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5 Best Korean Toners for Acne Prone Skin (2022)

5 Best Korean Toners for Acne Prone Skin (2022)

Discover the best Korean toner for your acne problems through this comprehensive list.

Product Name Ranking Key Ingredient Anti- Inflammatory/ Sebum Control Brightening Alcohol/Fragrance Free Price
Benton | Snail Bee High Content Skin
Best Overall
Snail Secretion Filtrate; Azelaic Acid; Willow Bark Extract; Niacinamide; Aloe Leaf Extract; Peptides Y/Y Y Y/Y Check Here
Isntree | Green Tea Fresh Toner
Strong Runner-up
Centella Asiatica; Willow Bark Extract; Hyaluronic Acid Y/Y Y Y/Y Check Here
COSRX | AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner
Best Budget
Glycolic Acid; Betaine Salicylate; Willow Bark Water Y/Y Y Y/N Check Here
Some by Mi | AHA-BHA-PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner
Best Exfoliating
Salicylic Acid; Lactobionic Acid; Sodium Hyaluronate; Niacinamide Y/Y Y Y/N Check Here
Dear, Klairs | Supple Preparation Unscented Toner
Best for
Combination
Skin
Centella Asiatica; Peptides; Licorice Root Extract; Vitamin E; Sodium Hyaluronate Y/Y Y Y/Y Check Here

How to Pick the Best Korean Toners for Acne Prone Skin?

Toners are normally viewed negatively because they don’t seem to benefit the skin, and may even dry out the skin. After all, most commercial toners were originally more astringent, or contained high alcohol content, to remove leftover product from cleansers, and get that squeaky clean feeling.

However, toners aren’t manufactured this way anymore. Korean toners, especially, are now formulated to become lightweight, hydrating and help prep the skin for the rest of your skin care routine.

Still, not all toners are created equal, especially for those with acne prone skin. Toners are formulated to serve a different range of functions, with some toners focusing on hydration, and others focusing on fighting acne.

To find the best Korean toner for acne prone skin, therefore, you should consider various factors like the pH level, and its ingredients list. If you know what ingredients to look for, and which ones to avoid, you’ll definitely be able to find the best Korean toner for your acne prone skin.

Let’s talk about this in more detail.

Check its pH level

The ideal pH for a toner is around pH 4 to 6, corresponding to the slightly acidic pH of the skin, which is around 4.7. This is important in maintaining the skin’s acid mantle, which protects the skin from bacteria and other contaminants.

Using a toner with a high pH can potentially damage the skin’s protective barrier, causing dryness and irritation. This can also induce acne breakouts due to skin irritation, or prompting the overproduction of sebum to compensate for skin dehydration.

By using a low pH toner, you prevent these issues from occurring. Its low pH can also help revert the skin back to its regular pH level before you proceed with the other steps in your routine. This is especially important if you are using an alkaline cleanser, which tends to strip the skin of moisture and raise its pH level.

 

Most cleansers in the market have a high pH, since they contain alkaline ingredients like surfactants. Unless otherwise stated, you can safely assume that a cleanser has a higher pH level than your acid mantle.

Look for acne-fighting ingredients

To effectively address acne, you should incorporate ingredients that actively fight or treat it. Here are some amazing acne-fighting ingredients to watch out for:

Centella asiatica

A closer look at Centella asiatica plants. (From: Pixabay)

A closer look at Centella asiatica plants. (From: Pixabay)

Centella asiatica, also called Gotu Kola, cica, or tiger grass, is a great skincare ingredient with a multitude of antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. These benefits allow it to soothe redness and irritation, while keeping breakouts at bay.

Another great thing about cica is its ability to control sebum. Because it keeps the skin’s moisture barrier strong, cica prevents skin dehydration and guards against sebum overproduction. Thus, it eliminates a major acne source, which is the clogging of pores with sebum.

Additionally, cica has been proven to reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL), and also to increase hyaluronic acid production in the skin, thus keeping the skin adequately hydrated.

