Fact Checked

How Do I Choose the Best Clarifying Lotion?

Sherry Holetzky
Sherry Holetzky

You have probably heard of clarifying shampoo, which is used to eliminate build-up and residue, which is left behind on hair by other styling products. Clarifying products are intended to strip away elements that don’t belong, to provide a deeper sense of clean. When it comes to skin care, clarifying lotion can work in much the same way as clarifying shampoo does. Clarifying lotion is intended to remove residues as well as to get rid of natural impurities such as dirt, oils, and dead skin. Skin toner is another common name for clarifying lotion and is available in many different formulas.

There are several different varieties of clarifying lotion available, each suited to specific skin types, such as normal, oily, dry, or combination skin. Skin toners are often used to cleanse skin and then tighten up the pores. This process can help avoid excess dirt from being collected in pores, potentially leading to fewer breakouts for those with blemish-prone skin. Smaller pores make skin appear smoother as well.

Skin toners may be referred to as a clarifying lotion.
Skin toners may be referred to as a clarifying lotion.

Some types of clarifying lotion are more of an “all in one” product that is designed to cleanse, gently exfoliate, tone, and moisturize, all at the same time. This type may be favorable to those who prefer to purchase fewer products and who like a quicker skin care regimen with fewer steps. Many brands, however, choose to market a separate clarifying lotion, for use with other separate skin care products in their line. Clarifying lotion can also work in other ways, such as a finishing product or a skin freshener.

Witch hazel is commonly used as a skin toner.
Witch hazel is commonly used as a skin toner.

A finishing product is generally used after all the other steps in a skin care treatment routine have been completed. Such a skin care routine may consist of using a cleanser and a daily exfoliant before using toner or clarifying lotion. A finishing product may or may not contain moisturizer.

Choosing the best clarifying lotion depends in large part upon your type of skin. If your skin is very sensitive, you will most likely want to find a mild formula that does not contain a lot of alcohol, as this can dry and irritate the skin. There are also formulas made with ingredients such as Aloe Vera and other natural ingredients. These may be less astringent and many have a nice fragrance. As always when choosing skin care products, read labels carefully to avoid ingredients that could be harmful or cause allergic reaction.

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Discussion Comments


I love using a clarifying lotion after washing my face and before putting on lotion. I feel that it cleans my skin more than my cleanser does and it has a really cooling, refreshing effect on my face. I also love it when it smells nice, I find it relaxing to use.

I don't mind clarifying lotions with alcohol but it shouldn't smell like vodka when I open the bottle and it should not sting or burn my face when I apply it. That's why I generally go for mild clarifying lotions that are labeled for sensitive skin.

The other quality I look for is that it shouldn't over-dry my skin. Otherwise, my face produces even more oil than before and I get breakouts. In the past, I've used clarifying lotions from acne solutions, clarifying lotion 2 and 3 from Clinique and Biosource clarifying lotion. I think they're all okay, but I'm still looking for the perfect one.


@burcin-- I know, it can be confusing.

Actually, a product isn't usually labeled as a lotion and a toner at the same time. A clarifying lotion implies that it is mild and has moisturizing ingredients in it in addition to cleansing and exfoliating agents that won't irritate dry skin. A clarifying toner, on the other hand, won't have any or much moisturizing effects and will concentrate more on cleaning and exfoliating.

Both of these are in the same category, it's just that clarifying lotion is more suitable for dry, sensitive skin and clarifying toner is more suitable for oily, problem skin. They can be really similar though.

For example, the clarifying lotion I'm using right now has alcohol as well as moisturizers in it. The alcohol helps clean my face and shrinks my pores and the moisturizer helps hydrate my skin. I know it sounds odd for these clarifying lotion ingredients to be in the same product, but it is, and it works.

My younger sister asked me the other day, "What does clarifying lotion do?" and I honestly couldn't answer. When I think of lotions, I think of emulsions that are absorbed into the skin and that moisturize it. I don't understand how a lotion can clean the skin or make pores smaller.

Toner, on the other hand, makes a lot more sense. Because those usually have exfoliants in it that remove dirt and things like that. I don't know why they've named this product in such a confusing way. I never know what to think of products that are called clarifying lotions.

And how can a product be both a lotion and a toner?

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    • Skin toners may be referred to as a clarifying lotion.
      By: mordeccy
      Skin toners may be referred to as a clarifying lotion.
    • Witch hazel is commonly used as a skin toner.
      By: dianamower
      Witch hazel is commonly used as a skin toner.