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If you have oily skin that’s prone to breakouts, you might be tempted to add an astringent to your daily skin care routine. Astringents may help cleanse skin, tighten pores, and dry out oil.

Astringents are liquid-based formulas, usually containing isopropyl (rubbing alcohol). You can also find natural astringents with alcohol from botanicals, and even alcohol-free astringents.

Avoid alcohol-based astringents if you have dry skin. Alcohol-based products may dry out your skin and make acne worse.

Read on to learn about the benefits and side effects of astringents, and how to add astringents to your regular skin care routine.

Astringents may have several benefits for your skin. They may be used to help:

  • shrink appearance of pores
  • tighten skin
  • cleanse irritants from skin
  • reduce inflammation
  • reduce acne
  • provide anti-bacterial benefits

Astringents work best for oily, acne-prone skin. That’s because they help remove excess oil and unclog pores.

Astringents can be very drying for the skin. Avoid alcohol-based and chemical-based astringents if you have dry or sensitive skin.

If you have acne and dry skin, an astringent may further irritate breakouts, leading to peeling and additional redness.

Also, avoid alcohol-based astringents if you have eczema or rosacea. Instead, try a hydrating toner or oil-free moisturize, or ask a dermatologist for recommendations. They may be able to prescribe a more effective treatment.

If you have oily skin and are going to use an alcohol-based astringent, consider spot treating only the oily parts of your skin. This can help prevent irritation.

Always follow up astringents with sunscreen. This will help protect your skin from sun damage.

A toner is similar to an astringent. It’s also a liquid-based (usually water) formula used to remove irritants from the skin’s surface and even out skin tone.

While astringents are typically used for oily, acne-prone skin, toners can be used on more skin types, including sensitive, dry, and combination skin.

Some common ingredients in toners include:

Astringents for oily skin may contain:

  • alcohol
  • witch hazel
  • citric acid
  • salicylic acid

Talk to a dermatologist if you aren’t sure if a toner or astringent is better for your skin type. They can recommend products containing ingredients that are safe for you to use.

An astringent is typically applied after cleansing. It can be drying, so only use it once a day, either in the morning or evening. If you have extremely oily skin, you can apply astringent in the morning and evening after a few days of once-a-day use.

Follow these steps when applying astringent:

  1. Cleanse your face and dry it completely.
  2. Pour a small drop of astringent onto a cotton pad.
  3. Using a dabbing motion, apply astringent to your face, spot treating on oily areas if desired. You don’t need to rinse or wash off astringent after use.
  4. Follow astringent with moisturizer and sunscreen containing SPF.

You may feel a slight tingling feeling on your face after applying astringent. Your skin may also feel tight or pulled afterwards. This is normal.

If your face feels red, hot, or irritated, discontinue use immediately.

You can buy astringents at your local pharmacy, drug store, or online. If you have oily skin, choose an astringent containing ingredients like witch hazel, citric acid, or salicylic acid. These will help control oily skin without over-drying.

If you have combination or dry skin that’s also acne-prone, look for a toner that contains glycerin or glycol plus ingredients like hyaluronic or lactic acid. This will help treat your skin while also hydrating and protecting it.

If you have oily skin, an astringent may be helpful to add to your daily skin care routine. Look for alcohol-free formulas and ingredients like witch hazel or salicylic acid.

If you have dry, sensitive, or combination skin, you may prefer a toner instead. If you aren’t sure about your skin type, a dermatologist can examine your skin and determine which ingredients are most beneficial for you.

If you have acne-prone skin, your dermatologist can also recommend a topic or oral medication that may help prevent breakouts.