Willow bark extract

The willow bark plant is a natural source of salicin, which develops into salicylic acid; and willow bark extract is a gentler alternative to salicylic acid. Hence, like salicylic acid, this acts as a chemical exfoliant that gets rid of dead skin that may clog the pores and cause acne. Additionally, these antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties also allow it to fight acne.

Willow bark also contains tannins, which tighten the pores and make them look smaller. Tannins also help regulate sebum production, which further helps in minimizing acne breakouts.

Green tea leaf extract

Some green tea leaves in a basket during harvest. (From: Pixabay)

Some green tea leaves in a basket during harvest. (From: Pixabay)

Green tea is famous in skincare for its acne-fighting properties. It is effective against acne-causing bacteria, and in preventing excessive sebum production with regular application. Green tea also contains anti-inflammatory properties, which further help in reducing acne breakouts.

AHA/BHA/PHA

Chemical exfoliants like AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs, are great for fighting acne and preventing it from occurring. Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) have been proven to significantly reduce all acne types. They also loosen the bonds that hold skin cells together, which allows the skin to shed dead skin cells more quickly. As a result, this prevents dead skin from clogging the pores and causing acne.

Beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), meanwhile, penetrate more deeply into the pores to dissolve dead skin cells that might clog it. This reduces the blockage on the hair follicles, and, consequently, chances of having acne breakouts. Salicylic acid, a form of BHA, is an effective, yet non-irritating treatment for pustules, papules, blackheads, and whiteheads.

Lastly, polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) are a gentler form of AHAs. Because of their large molecular size, PHAs cannot penetrate the skin as deeply, thereby reducing their risk of irritating the skin. What they do instead is to exfoliate the skin’s surface and get rid of dead skin cells that may end up clogging the pores.

Look for wound healing ingredients

Another consideration in searching for the best Korean toner is the presence of wound healing ingredients. These are ingredients that facilitate skin healing, while alleviating inflammation and minimizing the risk of scarring.

Here are two important ingredients to look out for.

Snail mucin

A snail secreting a substance. (From: Pexels)

A snail secreting a substance. (From: Pexels)

Snail mucin is derived from the secretion of snails when they respond to stress-inducing events. As a result, this ingredient is packed with compounds focused on healing and repair, such as hyaluronic acid and allantoin.

Hyaluronic acid is known for its ability to hydrate the skin, due to its capacity to attract and hold water up to 1000 times its molecular weight. This helps keep the moisture barrier intact, and thus keeps the skin healthy and moisturized.

Hyaluronic acid is also linked to wound healing, since it’s believed to promote the building of blood vessels at the site of injury. This allows the skin to fully heal from the inside in order to minimize scarring.

Allantoin, meanwhile, is a moisturizing ingredient known for its role in boosting the hydrating effects of hyaluronic acid. Allantoin also plays a key role in preventing TEWL, and therefore ensures that moisture remains in the skin.

 

Together, these two provide a healthy environment for the wound to heal. By keeping the skin healthy, smooth, and elastic, acne can heal without irritation.

 

Snail mucin also contains glycolic acid, which has anti-inflammatory effects that help with healing wounds. At the same time, as a type of AHA, it increases cellular turnover. This allows healthy skin to surface more quickly, and, in time, helps with brightening the skin and fading acne marks.

Niacinamide

A few bottles from The Ordinary, a brand famous for their 10% Niacinamide formulation. (From: Unsplash)

A few bottles from The Ordinary, a brand famous for their 10% Niacinamide formulation. (From: Unsplash)

Niacinamide is a star ingredient in combating acne. Also known as Vitamin B3, this star ingredient benefits the skin by minimizing enlarged pores, reducing acne severity, controlling sebum, revitalizing the moisture barrier, and even helping with pigmentation.

