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10 Best Korean Toners To Try In 2023

by Tori Jones
Toners

From curating a guide to the best Korean toners on the market to unmasking the secret sauce that makes these products an essential part of the celebrated 10-step Korean skincare routine, we’re here to give you the whole scoop. You’ll learn what makes these toners unique and how they can be incorporated into your routine to boost hydration, maintain balance, and fortify your skin’s barrier.

We’ll explore the components that make these toners stand out – think skin-nourishing ingredients, optimal pH levels, and a dedication to gentleness that’s become a signature of Korean skincare.

So buckle up and get ready for a skin-tillating ride. This isn’t just about skincare; it’s about a culture, a ritual, a way of life. From Seoul’s buzzing Myeongdong district to the quiet comfort of your bathroom, let’s dive into the world of Korean toners. By the time you reach the end of this post, we guarantee that your view on toners will have taken a dramatic shift – and so may your skin!

The All-Rounder: Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner

Dear, Klairs - Supple Preparation Facial Toner

First up on my list is the undisputed star from Klairs, their Supple Preparation unscented toner. This product is my go-to solution for all types of skin. It does a fantastic job of prepping the skin for serum absorption while removing any lingering dirt and sebum.

Its power lies in ingredients like licorice root extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, and aloe leaf extract, which are superb for calming skin irritations. A personal anecdote here – when I first tried it, I couldn’t believe how quickly it absorbed into my skin, leaving a light and refreshing texture. And the fact that it’s fragrance-free made it a real hit for my sensitive skin. This one is a definite keeper if you’re after that ultimate hydrating skin toner.

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The Pricey Powerhouse: Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence 5x

MISSHA - Time Revolution The First Essence 5X

Now, before you let the price of Missha’s First Treatment Essence give you a mild heart attack, hear me out. Yes, it’s an essence, but it works a lot like a toner and offers more skincare benefits than you can count on your fingers – eight, to be precise!

This product is a love letter to my skin, nourishing it with 97% Desert Cica Yeast Ferment, which helps firm and brightens my complexion while maintaining its pH balance. Its highly hydrating formula is a lifesaver, especially during dry winters, fortifying the skin’s natural barrier. Take it from me; this little gem will swiftly become a staple in your skincare arsenal.

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The Exfoliator Extraordinaire: COSRX AHA BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner

COSRX - AHABHA Clarifying Treatment Toner

When my skin feels dull and congested, COSRX’s AHA BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner comes to the rescue (COSRX is one of my favorite Korean skincare brands!). It’s a daily exfoliating toner that sweeps away dead skin cells and flakes while keeping your pores squeaky clean.

After just a few uses, you’ll notice how hydrated and refined your skin feels. Due to the AHA and BHA, it may not be the best fit for sensitive skin types, so do a patch test first.

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The Hydration Hero: Innisfree Intensive Hydrating Toner with Green Tea Seed

Innisfree Intensive Hydrating Toner with Green Tea Seed

The Innisfree Intensive Hydrating Toner with Green Tea Seed is a dream come true for those struggling with dry or combination skin. This toner is akin to a tall glass of water for your skin, with its blend of Jeju green tea and tea seed oil delivering intense hydration.

And let’s remember Panthenol, which does a stellar job at reinforcing the skin’s moisture barrier. As a bonus, it doesn’t leave your skin feeling tight or dry like traditional toners. A tip from me to you, this toner is like a magic wand for redness and an impaired skin barrier.

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The Radiance Booster: COSRX Full Fit Propolis Synergy Toner

COSRX - Full Fit Propolis Synergy Toner

If it’s that glowy, radiant skin you’re chasing, COSRX Full Fit Propolis Synergy Toner is your new best friend. Made with a blend of honey and 72.6% black bee Propolis, this toner is a vitamin B powerhouse that nourishes a healthy glow and replenishes lost moisture.

