Kaori is the representative director of Japan's Scientific Beauty Institute. She also runs the Beauty Science Blog, which sends out beauty science information in a way that's easy to understand. She operates with the mission of "wanting people to enjoy the process of finding skincare that works for them by offering a scientific perspective". Kaori broadcasts her expert knowledge from working with skincare and cosmetics societies and academic journals on her blog, social media, and more. She also works with PR, product development, and corporate support teams for cosmetics.
mybest US' editing team consists of experienced members who have backgrounds in writing, editing, translation, and more. We are dedicated to researching what makes a product or service the best to users in the US in order to create top-quality articles. From skincare, to kitchen appliances, and to DIY supplies, our mission is to find the best ones for you.
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Table of Contents
Unlike their Western counterparts, Japanese toners, known in Japan as 化粧水 (kesho-sui), which can be directly translated to cosmetic water, are meant to moisturize the skin, as opposed to cleansing the skin.
Using a Japanese toner after washing your face can help boost the effectiveness of other moisturizing products such as face milks or creams when used immediately after, and thus play an incredibly important role in the Japanese skincare routine.
The three major roles of Japanese toners are:
Of these three, the first one is particularly important, as its main role is to deliver natural moisturizing ingredients and similar substances to the stratum corneum.
There are a lot of Japanese toners out there, so it's understandable you'd feel a little lost. That's why we’d like to introduce two things you should look out for when choosing toner.
Actually, it doesn’t really matter how “moisturizing” a toner is. Because of how the human body is constructed, it’s difficult for liquids to permeate skin. Well, then, if we aren’t supposed to care so much about hydration, then just what are we supposed to pay attention to?
Therefore, don’t feel like you have to avoid all toners that include ethanol. At the very least, we’ve tested all of our toners (some of which contain ethanol) for hydrating power–and hopefully, that gives you some piece of mind.
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Enrich+ Lotion II
The Best Japanese Toner for Hydrated, Plump Skin
Cosme Decorté Lift Dimension Replenish Firm Lotion ER
A Toner that Delivers Satisfyingly Moisturizing and Soft Skin
Aqua Label Aqua Lotion Rich Moist
A Highly Moisturizing Toner With a Great Texture
A Toner that is Rich in Amino Acids With a Comforting Fragrance
ONE by Kosé The Water Mate Moisturizing Lotion
A Japanese Toner that Balances a Light Texture With Moisturizing Ability
Kanebo On Skin Essence F
A Moisturizing Toner for Sensitive Skin
Best Toner for Hydrated, Glowing Skin
Best Toner for Healthy and Hydrated Skin With a Refreshing Fragrance
Daiichi Sankyo Healthcare
Minon Amino Moist Moist Charge Lotion II
An Incredibly Gentle Japanese Toner
Hada Labo Gokujun Premium Extra Rich Hyaluronic Acid
A Moisturizing Toner with Long-Lasting Hydration
FANCL's Enrich+ Lotion was renewed in September 2021 with niacinamide, an active ingredient that has been proven to reduce wrinkles.
In addition to active ingredients, the product contains ingredients that are suitable for anti-aging care, such as Oenothera biennis extract and sweet pea flower extract. It’s also packed with moisturizing ingredients such as ectoin, which is a long-lasting moisturizing ingredient.
In the moisturizing ability test, our testers saw over a two-fold increase in moisture levels, showing how extremely moisturizing this toner is.
The liquid itself felt soft and thick, and spread comfortably and blended well with the skin. It wasn't sticky or had any notable scent, making it convenient to use in any situation. The only negative we felt was that the mouth of the bottle felt a little too small, making it difficult to dispense the toner.
Still, this is the best toner for those who want to take thorough care of their dry skin.
Kosé’s Cosme Decorte's anti-aging line, Lift Dimension, focuses on improving skin elasticity and firmness. The Replenish Firm Lotion ER uses a unique solution to deliver beauty ingredients to the stratum corneum.
With an increase in the skin's moisture level by about 81.9% on average, we found this toner to be incredibly moisturizing and felt that it makes the skin moist and soft, as well as adds some glow. The product also contains adenosine, which gives elasticity, as well as moisturizing ingredients like amino acids, and Alcaligenes polysaccharides.