Niacinamide fosters wound healing by promoting ceramide synthesis in the skin, and reducing TEWL. This helps in ensuring the skin is healthy and adequately hydrated, thus soothing irritation and calming breakouts. By keeping the moisture barrier intact, niacinamide alleviates inflammation and skin irritation, thus limiting the risk of scarring.

 

Ceramides are lipid compounds found in the skin. They are essential in limiting moisture loss and keeping the skin’s moisture barrier healthy.

Niacinamide also plays a key role in lightening and brightening dark spots and hyperpigmentation. This is due to its ability to limit melanin—the protein in the skin that gives it its dark color, which gets overproduced upon sun exposure.

Ingredients to avoid

In choosing the best Korean toner for your skin type, you shouldn’t only look for great ingredients for the skin. At the same time, you should make sure to avoid ingredients that may irritate or dehydrate the skin and induce breakouts.

Here are some common ingredients to stay away from:

Denatured alcohol

Alcohol is used in a lot of skincare products because of its ability to make products feel lightweight. It also helps important ingredients to penetrate the skin more deeply through weakening the skin barrier for other substances to easily pass through.

However, this is a double edged sword. If formulated incorrectly, it can compromise the skin barrier, leading to skin dehydration and irritation. In the long run, this can make the skin oilier due to sebum overproduction, and thus cause more acne breakouts.

Menthol

A set of peppermint leaves, where menthol is normally harvested from. (From: Pixabay)

A set of peppermint leaves, where menthol is normally harvested from. (From: Pixabay)

Menthol is normally used in skincare products because of the soothing, cooling sensation it provides upon application. It is also said to contain antibacterial properties, which make it seem beneficial to the skin.

However, the problem with menthol is that it irritates the skin. It also increases TEWL, and therefore makes the skin more susceptible to dryness and irritation. This can cause skin concerns later on, including acne.

Fragrance / Essential oils

Bottles of essential oils usually used for adding fragrance to skincare products. (From: Unsplash)

Bottles of essential oils usually used for adding fragrance to skincare products. (From: Unsplash)

Synthetic fragrance and essential oils are often included in Korean skincare products to mask the smell of other ingredients (often herbal) that may smell quite pungent. Additionally, using products that smell nice is enjoyable for most consumers.

However, the problem with these ingredients is that they can be incredibly sensitizing to the skin. This is an immediate result of the volatile reaction that takes place for specific scents to be released. Over time, this can make the skin more sensitive, or cause significant irritation.

 

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to spot signs of skin sensitization. This is a process that gradually happens over time, and may trick you to believe that your skin is doing fine when it’s not.

Best Korean Toners for Acne-Prone Skin (2021)

Benton Snail Bee High Content Skin

Best Overall
A closer look at the Benton Snail Bee High Content Skin. (From: bentoncosmetics.com)

A closer look at the Benton Snail Bee High Content Skin. (From: bentoncosmetics.com)

Key features

  • Contains niacinamide and snail secretion filtrate for wound healing
  • Fights acne and controls sebum with green tea, willow bark, and aloe vera
  • Soothes the skin with aloe vera extract
  • Improves hydration niacinamide, allantoin, and panthenol
  • Brightens the skin with niacinamide and snail mucin
  • Fungal-acne friendly
  • Alcohol-, fragrance-, and cruelty-free

The product that tops this list is the Benton Snail Bee High Content Skin. Made with a combination of amazing acne-fighting and wound-healing ingredients, this low-pH toner is great for acne-prone skin. Not only does this toner prevent acne; it also helps fade acne marks. What’s more, it’s suitable for all skin types, and can be used even by those with fungal acne.

What’s great about this toner is that it contains a high concentration of snail mucin. This boosts skin hydration, thus cultivating a great environment for healing wounds and acne lesions. Formulated together with allantoin, panthenol, and aloe vera, these superstar ingredients help soothe the skin, minimizing the risk for scarring.

Another key ingredient here is niacinamide, which is proven to be beneficial for acne prone skin. Apart from healing acne lesions, niacinamide also reduces acne severity, and even minimizes sebum production. This gets rid of the major contributing factor to acne breakouts. Niacinamide’s brightening properties can also fade acne scars, thus helping you achieve clearer skin.