This toner’s natural beauty lies in its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that shield your skin from environmental pollutants. Take it from someone who’s been there, you’re going to adore the feeling of glowy, plump, and nourished skin that this toner delivers.

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The Hydration Haven: ISNTREE Hyaluronic Acid Toner Plus

Isntree - Hyaluronic Acid Toner Plus

Let’s be honest; anything with Hyaluronic Acid in the name will catch my eye. That’s precisely what happened with ISNTREE’s Hyaluronic Acid Toner Plus, a product I knew I had to try. Crafted to intensely hydrate and replenish dehydrated skin, it has five types of hyaluronic acids for speedy absorption.

The secret sauce here is their patented ingredient, MultiEx BSASM Plus, which features seven plant extracts working harmoniously to prevent moisture loss and spur skin regeneration. I love the silky-smooth texture when applying it. It effortlessly absorbs, leaving my skin bouncy and glowing.

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The Gentle Gem: Etude Moistfull Collagen Facial Toner

ETUDE - Moistfull Collagen Facial Toner

Etude’s Moistfull Collagen Facial Toner is known for its gentle touch on the skin. Its gel-like consistency is a boon for oily skin types and absorbs quickly, ensuring you aren’t left feeling greasy.

One of my favorite things about this toner is that it incorporates Etude House’s super collagen and Baobab water, providing extra moisture while rebalancing your skin’s pH. The resulting natural glow is a delight, but its more pungent fragrance might not sit well with sensitive skin types.

And here’s a tip from me: Amazon is an excellent source for Etude products since they tend to sell out quickly on other sites like Soko Glam.

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The Snail Surprise: Mizon Snail Repair Intensive Toner

MIZON - Snail Repair Intensive Toner

What would a Korean skincare roundup be without a mention of snail-infused products? Mizon’s Snail Repair Intensive Toner is a gem that focuses on restoring balance to your skin.

The best part? It doesn’t dry out your skin, instead leaving it ultra-hydrated. The snail extract works magic by sealing moisture and promoting skin regeneration. Additionally, Centella Asiatica and peptides combine to combat wrinkles and repair damaged skin.

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The Clear Champion: Missha Time Revolution Clear Toner

Missha Time Revolution Clear Toner

Here we have another star from Missha, the Time Revolution Clear Toner. This fantastic everyday toner is a boon after washing your face, delivering a one-two punch of cleansing and hydration.

What I particularly enjoy about this toner is the BHA ingredients that help yield softer and smoother skin. With fermented yeast ingredients added to the mix, it fosters clear and healthy skin. If you’re battling blackheads, this toner will become your new secret weapon.

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The Fun and Fruity Pick: Skin Food Peach Sake Toner

SKINFOOD Peach Sake Facial Toner 135ml

Lastly, we have the playful and aromatic Skin Food Peach Sake Toner. This toner is a treat for the senses, both lightweight and refreshing, not to mention its delightful aroma.

It harnesses the power of rice sake and peach extract, both rich in vitamins A and C, which help to reduce the appearance of pores. What’s more, it balances your skin, controlling oil and preventing breakouts. Its sake content, rich in peptides, prevents discoloration, while licorice root extract offers antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. So, why not bring some fruity fun into your skincare routine?

10 Potential Side Effects or Drawbacks to Using Korean Toners?

While many people enjoy the benefits of Korean toners, as with any skincare product, there can be potential side effects or drawbacks. Here are some to be aware of:

  1. Skin Irritation: Some toners might contain ingredients that can cause irritation, especially for those with sensitive skin. Common irritants might include alcohol, fragrances, or certain botanical extracts.
  2. Allergic Reactions: Some people might be allergic to specific ingredients present in the toner. It’s crucial to perform a patch test before applying any new product to the entire face.
  3. Over-exfoliation: Toners containing exfoliating ingredients like AHA, BHA, or PHA can lead to over-exfoliation if used too frequently. Over-exfoliation can make the skin red, sensitive, and prone to breakouts.
  4. Dryness: Some toners, especially those with a high alcohol content, can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and tightness.
  5. Purging: Toners containing active ingredients might lead to a skin purging phase. This means the skin might experience breakouts as it adjusts to the new product, but this is temporary.
  6. Ingredient Interactions: When combined with other products in your skincare routine, certain ingredients might not play well together. For instance, using vitamin C serums with exfoliating toners can increase the potential for irritation.
  7. Cost: High-quality Korean toners can sometimes be on the pricier side. While they often offer great value, it might be a concern for some users.
  8. Availability: Depending on where you live, some Korean toners might not be easily available locally and might need to be ordered online, incurring shipping fees and waiting times.
  9. Misleading Marketing: The world of K-beauty is vast, and not every product will live up to its hype. It’s essential to research and find reputable brands and products.
  10. Environmental Concerns: Frequent users of toners might go through bottles quickly. If the packaging isn’t eco-friendly, this can lead to environmental concerns.

To minimize these potential drawbacks, it’s crucial to:

  • Understand your skin type and concerns.
  • Always perform a patch test with new products.
  • Research ingredients and their potential interactions.
  • Gradually introduce new products into your skincare routine.
  • Consult with a dermatologist or skincare professional if uncertain about a product’s suitability for your skin.

Ingredient Spotlight: A Break Down of Some of the Key Ingredients Found in Popular Korean Toners.

Korean skincare is renowned for its innovative ingredients, many of which have traditional roots. Here’s a spotlight on some of the key ingredients often found in popular Korean toners:

1. Hyaluronic Acid

  • Benefits: Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that draws moisture into the skin, promoting hydration and plumpness. It can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water, making it a favorite for moisturizing toners.
  • Sourcing: While it’s naturally occurring in our skin, the hyaluronic acid in skincare products is often derived from the fermentation of bacteria or yeast.
  • Popularity in Korean Skincare: Its immense hydration properties make it a go-to in Korean skincare, given the emphasis on dewy, hydrated skin.

2. Centella Asiatica (Cica)

  • Benefits: Known for its soothing and healing properties, Cica helps calm irritated skin, reduce redness, and speed up the skin’s healing process.
  • Sourcing: Derived from the Centella Asiatica plant, commonly found in Asian wetlands.
  • Popularity in Korean Skincare: Its traditional use in medicine for wound healing and the recent surge in “cica creams” highlight its cherished status in K-beauty.

3. Green Tea Extract

  • Benefits: A powerful antioxidant, green tea extract helps protect the skin from environmental damage and has calming properties.
  • Sourcing: Derived from the Camellia Sinensis plant leaves.
  • Popularity in Korean Skincare: Given its abundant presence in Asian culture, green tea’s incorporation into skincare brings both traditional and scientific benefits.

4. Snail Mucin

  • Benefits: Known to promote skin regeneration, snail mucin helps in fading acne scars, smoothing out the skin, and providing deep hydration.
  • Sourcing: Harvested from live snails under controlled and humane conditions.
  • Popularity in Korean Skincare: Its multifunctional benefits, from hydration to repair, have made snail mucin a beloved ingredient in many Korean skincare products.

5. Propolis

  • Benefits: Propolis has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It’s excellent for soothing the skin, fighting acne, and providing hydration.
  • Sourcing: A resin-like material made by bees, it’s collected from beehives.
  • Popularity in Korean Skincare: Given its natural healing properties, propolis is often found in products aimed at acne-prone or sensitive skin.

6. Rice Extract

  • Benefits: Rich in vitamins and amino acids, rice extract brightens the skin, reduces dark spots, and offers anti-aging properties.
  • Sourcing: Extracted from rice bran or fermented rice water.
  • Popularity in Korean Skincare: Historically, women in Asia used rice water to cleanse their skin, so it’s no surprise that this traditional ingredient has made its way into modern Korean skincare.