It has a soft and elegant texture, as well as a refined floral scent. The bottle is also shaped to fit comfortably in your hand, making it easy to use. This is a Japanese toner to consider if you’re not just looking for effectiveness, but also want a high-quality product overall.
Shiseido’s Aqua Label Aqua Lotion was released in the fall of 2021 and contains amino acids derived from fermentation.
One of its appeals is its high moisturizing ability which proves to be effective even during the driest of seasons. Our testers saw a significant increase in skin moisture levels of 90%. The combination of ingredients such as glycerin and trehalose makes it effective in maintaining moisture, indicating that it has superb ingredients for dry skin as well.
This toner can be applied with ease thanks to its light and fresh texture. While it takes a moment to set in, we felt that this was offset by its excellent moisturizing abilities. With hardly any scent, it won’t fight against other cosmetics. We also appreciated how easy the bottle was to open and close.
Etvos’ Ultimoist Lotion targets those who are at the age where they start to have concerns with changes to their skin.
While the product itself emphasizes that it features ceramides, we felt that what really deserves praise is its high concentration of amino acids, which are highly moisturizing. Seeing that some of our testers saw their moisture levels more than double in our moisturizing ability test, we felt that this product is one of the most moisturizing Japanese toners out there. Moreover, thanks to its niacinamides, it also is effective in providing anti-aging care.
Once the slightly thick liquid blends into the skin, we found that the skin felt soft and moist to the touch. However, the toner does take slightly longer than others to get absorbed into the skin, so it's probably best to use this when you have time. Finally, we liked its subtle lavender scent.
The biggest strength of ONE by Kosé The Water Mate Moisturizing Lotion is its complex blend of hyaluronic acid and ceramides, which Kosé refers to as the Moist Performer.
The toner blends in smoothly as it moisturizes the skin. After two hours, our testers’ skin moisture levels had doubled in comparison to before application. Its simple yet effective ingredients of Gynostemma pentaphyllum leaf extract and Coptis Japonica root extract are known to have moisturizing and conditioning properties, which will help with addressing concerns regarding dryness.
While it has a light texture, it also feels hydrating, making it useful in all seasons. However, it does have a high concentration of ethanol, as indicated by its sharp scent. If you have sensitive skin, be sure to monitor your skin's condition closely if you choose to use this toner. Finally, we liked the unique angular bottle, which was easy to open and close, provided the size fits in your hand.
Kanebo On Skin Essence F has a simple but effective formula, which is great for those with sensitive skin. This toner has the most basic of ingredients, which makes it usable for just about any skin type.
In our moisturizing ability test, we found that our tester saw an average increase of 78.6% in two hours after application, making it incredibly moisturizing.
Texture-wise, it feels moderately moist and applies smoothly, Additionally, while the oil in the product tends to linger on the surface of the skin, it doesn't feel sticky.
Finally, the toner has a faint, gentle, and calming floral scent, but the container is quite heavy, making it difficult to carry around.
POLA’s B.A line features anti-aging products that help improve your skin’s elasticity. In particular, their toner is arguably the face of this lineup.
Considering the amount of ethanol in this product, which helps the skin absorb the toner, it appears that POLA formulated this toner with emphasis on delivering beautifying ingredients to the stratum corneum. We also found that this toner was incredibly moisturizing, with all our testers seeing on average an 80% increase in moisture levels. Our testers were also pleased with the faint glow that it provides, too.
Our testers were also fond of the elegant floral fragrance, with some commenting that they’d look forward to using it daily. The smooth texture is comfortable and pleasant, and it was easy to use the appropriate amount thanks to the pump.
The toner has plenty of amino acids, a natural moisturizing ingredient, as well as polyquaternium-5, yet another moisturizing ingredient, ensuring that you’ll skin will be healthy and hydrated. In our moisturizing ability test, our testers’ saw an increase in moisture levels by 70% on average, proving that it is thoroughly hydrating.
