Some of Asia’s best skincare is hidden in plain sight, in the form of toner lotions. In Japan, toning water, followed by a lightweight “milky lotion,” is the most frequently used type of moisturizer. Don’t let the watery consistency fool you, Japanese toners are hydrating without leaving any sticky residue. The fact that they are lightweight means they permeate the skin quickly. 

Pro tip: Once it dries, you can keep layering the lotion for maximum hydration, leaving you with glowing skin that is supple without being weighed down. Alternatively, you can soak some organic cotton pads with toner and let it settle on your face for five minutes for a make-shift sheet mask. Then, squeeze out the remaining toner from the cotton pads to layer on top or even spread all over your body to not waste a single drop of the product.

When it comes to toners, it’s definitely a case of “if you know, you know.” That said, here are some tried-and-true products that are adored globally. Plus, all of these are under ¥1,000. 

Naturie Hatomugi Skin Conditioner

The Hatomugi Skin Conditioner is a best-selling staple among Japanese toners (evidently, I’m in need of a refill), and a lot of people in Japan grew up using it because of its simplicity and price. The toner incorporates Coix barley essence, but otherwise keeps it simple, with no colorants, perfume, oil or alcohol. As well as being affordable, it also comes in a large 500-milliliter bottle, so you can really splash and layer to your heart’s content. It’s great to use before applying other skincare products. 

Muji Sensitive Skin Light Toning Water

Muji’s brand is all about high-quality and simplicity, and its sensitive skin line is fantastic. Of course, that includes the Light Toning Water. It comes in three different levels of moisture, so you can pick the one that suits your skin type or based on the season. With three types of plant essences, five types of amino acids and moisture-retaining ceramides incorporated into the formula, this product has all the good-for-you ingredients without aggravating the skin.

Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium

If you have dry skin and think toners aren’t hydrating enough for you, Hada Labo’s Gokujyun line will change your thinking. The Gokujyun Premium toner has a thicker consistency than most Japanese toners, and seeps into the skin. With eight types of hyaluronic acid, this toner adds moisture and helps protect the skin’s barrier. If toners haven’t worked for you in the past because you have dry skin, this one is definitely worth picking up.

Kikumasamune Nihonshu no Keshousui

Women in the Edo period (16031867) used fermented rice and sake to moisturize their skin, and Kikumasamune took inspiration from this historical custom to create Nihonshu no Keshousui, which translates to “sake toner.” This toner has condensed an entire 1.8-liter bottle of sake’s worth of amino acids into it. It also includes ceramides and arbutin, to even out skin tone, as well as anti-aging placenta extract. It’s perfect for using all over your body, or when your skin is feeling sensitive after some sun exposure.

Aqualabel Aqua Lotion

Aqualabel has trademarked the “power of bare skin” with its Aqua Lotion line, and its minimalist pale blue packaging really drives home this message. Aqualabel has taken inspiration from Japanese culture and seasons, incorporating sake fermentation methods as well as ingredients such as camellia flowers, cherry blossoms, okra and rice. The toner permeates the skin and helps it retain moisture without feeling sticky.

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