7. Licorice Root Extract

  • Benefits: Known to diminish dark spots and under-eye circles, licorice root extract also has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Sourcing: Extracted from the root of the Glycyrrhiza Glabra plant.
  • Popularity in Korean Skincare: Given its brightening effects, it’s a common ingredient in toners aimed at evening out skin tone.

In the realm of K-beauty, the blend of modern science and traditional ingredients ensures a holistic approach to skincare. These ingredients, with their unique benefits and origins, represent the heart of what makes Korean toners stand out on the global stage.

How Korean Toners Differ From Western Ones

The world of skincare has seen a fusion of East and West, with both offering unique approaches to beauty and health. Here’s how Korean toners differ from their Western counterparts:

1. Formulation:

  • Korean Toners:
    • Ingredient Focus: Korean toners often integrate natural ingredients with historical and cultural significance, such as green tea, rice water, and ginseng.
    • Layering: Designed for the multi-step Korean skincare routine, many Korean toners have lightweight, watery consistencies, making them perfect for layering without causing heaviness.
  • Western Toners:
    • Active Ingredients: Historically, Western toners placed emphasis on ingredients like alcohol, witch hazel, and salicylic acid to target oiliness and breakouts.
    • Simplicity: Western formulations, until recently, tended to be more straightforward, focusing on specific skin issues like oil control or exfoliation.

2. Purpose:

  • Korean Toners:
    • Hydration First: The primary goal of many Korean toners is to provide hydration. Even when they include exfoliating ingredients, maintaining moisture balance is a priority.
    • pH Balancing: Korean toners also focus on balancing the skin’s pH level, prepping the skin to better absorb subsequent products.
  • Western Toners:
    • Astringent Nature: Historically, many Western toners acted as astringents – tightening the skin, removing residual makeup, and targeting acne.
    • Exfoliation: There’s been a move in Western skincare to include active ingredients in toners that promote skin exfoliation, such as glycolic or salicylic acid.

3. Application:

  • Korean Toners:
    • Layering Method: “7-skin method” is a popular Korean technique where a toner is applied in seven thin layers to deeply hydrate the skin.
    • Patting: Instead of swiping, many Koreans prefer to pat their toner gently into the skin using their hands, ensuring better absorption.
  • Western Toners:
    • Cotton Pads: Traditionally, Western users apply toner using a cotton pad, swiping it across the face to remove any leftover impurities post-cleansing.
    • Once Over: Unlike the layering approach in K-beauty, Western toner application is typically a one-time step before moving on to serums or moisturizers.

In conclusion, while Korean and Western toners have distinct philosophies and practices, the global beauty scene is seeing a delightful blend of both worlds. As consumers become more knowledgeable, they’re picking and choosing elements from both traditions to create routines tailored to their unique needs.

Korean Toners for Different Skin Types a Quick Guide

Korean skincare places a significant emphasis on tailoring products to specific skin needs. Let’s delve into which toners are best suited for each skin type:

Dry Skin:

  • Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner: A deeply hydrating toner, its amino acids, licorice root extract, and Centella Asiatica extract offer soothing benefits, making it a top pick for parched skin.
  • Innisfree Intensive Hydrating Toner with Green Tea Seed: This toner provides a surge of moisture, thanks to Jeju green tea and green tea seed oil.

Oily Skin:

  • Etude Moistfull Collagen Facial Toner: The gel-like consistency is ideal for oily skin types, ensuring hydration without excessive richness. Its quick absorption ensures the skin doesn’t feel overwhelmed.
  • Skin Food Peach Sake Toner: Beyond its delightful scent, it controls oil, prevents breakouts, and refines pores thanks to rice sake and peach extract.

Combination Skin:

  • Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence 5x: While technically an essence, it functions like a toner, offering multiple skincare benefits, from hydration to protection. Its lightweight nature makes it ideal for combination skin.
  • COSRX Full Fit Propolis Synergy Toner: A toner that balances hydration with oil control, ensuring neither the dry nor oily parts of the face feel neglected.