While it contains lavender flower water that adds a nice refreshing touch, we were slightly off-put by how much of it was used. If you have delicate skin, you may want to use this with caution. Finally, we found this toner to be slightly sticky, so we recommend neatly patting it into your skin.
Minon Amino Moist Moisture Charge Lotion II is formulated with a heavy emphasis on being gentle on the skin while still being moisturizing.
In our moisturizing ability test, our testers saw an increase in moisture levels by 75.3% on average, Moreover, in terms of ingredients, this toner earned high marks for having highly effective moisturizing ingredients such as amino acids, pseudo-ceramides as well as other ingredients that are gentle on the skin.
This toner has an incredibly thick texture, commenting that it was hard to believe that it's a toner at all. While it does give off a slight scent of its ingredients, it will likely be unnoticed after applying a milk or cream afterward. We also found the dispenser to be convenient to use, allowing us to use the appropriate amount at a time.
Hada Labo Gokujun Premium Extra Rich Hyaluronic Acid contains hyaluronic acid fermented by lactic acid bacteria as a moisturizing ingredient. This toner features a combination of seven types of hyaluronic acid, which is the most the brand has ever featured in a product.
This product features a great balance of moisturizing and beautifying ingredients. It also contains the ingredient hydroxyethyl urea, an ingredient that can help retain moisture for long periods of time, meaning this product is great for those that feel like their skin dries out later in the day. This was proven as well in our test, with our testers seeing an average increase in moisture by 60.5%.
While the scent wasn't particularly strong, it does have a thick and somewhat slimy consistency. Because of this consistency, it requires time to blend in, so it's probably best to avoid using it when you're in a hurry.
Test ①: Moisturization Ability
Test ②: Ingredients
Test ③: Feel
First, we tested each product's moisturizing ability, which is arguably the most important thing to consider when choosing a moisturizing toner.
For this test, we used a special device to measure the amount of moisture in the skin of our tester's arms. We then had them apply a set amount of toner on their arm. We measured moisture levels immediately after application, then waited two hours, and measured again.
We had three testers try each product and evaluated the products based on how much of an increase there was on average in moisture levels.
Next, we looked at the ingredients of each product.
For this test, we had our expert, scientific beautician Kaori, strictly check all products focusing on the following points:
Toners that were noticeably heavier (some so thick, they felt like gel) were a cut above the rest–when it came to hydrating power, at least. Unfortunately, the opposite held true as well; the lighter a toner was, the less moisturizing it tended to be.
Finally, we looked at how each product felt, which can determine how easy it is to take care of your skin. We had five testers test each product by actually using the toners, and had them evaluate how each product felt based on the following points:
After the toner’s body temperature, rub your hands together so that product covers the entirety of both palms, then slowly massage it into your face. You want to gently press it in. Don’t slap yourself.
You can also use a serum or essence to seal in the toner. However, you’ll need a lot of product to do so, so we wouldn’t call it cost-effective. You especially don’t want to do this if you’re using expensive stuff.
It seems like a waste of product, but there’s a reason we’re stressing this. If there is a single dry spot on your cotton pad, then it’s going to soak up healthy oils from your skin. That might actually be one of the reasons your skin is dehydrated.
Of course, the same holds true for toner masks. Make sure all cotton pads are thoroughly soaked before laying them on your face, and remove all cotton pads before they start drying out.
The best timing for when to use a Japanese toner is right after you get out of the shower or after placing a hot towel on your face. Because your blood flow is increased, your toner will permeate your skin even better. It's also effective to pat in the toner for 30 seconds to let it blend in.
If you feel like the toner is too sticky, or you feel like your skin is soaking wet, then you might be using too much at once, so make sure to remove some of that excess toner with a tissue.
There's more to a Japanese skincare routine than just toner! Here are some other great products we've tested and ranked.
No. 1: FANCL | Enrich+ Lotion II
No. 2: Kosé | Cosme Decorté Lift Dimension Replenish Firm Lotion ER
No. 3: Shiseido | Aqua Label Aqua Lotion Rich Moist
No. 4: Etvos | Ultimoist Lotion
No. 5: Kosé | ONE by Kosé The Water Mate Moisturizing Lotion
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