Adding a salicylic acid toner to your skincare routine couldn’t make more sense if you’re dealing with clogged pores, excess sebum, or acne blemishes. Or maybe you’re just dipping your toes into the world of exfoliating acids and want to take it slow and steady. Whatever your reason, salicylic acid toners are the perfect opportunity to test the waters and safely incorporate this beta-hydroxy acid into your beauty regimen to achieve more balanced and clear skin.
However, by no means do we recommend you purchase the first toner you find at your local drugstore. Some of them contain nasty ingredients like alcohol and fragrances that can dry out your skin and irritate it.
To help you with your shopping, we’ve pulled together a list of the best salicylic acid toners. They work to clear pimples and improve skin clarity without disrupting your skin’s balance.
- Clinique Clarifying Lotion
- Bliss Clear Genius Clarifying Toner + Serum
- SkinCeuticals Exfoliating + Conditioning Toner
- Perricone MD Intensive Pore Minimizing Toner
- Neutrogena Acne Stress Control Face Toner
- Strivectin Tri-Phase Daily Glow Toner
- Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Toner
- Biossance Squalane + BHA Pore-Minimizing Toner
- Lancôme Clarifique Toner
- La Roche Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution
What are the benefits of salicylic acid toners?
To understand how these toners can help your skin, you must know how salicylic acid works. Salicylic acid is a member of the BHA family naturally derived from the bark of willow trees. Since it’s a chemical exfoliant, it breaks down the glue that holds skin cells together and forces them to shed. Moreover, as an oil-soluble compound, salicylic acid can penetrate the lipid layer. This means it can get into the pores to clean them of dirt.
That being said, salicylic acid toners deliver a delicate exfoliation that renews your skin’s top layer and removes pore-clogging elements (think oil, debris, toxins, dead cells, bacteria) from your pores. This multifaceted approach gives your skin numerous benefits. It reduces blackheads, as they are mostly caused by clogged pores. It also smooths the skin surface and gives your complexion a polished look to make it look less oily.
Who should use a salicylic acid toner?
If you have oily, combination, or acne-prone skin, a salicylic acid toner can be very beneficial. However, if your skin is dry, dehydrated, highly sensitive, or prone to eczema, avoid using salicylic acid toners. They can be harsh and potentially compromise your skin’s moisture barrier.
The best salicylic acid toners
Scroll on to check out our top recommendations.
Clinique Clarifying Lotion
If you want a toner that lifts dead skin, unclogs pores, and sops up excess oil, Clinique Clarifying Lotion is for you. Because it’s infused with 1.5% salicylic acid, it eliminates the impurities that congest pores and helps minimize breakouts. There’s also witch hazel water, a natural astringent that balances sebum and refines pores while giving some soothing benefits too. The toner is alcohol-free, so you never have to worry about stripping your skin.
Bliss Clear Genius Clarifying Toner + Serum
This clarifying toner pairs salicylic acid with witch hazel water to decongest pores and eliminate residues and dead skin that can lead to blackheads. Additionally, the formula is infused with niacinamide, which in addition to balancing sebum, provides a dose of hydration to counteract dryness. Even better, the toner packs Centella asiatica and hyaluronic acid to soothe and ease inflammation. We love the pump container that allows you to get the perfect amount of product without waste. We say it’s the perfect salicylic acid toner if you have dry, sensitive skin.
SkinCeuticals Exfoliating + Conditioning Toner
This toner is great for refining your skin’s texture and dislodging pore cloggers thanks to a potent blend of salicylic acid and glycolic acid. The reason this toner stands above others is the low pH formula, which maximizes the acids’ effectiveness. And as an added bonus, it packs eucalyptus oil to soothe and refresh the complexion every time you apply it.
Perricone MD Intensive Pore Minimizing Toner
While you can’t change your pores’ size, you can make them look smaller with Perricone MD Intensive Pore Minimizing Toner. Pores appear less visible when cleansed of oil and dirt, and this salicylic acid toner does the job perfectly. Additionally, the liquid formula is spiked with peptides and minerals (magnesium, zinc, and copper) to strengthen and condition the skin, while sodium hyaluronate adds a burst of hydration.
Neutrogena Acne Stress Control Face Toner
Hands down, Neutrogena Triple-Action Toner is the best drugstore salicylic acid toner that can be on your shelf for a reasonable price. It was made with acne-prone skin in mind and contains a generous concentration of 2% salicylic acid. Not only does it treat acne even before it appears, but it eliminates excess oil for a shine-free look. Plus, this oil-control toner soothes and refreshes your skin with cucumber extract and green tea.
Strivectin Tri-Phase Daily Glow Toner
This is a great toner with salicylic acid for those who prefer a gentle formula that also brightens dark patches without disturbing the skin’s pH. Strivectin Tri-Phase Daily Glow Toner packs a mix of alpha-hydroxy acids and salicylic acid to slough off the buildup of dead cells and reveal clearer and smother skin. Then, a blend of botanical extracts, including aloe and calendula flowers, nourishes while licorice root brightens and enhances radiance for a lit-from-within glow. In other words, it’s the holy grail for exfoliating, brightening, and hydrating.
Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Toner
This guy not only cleanses and purifies, but it reduces blemishes, improves congested skin, and minimizes pores’ look without drying the skin. It does all that with salicylic acid, a ton of antioxidants, and a complex of natural oils that never clog pores. More than that, it’s free from fragrance, which is often responsible for irritation, and contains grape and rose water to condition the skin.
Biossance Squalane + BHA Pore-Minimizing Toner
This toner is ideal for sensitive skin because it’s made with a derivative of salicylic acid, betaine salicylate, which is both exfoliating and hydrating. Moreover, it boasts willow bark extract, a natural source of salicylic acid that shrinks pores and tightens the skin. And thanks to squalane and hyaluronic acid, the toner never leaves skin parched but rather hydrated and radiant, just ready for your favorite serum.
Lancôme Clarifique Toner
Lancôme Clarifique Face Toner packs salicylic acid along with other chemical and enzymatic exfoliants to lift debris, oil, and dead cells and reveal softer skin. Because it packs vitamin C, you can expect some brightening effects as well. What is special about this formula—which you have to shake in order to activate—is that it contains a lipidic oil essence that nourishes and leaves skin baby soft.
La Roche Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution
Having reached cult status, La Roche Posay Effaclar Toner has built a loyal following for its impressive results. With a potent blend of 0.5% salicylic acid and 2% glycolic acid, this toner reigns supreme in treating acne-prone skin by providing exfoliation, unclogging pores, and eradicating blackheads. What sets it apart is the inclusion of nourishing castor oil and soothing plant extracts, and we appreciate that it’s oil-free, non-comedogenic, and fragrance-free.
- How often should you use salicylic acid toner?
You can use salicylic acid toner twice daily in your morning and nighttime routine.
- When should you use salicylic acid toner?
Apply salicylic acid toner on cleansed skin, right after the cleanser and before treatments, moisturizer, and sunscreen.
- Can you use salicylic acid toner with acne treatments?
It's fine to use salicylic acid toner with tretinoin or benzoyl peroxide unless your skin is highly reactive. A toner usually contains small amounts of actives, so it's unlikely to interfere with tretinoin and other acne treatments. However, it largely depends on your skin tolerance, so proceed with caution.