Let's Talk Affordable Skincare | Step Two, Toners

Here's the second part of my affordable skincare series where I'll list down a few drugstore and affordable face toners. It took me a while to remember the toners I have used in the past and curate all of them in one post. Toner itself is an important step in my skincare regime. Not only does it make my skin feels a lot cleaner, a proper toner may work wonders by controlling sebum production, helps reduce redness and blemishes as well as keep the skin hydrated.

Just in case you didn't read my previous post for a list of affordable cleansers, I have combination skin that is oily on the T-zone and normal on cheeks. My skin can also be quite sensitive at times since I have mild rosacea around my nose. Quick tips, if you have highly sensitive skin, it's best to pick a really simple, alcohol and fragrance-free toner. Although that is definitely the safest trip, I have found there are, in fact, non-alcohol free toners that cause no breakout.

A list of things you need to keep in mind:
  • I am not a professional or a skincare expert
  • Take my suggestions with a grain of salt
  • What works for me might not work for you
  • Your skin is your own responsibility
  • I live in Indonesia where I only have very limited choices (e.g. we don't have Cerave here) so I will only recommend what I can find from my local drugstores.
  • Don't come at me and say "these aren't cruelty-free!" and re-read my previous point.
Keep in mind that the toners curated for this post have been tried and tested by yours truly.

Best for: all skin types

I mentioned this toner in my March Favorites post and have talked about it briefly. For 500ml, this product is such a steal at $8. Enriched with vitamin B1 and B2, this toner contains coix seed (otherwise known as "soft shelled job's tears") exact hence the name Hatomugi which translates to job's tears in English. It's an extremely versatile product that can serve as toner, mask, mist and face or body moisturizer. It is formulated to tackle various skin problems such as enlarged pores, fine lines and dry, dehydrated skin; reduce blemishes and redness, brighten and improve uneven skin tone. The coix seed extract is said to increase the production of our skin's hyaluronic acid thus preventing dry, dehydrated skin. For the texture, it's really light and sinks into the skin really quickly which is perfect for people who hate sticky lotion. 

Verdict: I loooove it! Aside from its affordability, I also find that it does reduce the redness around my nose, tightens my pores, reduce pimples and keeps my skin hydrated.

Best for: oily and acne-prone skin

Not to be confused with the Clean & Clear Deep Cleaning Astringent (which is meant to suit sensitive skin), this is more suitable for people with combination-to-oily or very oily skin especially if you're struggling with excess sebum, blackheads and pimples. This is also a fairly good toner if you're a fan of salicylic acid in your skincare products. It also reduces excess sebum, prevents new pimples and keeps natural oil production at bay. Plus, it's also really affordable and easy to find. However, if you have really sensitive skin, I recommend you to stay away from this product. It also contains alcohol which is the second ingredient in the list after water so be careful about that. I personally did not experience any breakout but better be safe, right?

Verdict: very affordable, easy to find but is not a very mild and gentle product. works great if you have very oily skin and likes salicylic acid as well as prominent astringents.

Best for: normal to dry, dehydrated and sensitive skin

If you're a frequent reader of this blog, you'd probably know how much I love Hada Labo's products. I've mentioned about them quite a few times and I know it's starting to get repetitive but believe me, their products are lovely. Free from harsh ingredients such as alcohol, fragrance, mineral oil and colorants, this toner is safe for even the most sensitive skin ever. Enriched with hyaluronic acid, it gives me a soft and supple, almost mochi-like baby skin.

Verdict: HG toner! easy to find, simple and works the way it's supposed to. has a low pH balance and also works great for lotion face mask. will give you that soft "baby butt" skin.

Best for: normal, dry and sensitive skin

If you're a fan of rose water, this product might work great for you. I tried this after I bought my first Corine de Farme product which was their purity micellar water for dry and sensitive skin. The good news is, this toner contains 95% natural ingredients, is hypoallergenic and is free from paraben, alcohol and colorants thus making it a safe bet for troubled skin as well. It also carries a prominent rose scent which will dissipate quickly once everything has been absorbed.

Verdict: a good product from an underrated France brand, has a pump which makes it really convenient to use. hydrates and keeps skin feeling fresh all day long.

Best for: all skin types / normal, dry and sensitive skin

Everybody knows this product. It's available on Sephora but is also available in drugstores, though on the more pricier side. Like Corine de Farme, this lotion also contains 97% natural ingredients, rose water and is free from harsh chemicals like alcohol, parabens, sulfates and mineral oil. Unfortunately, it isn't fragrance free and actually contains organic alcohol which is safe and won't cause sensitive skin to break out. Even though it's labelled for normal to dry sensitive skin, I myself enjoyed this lotion. It also has a lovely rose and tea scent.

Verdict: tones, refreshes and moisturize. the only downside is it is pricier compared to other drugstore toners. if you have limited budget, the Corine de Farme one is a few bucks cheaper.

Best for: combination, oily and acne-prone skin

Another Japanese favorite, this one carries a lot of active ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, fruit acid and lemon extract so even if it's meant for acne-prone skin, it will not strip your skin. Instead, it freshens and moisturizes my skin, helps reduce the inflammation of my acne and helps remove excess sebum. Light and watery in texture, it is also fragrance free and does not irritate my skin.

Verdict: even if it's meant for acne treatment, it's not a harsh toner. it soothes acne inflammation, redness and has really good oil-control. 

Best for: very oily, acne-prone skin

First of all, if you have dry and sensitive skin then stay away from this toner. Secondly, if you have very oily and acne-prone skin with enlarged pores and blackheads, you might like this. Third, this toner has a funny formula; it has two layers, the liquid and the oil-absorbing powder which is why you have to shake well before use. Once applied, it feels cool and dries matte, tightens the pores and does a good job in oil control. Enriched with vitamin C and E, it claims to keep skin moisturized, bright and fresh.

Verdict: dries matte, refine pores, controls oil and reduces excess sebum production. may give a tingling effect caused by menthol, milky white and runny texture. 

Best for: combination to oily, acne-prone and sensitive skin

Dermatologically tested and has a low pH of 5.5, the Clear Face toner contains witch hazel extract to soothe irritated skin and tightens pores, cucumber extract and hydrolyzed silk to provide moisture and prevent skin dehydration. It also contains panthenol to support acne lesion healing and allantoin for a smoother skin. Best suited and recommended for problematic T-zone, it also claims to combat blackheads, impurities and pimples. This cruelty-free and paraben free product is also gentle enough to be used on dry acne-prone skin. The two downsides I experienced from this product are its prominent alcohol smell and how it left a slightly tacky feeling on my face.

Verdict: low pH balance, is safe even for dry acne-prone skin. paraben free and dermatologically tested. has a strong alcohol smell but will dissipate once it sinks into the skin.

I think when it comes to toners for combination to oily skin, there will always be alcohol included in the ingredient list. Like I said, sometimes non-alcohol free toners may work so it really depends on the product. What I've learned so far, if alcohol is not listed as the toner's second or primary ingredient, chances are it won't be as reactive unless you have extremely sensitive skin. Then again, that's how it is for me. It may work differently for you.

Let's talk skincare in the comments: what is / are some of your favorite affordable toners?

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