This toner also contains green tea, which greatly complements niacinamide in terms of acne treatment and sebum control. In addition, it contains willow bark extract which further fights acne and minimizes the appearance of pores.

 

Our favorite thing about this product? It’s fungal acne-friendly and absolutely cruelty free! Unfortunately, this is not suited for vegans, since this contains secretions directly harvested from snails.

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Isntree Green Tea Fresh Toner

Strong Runner-up
A closer look at the Isntree Green Tea Fresh Toner. (From: iherb.uk)

A closer look at the Isntree Green Tea Fresh Toner. (From:Amazon.com)

Key features

  • Contains 80% green tea extract to fight acne
  • Controls sebum using cica, green tea extract, and willow bark extract
  • Minimizes pore appearance with willow bark extract
  • Boosts hydration with cica, hyaluronic acid, and allantoin
  • Soothes the skin and calms redness with cica
  • Alcohol-, fragrance, and cruelty-free

The Isntree Green Tea Fresh Toner is a pH-balanced, lightweight toner that contains soothing ingredients suitable for acne-prone skin. Featuring a combination of cica, hyaluronic acid, willow bark extract, and green tea extract, this toner deeply hydrates the skin. It also minimizes oiliness and fights acne, making it perfect for treating and preventing breakouts. To top it off, this toner is suitable for sensitive and fungal-acne prone skin, making it our list’s Strong Runner-up.

This product contains 80% green tea extract to create a potent toner that works wonders on the skin. Green tea is known to fight acne bacteria, reduce inflammation, and even control sebum. This makes this toner perfect for addressing your acne concerns. At the same time, green tea contains antioxidant properties to fight free radical damage and keep your skin looking young.

Furthermore, this toner also features cica—a wonder ingredient that perfectly complements green tea’s skin benefits. Cica soothes inflammation and fights redness that comes with acne breakouts. It also minimizes sebum production while boosting the skin’s hydration levels.

Hyaluronic acid is another essential ingredient in keeping the skin adequately hydrated. Its moisturizing benefits are further increased by allantoin, another soothing and skin protecting ingredient. Together, these ingredients minimize the risk of irritation and scarring associated with acne breakouts.

 

 

]You might be surprised with this toner’s deep brown color, but it’s actually a good thing! At higher concentrations, green tea extract is naturally brown because of the presence of tannins, so this color is not a cause for worry.

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COSRX AHA BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner

Best Budget
A closer look at the COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner. (From: cosrx.com)

A closer look at the COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner. (From: cosrx.com)

Key features

  • Fights off acne with combination of AHA and BHA
  • Removes dead skin cells and brightens complexion with glycolic acid
  • Refines pores and controls sebum production with willow bark water
  • Deeply hydrates the skin with allantoin and panthenol

Looking for a toner that does the job without breaking the bank? Well, look further than our Best Budget pick, the COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner. This low-pH toner features a gentle concoction of AHA and BHA to remove dead skin cells and fight acne without irritating the skin. It also contains allantoin to ensure the skin is adequately dehydrated and protected against irritation.

What’s special about this toner is the combination of two powerful anti-acne ingredients: AHA and BHA. Studies have extensively shown AHA’s ability to significantly reduce all types of acne. Additionally, it also rids the skin of dead cells to prevent pore blockage and acne formation. Meanwhile, BHAs also dissolve dead skin cells inside the pores, thus preventing acne from forming. They’re also known to reduce acne severity, and minimize pore appearance.

This toner’s AHA and BHA concentration is at 0.1% respectively, ensuring it’s gentle enough for daily use. AHAs have a reputation of being sensitizing, but this toner’s potency is just enough to work its magic without irritating the skin. To further prevent irritation, this toner also contains allantoin and panthenol, which are skin protectants. They keep the moisture barrier intact, to keep the skin hydrated and foster an environment perfect for healing acne wounds.

