A toner sounds like an excessive skincare product you don't need. It's watery and weightless, so the benefits can seem rather insubstantial compared to a viscous serum or cream. Except, the toner is an indispensable part of a Korean skincare routine. For many K-pop artists and actors, it's the answer to preventing common skin troubles.
"Toner is a water-based product designed to be applied to the skin after cleansing but before moisturising. It balances the natural pH level of the skin, removes any dirt, oil or make-up residue left after cleansing, delivers good hydration and preps the skin for any serums or moisturisers," explained Dr Alaa El Chami, general practitioner and holistic aesthetics doctor with the holistic wellness centre Wellth in Dubai.
Admittedly, K-beauty toners stand out from the competition. Like most Korean skincare products, these toners focus on hydration rather than harsh actives. Dr El Chami said: "They contain hydrating ingredients, natural extracts, antioxidants, and mild exfoliants that are very gentle on the skin."
Toners are traditionally bottled, sometimes arriving in a spray format, and are applied using a cotton pad doused in the formula. If this sounds tedious, a new variety of toners is quickly replacing bottles, and social media is rife with recommendations. Enter toner pads.
Are toner pads better than toners?
This innovative skincare product blurs the line between sheet masks and toners. It's no longer bottled but comes in a jar full of soaked cotton pads that are fished out with an included tweezer. In an effort to save time and increase formula potency, toner pads have become K-beauty's newest obsession.
"K-beauty toner pads are definitely more convenient and efficient than the liquid toner bottle. They're pre-soaked with the toner, ensuring that each pad contains the right amount of product for application. Pads are also more convenient for travelling and on-the-go use," said Dr El Chami.
Celebrities carrying out their skincare routines on live streams will sit with large pads covering their cheeks and forehead for a few minutes, before wiping down their face with the remaining essence. With toner pads, you don't have to spend extra on cotton pads, and you allow the formula sufficient time to work its magic.
Which toner pads are the best for me?
Toners target specific skin concerns, ranging from textured skin to facial redness. This means some are dedicated to gently exfoliating the skin, while others are infused with calming ingredients. Hydration will be a common theme.
Dr El Chami shares ingredients worth looking into, depending on your skin concerns. She places hyaluronic acid on the top of the list: "Number one is hyaluronic acid because it provides intense hydration; aloe vera for soothing and calming the skin; green tea extract, which is rich in antioxidants, protects the skin from any damage and has anti-ageing properties; tea tree oil; vitamin C is also a good antioxidant; and niacinamide to help improve the appearance of enlarged pores."
Following this advice, we dived into Korea's bestselling toner pads, as ranked by keen users. Our list also features products used by your favourite Korean celebrities. Try them as soon as today, with an Amazon Prime membership, and don't forget to take advantage of beauty discounts.
1. Best Overall: Mediheal Teatree Trouble Pad, 100 Pads
Mediheal's toner pad range is, perhaps, the most talked about on TikTok. Those with bumpy skin texture and closed comedones see jaw-dropping results in a few days. And, the pads are square-shaped to cover more surface area. Its Teatree Trouble Pad is formulated for sensitive, acne-prone skin using tea tree extract sourced from Jeju Island, South Korea, and the good bacteria lactobacillus. The formula soothes and calms irritated skin with gentle exfoliation that gets rid of excess oil and impurities. Mediheal only uses 100 per cent plant-derived cotton pads that are completely safe for any skin type. Reviewers apply the pads like a sheet mask for extended treatment at night and as a regular wipe-down toner during the day. They report acne blemishes disappearing and skin becoming softer after each use.
2. Best Hydrating Pads: Skinfood Carrot Carotene Calming Water Pad, 60 Sheets
This award-winning jar was famously spotted in the hands of Korean actress Han So Hee (above). Skinfood's Carrot Carotene Calming Water pads offer relief to a flushed, inflamed face by flooding it with carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, from carrot seed oil. This ingredient is a natural antioxidant that refreshes and soothes tired skin, making it perfect for dry skin types. Skinfood's cotton pads are thick enough to be split into two, so you can double the sheet count and get more bang for your buck. Unlike the Mediheal tea tree pads, these have little to no scent, say reviews. Many repeat buyers note how it helps their make-up go on smoothly afterward and prevents the base from flaking.
3. Best for Acne: Bring Green Carrot Toner Pad, 60 Count
Here's a carrot toner pad that targets acne and textured skin, as well as uneven skin tone. The Bring Green product is saturated with 32,000ppm carrot root water and 2,000ppm carrot complex to rejuvenate the skin, becoming a powerful source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Even K-pop boy group member Jungwon of Enhypen (above) keeps it in his rotation. While it tackles dull skin, it gently exfoliates using willow bark extract, a natural alternative to salicylic acid. You can use the textured face of the pad to physically exfoliate the skin or tone as usual with the smooth side. Reviews love the brightening effect they get within a few days of use.
4. Best for Blemishes: Abib Yuja Probiotics Blemish Pad Vitalising Touch, 60 Pads
Abib's Yuja Probiotics Blemish toner pads were previously featured in our list of skincare items loved by K-pop stars. Picked by boy groups WayV and NCT's member Ten, this product delivers a good dose of vitamin C to the skin with Yuzu lemon, a citrus fruit more potent than regular lemons. Together with probiotics, like lactobacillus, niacinamide and Centella asiatica, these pads fight blemishes by evening out the skin tone. Even those with age spots in the reviews attest to the efficacy.
5. Best for Hyperpigmentation: Numbuzin No.5 Vitamin-Niacinamide Concentrated Pad, 70 Pads
Another contender for reducing hyperpigmentation is the Nimmbuzin No.5 toner pad, infused with actives. You'll find 5% niacinamide, vitamins C and E, antioxidant glutathione and gentle acids in each pad for targeting dark spots and dull complexion. They're meant to go on for three to five minutes, after which, the face should be wiped with the gauze side of the pads. Reviewers say that their skin comes back to life after every session. The formula is slightly more viscous and jelly-like compared to other toner pads, they note. If you have sensitive skin, patch-testing would be a good preemptive measure to avoid any complications with the actives in the formula.
6. Best Exfoliating Pad for Sensitive Skin: Anua Heartleaf 77 Toner Pad, 70 Sheets
For those in need of the mildest exfoliation, check out Amazon's bestselling toner pad - the Anua Heartleaf 77%. It uses PHA or polyhydroxy acid to exfoliate dead skin cells, and since PHAs are larger at the molecular level, they don't penetrate as deeply as AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta hydroxy acids), making them very gentle on sensitive skin. It uses 77 per cent heartleaf extract, which comes first in the ingredients list even before water, to restore the pH balance and soothe the skin. A complex of patented natural ingredients also reduces sebum and tightens the pores. Reviewers recommend it as a smoother make-up application and say that their pores are almost nonexistent, with consistent use.
7. Best Cooling Pad: It’s Skin Li Calming Jelly Pad, 70 Sheets
Ranking high on Korean beauty review site Glow Pick is the Li Calming Pad by It's Skin. Dubbed 'Firefighter' by the brand, the pads douse the skin with a blend of calming, relaxing ingredients, namely licorice root extract. They're saturated with 10,000ppm extract of the plant, harvested from the Jiri mountain in Korea. The vegan sheets are also infused with chamomile flower extracts to soothe irritated, red skin, even from sun damage. It goes on for five to ten minutes till the essence is absorbed. According to reviews, the pads have a cooling effect on the skin and are excellent for providing instant relief after being out in the sun.
Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.