remove cleanser residue, assuming there is any, or some of what the cleanser didn't take off.

Unfortunately, many toners contain skin irritants like drying alcohols, menthol, peppermint, camphor, eucalyptus, etc... Skin irritants are problematic to the skin because they prematurely kill skin cells, littering the skin with more dead skin cells than can naturally be sloughed off, and because irritants negatively impact the overall health of the skin.

Toners don't shrink pores or reduce oil production, but the skin irritants that some toners contain cause the skin to temporarily swell, making the pore look smaller for a short while.

If a toner contains salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid, it can help to treat and prevent blackheads and clogged pores provided it is in a solution having a pH of 4 or lower. Unfortunately, I do not know of any salicylic acid products marketed as toners that are both pH correct and free from unnecessary skin irritants.

The closest thing I can think of is Paula's Choice 2% Beta Hydroxy Acid Liquid, which is not marketed as a toner but is in liquid form like one toner. Regardless, its formulation really isn't different from a toner.

The Beta Hydroxy Acid Liquid is the best salicylic acid treatment I have come across, and per ounce, is cheaper than those found in drugstores too.

It can be ordered here:


If you want to try other effective salicylic acid products without ordering online, you could try these products:

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Defense Face Lotion

Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Anti-Blemish Daily Moisturizer

Serious Skin Care Clarifying Treatment

The Neutrogena and Olay versions don't have the best formulations for acne-prone skin, but they are pH correct and lack significant skin irritants.

The Serious Skin Care Treatment version is ridiculously expensive.

I don't recommend getting a salicylic acid wash or scrub because 1) almost all cleansers have too high of a pH to allow the salicylic acid to exfoliate and 2) in the rare event that a salicylic acid product were pH correct, the salicylic acid would be washed away before it could do too much.

You could also get a toner containing alpha hydroxy acid, though alpha hydroxy acids do not have the ability to penetrate into the pore like beta hydroxy acids do, so they won't be nearly as effective against clogged pores.

The alpha hydroxy acid toner that comes to mind is Proactive's Revitalizing Toner.

If a toner doesn't contain any chemical exfoliants, it can be used to add water-binding agents and anti-inflammatory ingredients to the skin provided it is well-formulated (which moisturizers also do). It can also be used to help gently remove any areas of dry, flaky skin, basically like a manual exfoliant.

Nivea Visage Moisturizing Toner is a good example of a non-medicated, well-formulated toner.

A toner free from unnecessary skin irritants may be a great inclusion to your regimen. If you decide to go for a gentle toner with a chemical exfoliant, these can also be complementary to your regimen by helping against clogged pores.

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I just use Ahava matte toner. It contains sea salt as well as witch hazel and some other stuff. I just wash my face with water, then wipe my face with this stuff. It's expensive, but since I've been using this stuff for the last 5 months my skin is much less irritated and less acne. Plus this stuff makes the skin have a matte look.

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