 

AHA makes the skin more sensitive to the sun’s harmful rays. Even if this toner contains low concentrations of AHA, it’s still advised to apply sunscreen after using this product in the morning.

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Some by Mi AHA-BHA-PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner

Best Exfoliating
A closer look at the Some by Mi AHA-BHA-PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner. (From: Amazon.com)

A closer look at the Some by Mi AHA-BHA-PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner. (From: Amazon.com)

Key features

  • Contains a combination of AHA, BHA, and PHA to keep pores clear
  • Fights acne and controls sebum with BHA, tea tree leaf water, and witch hazel
  • Minimizes the appearance of pores with BHA and witch hazel
  • Hydrates and protects the skin with niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and allantoin
  • Brightens the skin and improves complexion with niacinamide

Our Best Exfoliating Toner is none other than the Some by Mi AHA-BHA-PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner, which combines AHA, BHA, and PHA in one powerful product. These exfoliating agents work together to remove dead skin cells, prevent pore blockage, and minimize acne lesions. With the addition of tea tree leaf water, a known acne-fighting ingredient, this toner becomes even more potent against acne.

The combination of AHA, BHA, and PHA makes this toner a gentle, yet effective daily exfoliant. AHA rids the skin of dead skin cells by loosening the bond that holds them together. BHA, meanwhile, penetrates deep into the skin to dissolve oil and dirt buildup that can clog the pores. Then, PHA works on the skin’s surface to gently remove dead skin cells. Together, these prevent the blockage of hair follicles, and therefore prevent acne formation.

What’s more, this toner also features a number of soothing and wound healing ingredients. Hyaluronic acid and allantoin work together to boost the skin’s hydration level, keeping it protected from irritation. These wound healing ingredients repair the acne lesions from the inside to minimize scarring. Meanwhile, niacinamide helps with reducing acne severity, and with skin brightening. This aids in fading acne scars to keep the skin clear.

 

Due to its exfoliating nature, this toner might be too irritating for sensitive skin types. Make sure to patch test before use, and to apply sunscreen every morning after use.

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Dear, Klairs Supple Preparation Unscented Toner

Best for Combination Skin
A closer look at the Dear, Klairs Supple Preparation Unscented Toner. (From: Amazon.com)

A closer look at the Dear, Klairs Supple Preparation Unscented Toner. (From: Amazon.com)

Key features

  • Hydrates skin with hyaluronic acid and cica
  • Controls sebum with cica and aloe vera extract
  • Soothes skin and minimizes inflammation with cica, aloe vera, and licorice
  • Brightens complexion with licorice root extract
  • Alcohol-, fragrance-, and cruelty-free

If you’re looking for a gentle and hydrating toner suitable for any skin type, the Supple Preparation Unscented Toner from Dear, Klairs might be your best bet. This is our pick for Best for Combination Skin because it contains a good balance of brightening, wound healing, and sebum controlling ingredients. It’s especially perfect for those with dehydrated skin.

This toner’s star ingredient is hyaluronic acid, which keeps the skin moisturized, while protecting against irritation and inflammation. Panthenol, a skin protectant, works with hyaluronic acid to keep the skin supple, healthy, and elastic. These two minimize the risk of scarring as acne wounds heal.

In addition, cica and aloe vera hydrate the skin even further. These soothing ingredients also reduce redness and calm breakouts, due to their anti-inflammatory properties. What’s more, they can both minimize sebum production to reduce the chances of acne breakouts.

Lastly, this toner also contains licorice root extract—a powerful hydrating and brightening ingredient. Licorice has anti-inflammatory properties that help with irritation and redness, which helps heal acne wounds without inducing scarring. Its brightening properties also improve the appearance of dark spots and blemishes left after breakouts.

 

Our favorite thing about this product is that it’s absolutely fragrance- and alcohol-free. It’s also cruelty-free and vegan-friendly, making it a great choice for any consumer.

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