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Battling oily, acne-prone skin can seem like an uphill battle. You may feel tempted to use harsh exfoliants, astringents and alcohols, but that will only lead to more damage to your skin barrier. It’s important to establish a regular AM and PM skincare routine to restore some much-needed balance to your skin.
The best skincare routines will include a cleanser, toner, serum, retinoid (in the PM), moisturizer, and SPF (in the AM). With so many products on the market, it can be hard to choose the rights one for you. Don’t worry! We’ve put together a comprehensive guide for all things oily, acne-prone skin, and toners! Keep scrolling as we talk about oily skin, why you need a daily toner, and which type of toner is right for you.
Why Is Oily Skin Prone To Acne?
Before we talk about the solution, let’s get into the root cause. As you probably know, acne is caused by clogged pores. There are three factors that lead to your pores being clogged: excess dead skin cells, too much oil on your skin, and high levels of bacteria.
So, if your skin is chronically oily, your pores are more likely to become filled with oil and then bingo, hello breakouts! Don’t worry. Just because you have an oily skin type, it doesn’t mean that you’re destined to bad skin. A twice-daily toner can be key to the healthy, clear skin you want!
What Is A Toner?
If you’re not using a toner, you need to start! They can seriously up your skincare routine. Toners have the consistency of water which means they can quickly penetrate your skin and give you a dose of active ingredients. They’re designed to be applied with a cotton round or sprayed on after you cleanse. Toners used to be a horrible combination of drying, stinging alcohols that would strip your skin, but they have come lightyears. Now, most toners are gentle enough to use AM and PM which helps increase their efficacy.
Modern toners are formulated with a range of skin-loving ingredients and are designed to target specific skin concerns. One of the OG uses that has been perfectly refined is acne toner for oil control—sounds perfect, right? For once, it’s not too good to be true. Toners can be formulated with a variety of active ingredients to address your skin concerns from a variety of different angles.
Are Toners Good For Oily And Acne-Prone Skin?
The biggest uses of a toner are oil control, taming acne-prone skin, minimizing acne scars and preventing blemishes! Toners have multiple benefits for your skin that help address excess oil and subsequential acne. A 2020 study found that using a toner after cleansing can decrease oil levels on skin for up to three hours after use, as compared to just cleansing.
Benefit One: Deep Cleanse
Toners can help remove any excess dirt, makeup, and bacteria that your cleanser might have missed. If you struggle with oily, acne-prone skin ensuring you have a clean base to build the rest of your skincare on is paramount! You don’t want to run the risk of trapping any of that into your pores and perpetuating your breakouts.
Benefit Two: Skin Cell Turnover
If you opt for a toner with an AHA or BHA acid, it will help remove dead skin and encourage new skin cell growth. Having a healthy rate of cell turnover helps to ensure your pores stay clear and acne-free!
Benefit Three: Increases Product Efficacy
Toners can help adjust your skin’s pH levels. Many studies have shown that having a lower pH level can help certain products like vitamin C and retinoids absorb into your skin better. The more product your skin can absorb, the more results you’ll see!
Benefit Four: Added Hydration
Some toners have humectants, like hyaluronic acid, added in which help draw moisture into your skin. Estheticians also share that you shouldn’t let your skin fully dry after you cleanse because you’ll lose unnecessary hydration. Adding a toner, which feels like water, will keep your skin damp, and help lock in moisture throughout the rest of your skincare routine.
Benefit Five: Balances Complexion
Your skin can be left stripped and depleted after you cleanse. A toner can restore the lost nutrients leaving your skin balanced, soothed, and bright! This can ensure your complexion is even all over and help avoid oily skin in some areas, with dry areas in others.
Can Toner Clear Acne or Fade Acne Scars?
As Ryan Reynolds would say—definitely, maybe! Toners can restore balance to your skin, remove excess dirt, provide added hydration, minimize oil production, and brighten your skin! That means that a daily toner could be great for acne-prone skin and fading acne scars.
You’ll need to keep in mind the type of acne you’re struggling with. If you have mild breakouts, light hormonal acne, blackheads and whiteheads toner could tip the scales in your favor for more clear-skin days.
However, if you suffer from severe acne including nodules, cysts, and pustules—you’ll most likely need the help of prescription-strength acne treatments. There is a small exception. If you use a toner with benzoyl peroxide you could see relief from these more severe forms of acne, which it worth a try before you step it up to prescription products.
The situation is pretty similar when it comes to fading acne scars. If you have mild acne scars like red, pink or dark brown discoloration, a toner can definitely help fade them. That also goes for sunspots! If you’re struggling with pitted scars and divots, there’s still hope! Visit your dermatologist to discuss in-office treatment options.
To tackle your breakouts and blackheads, you’ll want to find a toner with glycolic acid, salicylic acid, tea tree oil or azelaic acid—jump down below for more information on the benefits of each ingredient!
What Are Some Ingredients To Look For?
Now that you’re ready to add a daily toner to your skincare routine, let’s cover some top ingredients to address hormonal acne, acne scars, blemishes, and control oiliness. Below are the top four ingredients you should look for in your toner if you struggle with oily, acne-prone skin.
Tea Tree Oil
A natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, daily use of a tea tree oil toner can help reduce acne, prevent scars, and minimize their appearance. A 2016 study shows that after twice-daily use for 12 weeks, tea tree oil helped reduce acne breakouts by 20%.
Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid, aka a BHA. It’s known as a chemical exfoliant which means it will help get rid of dead skin cells, keep pores clear, face acne scars, prevent hormonal acne and future blemishes, and an added bonus—it has anti-aging benefits! BHA’s are oil-soluble which means they can penetrate through oily skin and sebaceous glands. Salicylic acid in toners is safe at a dosage percentage of %0.05-%2.
Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid, aka an AHA. AHA’s are the sister acids to BHA’s. They are also chemical exfoliants, however they are water soluble instead of oil soluble. They won’t penetrate as deeply, but still help remove surface-level dead skin cells and treat hyperpigmentation like age spots, melasma and acne scars. A 2016 study, found that high dosages of glycolic acid resulted in 15-57 percentage improvement in acne scars over the course of 16 weeks.
Extracted from ancient grains like barley and rye, this acid also had anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It’s used to treat acne and rosacea. Medline Plus shares that it works by “decreasing the swelling and redness of the skin, killing the bacteria that infect pores, and by decreasing production of keratin, a natural substance that can lead to the development of acne.”
Glycerin is a humectant, emollient and has antimicrobial properties. It will increase your skins moisture levels which helps mitigate over-production of oil. As an antimicrobial, it will also help keep the bacteria levels on your skin in check and prevent clogged pores from becoming infecting. As an added bonus, it will soften your skin leaving it smooth and supple, and also address eczema or psoriasis if you suffer from either condition.
A long-time over the counter treatment for acne and breakouts, even cystic acne! Benzoyl peroxide is an exfoliant and an antimicrobial. It works by killing bacteria below the surface of your skin, sloughing away dead skin cells and removing excess oils. Basically, it’s the trifecta for tackling acne which is why it can even help tackle more severe, inflammatory acne.
We doubt that vitamin C needs to be hyped any further than it’s already famous levels, but you may not know how it can help with acne and scars. As an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, it helps promote collagen production, speed up wound healing, fade dark spots (including pigmentation from acne scars), and reduce redness caused by acne.