Sensitive Skin:

  • ISNTREE Hyaluronic Acid Toner Plus: With its combination of hyaluronic acids and plant extracts, this toner intensely hydrates without irritation. It’s formulated to be gentle and non-irritating.
  • Klairs Supple Preparation Unscented Toner: The unscented variant of this toner is specifically made for those with sensitive skin in mind, eliminating potential irritants.

Mature Skin:

  • Mizon Snail Repair Intensive Toner: A staple in anti-aging K-beauty, snail mucin has reparative properties. This toner helps with moisture retention and skin regeneration, crucial for mature skin.
  • Missha Time Revolution Clear Toner: The inclusion of fermented yeast ingredients promotes clear and healthy skin. This toner focuses on refining the skin texture and minimizing pores, essential for aging skin.

Selecting the right toner for your skin type can significantly enhance your skincare routine’s efficacy. While the above categorization provides guidance, remember that everyone’s skin is unique. It’s always a good idea to patch-test any new product before fully integrating it into your routine. Happy toning!

Korean Toner Mistakes To Avoid

1. Not Understanding Your Skin Type:

Mistake: Blindly choosing a toner because it’s popular or highly-rated without considering if it’s suited for your specific skin needs. Solution: Understand your skin type—be it dry, oily, combination, sensitive, or mature. Then, select a toner formulated to address your particular concerns.

2. Over-exfoliating:

Mistake: Using toners with exfoliating ingredients (like AHA, BHA) too frequently or in conjunction with other exfoliating products, leading to irritation and compromised skin barriers. Solution: If your toner has exfoliating ingredients, space out its use and be cautious about combining it with other exfoliating products.

3. Skipping Patch Tests:

Mistake: Diving straight into a new toner without testing it on a small area, which can lead to potential allergic reactions or breakouts. Solution: Always do a patch test when trying out a new toner. Apply a bit of the product on a discreet area (like the inside of your wrist or behind the ear) and wait 24-48 hours to see if any reaction occurs.

4. Using Too Much Product:

Mistake: Assuming that more product equals better results. This can not only waste the product but also overwhelm the skin. Solution: Less is often more. Start with a small amount, and if your skin feels like it needs more, you can always add.

5. Not Waiting Between Skincare Steps:

Mistake: Rushing from one skincare step to the next without giving each product time to absorb. Solution: After applying your toner, give it a minute or two to sink in before moving on to your next product. This ensures better absorption and effectiveness.

6. Storing Incorrectly:

Mistake: Keeping your toner in a place where it’s exposed to direct sunlight or varying temperatures, which can degrade its efficacy. Solution: Store your toner in a cool, dark place. Some toners even benefit from being stored in the refrigerator for an extra refreshing application!

7. Expecting Immediate Results:

Mistake: Getting discouraged if you don’t see instant changes in your skin after a few uses. Solution: Skincare is a journey. Consistency is key. Give products several weeks to show their effects. If after consistent use you still don’t see benefits, then it might be time to reassess.

Conclusion

And there you have it, fashion enthusiasts and skincare devotees! We’ve journeyed together through my top ten Korean toners, each a potential game-changer for your skincare routine. Remember, the perfect toner for you matches your skin type and addresses your specific concerns, be it hydration, exfoliation, oil control, or a radiant glow.

Remember that introducing new products into your routine risks potential reactions, particularly if you have sensitive skin. Always perform a patch test and give your skin time to adjust. Consider consulting a dermatologist if you have persistent skin issues.

Above all, be patient. Achieving your desired skincare results will take time, but with consistent use and a bit of time, you’ll start to see the benefits. After all, the beauty of skincare is in the journey, not just the destination. Stay passionate, stay curious, and remember to enjoy the process. Happy toning!

Feature image by Fleur Kaan on Unsplash

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