Toners might not look like much, but they are some of the most versatile energy drinks for your skin. Why? Because these watery elixirs not only instantly replenish with a host of hydrating and calming properties, they also hold the power to purify, clarify and fortify, all while leaving skin balanced and fresh—something skin types in our hot, humid climate will appreciate.
The key functions of toners
Toners used to be more alcohol-based and considered another step of cleansing—but not anymore. Today, most modern formulas help to rebalance the equilibrium of skin after cleansing in just a few pats, and deliver deep hydration that instantly plumps skin, boosting the absorption and effectiveness of products you apply after—just like how a wet sponge absorbs much better than a dry one. Those living in an eternal summer are often faced with dehydration and oiliness, and hydrating toners comfortably quenches all skin types without any heaviness, including oily ones which may rely on this step for ample, oil-balancing hydration during the day. Take it from the Koreans, who invented the toner methods of infusing light hydrating layers into skin for plump, dewy complexions that are glassy, not greasy.
Another key factor is that some toners can come packed with heavy hitting active ingredients that target specific needs—like clogged pores from sweat, sebum and product build-up, and sensitive or sensitised complexions plagued with harsh UV rays, heat, humidity, stress and pollution. Those with clogged pores can benefit from a cocktail of AHAs and BHAs for gentle chemical exfoliation—which helps to dissolve sebum and impurity build-up within pores while also sweeping away dead skin cells for smoother, brighter skin—while those with inflamed or irritated skin can seek salvage in the soothing properties of niacinamide, green tea extract, rice/centella asiatica and more.
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AHC Aqualuronic Toner
Great for: Hydrating, plumping and restoring moisture barrier
What sets this ultra moisturising formula apart is that it holds triple hyaluronic acid—containing low, medium and high molecular weights to deliver intensive hydration deep into the skin. Combined with mineral rich seawater and AHC’s exclusive Aqua Ceramide Complex, this long-lasting hydrator instantly plumps and rejuvenates skin, and helps to repair and reinforce the moisture barrier from within in the long run.
AHC Aqualuronic Toner, $54.90 for 150ml; available at Watsons
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Pai Rice Plant & Rosemary BioAffinity Tonic
Great for: Calming, rebalancing and gentle purification
The same way combination skin types deal with two or more concerns on different parts of their face, this toner combines multiple functions in its formula. To calm and rebalance, there’s rice plant living water, a mineral-rich extract with calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium and active antioxidants; while rosemary water helps to protect the skin from oxidative stress with caffeic acid and rosemarinic acid. These natural antioxidants also help to purify congested complexions and control sebum production.
Pai Rice Plant & Rosemary BioAffinity Tonic, $60 for 50ml; available at Sephora
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Calendula Herbal-Extract Alcohol-Free Toner
Great for: Calming, soothing and reducing redness or irritation
From Kiehl’s cult favourite Calendula line of soothing skincare, this ultra calming toner has been improved with clinical blemish efficacy to help reduce imperfections on top of remedying troubled skin—redness, inflammation or irritation in particular. Bottled in this alcohol-free formula are actual calendula petals that have been “hand-picked, hand-sorted, sun dried and inserted by hand in the Kiehl’s apothecary tradition to assure the most efficacious formula”, as well as five different soothing phyto components from the calendula plant for supercharged soothing effects. This is all why it’s a hit with those with acne-prone, sensitive and sensitised skin—and those skin SOS moments—but also works just as well for those who have normal to oily skin types for its gentle but thoroughly hydrating prowess.
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PSA by Allies Heroine Mandelic & Licorice Superfood Glow Toner
Great for: Brightening, pore-refining and evening out skin tone
Brightening, blemish-busting and pore-refining are on this toner’s to-do list. Formulated at a skin-compatible pH 3.5, this comes packed with a blend of botanicals and AHAs including 6 percent mandelic and lactic acid to gently but effectively lift impurities and dead skin cells to reveal a clearer, more radiant complexion. This is further boosted by antioxidant-rich licorice root, pomegranate extract and centella asiatica to brighten, clarify and calm, while a dose of kombucha aids in strengthening the skin barrier, protecting it against free radical damage.
PSA by Allies Heroine Mandelic & Licorice Superfood Glow Toner, $45 for 100ml; available at Sephora
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Saturday Skin Pore Clarifying Toner 10% Glycolic Acid
Great for: Smoothing and refining skin texture and tone
Don’t let the name scare you—glycolic acid is a friendly form of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that’s not only an effective but gentle exfoliant, but is also a water-binding agent with the ability to enhance natural moisturising factors within skin. So what you get with this pretty pink bottle is a moisturising, water soluble exfoliant that carefully lifts away built-up layers of dead skin to reveal a smoother complexion, and can reduce visible signs of ageing and sun damage over time.
Saturday Skin Pore Clarifying Toner 10% Glycolic Acid, $46 for 125ml; available at Sephora
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La Mer The Treatment Lotion
Great for: Hydrating, energising and prepping skin
If you’re feeling bougie, this silky hydration bomb will have your skin feeling and looking plump, radiant and baby soft to the touch. It infuses skin with “liquid energy”, a supercharged blend of La Mer’s Revitalising Ferment, a fusion of marine algae and 73 sea minerals; signature Miracle Broth, which stimulates collagen and elastic production; and softening waters to nurture, plump and perfectly prep skin. All skin types can benefit from this, but dryer complexions will most likely appreciate this rich but fast-absorbing, rush of hydration the most.
La Mer The Treatment Lotion, $235 for 150ml; available at Tangs
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Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner
Great for: Hydration, glow-boosting and rejuvenation
Within this easy-spray bottle is a potent, antioxidant-rich essence that hydrates and rebalances skin’s pH levels instantly. This alcohol-free formula works on calming, boosting radiance, hydrating and rejuvenation with quite the ingredient list: Think moisture magnets hyaluronic acid and aloe vera; ultra-soothers like chamomile and cucumber; and enzymatic fruit and flower extracts like papaya, all to help calm, prime and protect skin from pollution and environmental aggressors, as well as encourage healthy skin cell renewal from within.
Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner, $50 for 125ml; available at Sephora