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Obagi Nu-Derm Toner

Obagi Nu-Derm Toner (6.3 fl. oz., $43) is a hydrating toner ideal for all skin types. Obagi Nu-Derm Toner gently removes excess oil and impurities without stripping your skin of vital moisture. Sage and witch hazel combine in this skin toner to tone and purify, while borage extract and aloe vera calm and soothe for a comfortable feel and healthy, revitalized look.

Witch hazel – a shrub native to North America – is one of the key ingredients in the Nu-Derm Toner. Although there are many species of witch hazel, they share many common proprieties including the ability to ease inflammation and soothe sensitive skin. Witch hazel contains gallic acid and tannins, which are compounds with potent anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, respectively. Witch hazel also contains antioxidants that help prevent inflammation and neutralize free radicals – unstable molecules that damage your skin and lead to aging. Additionally, witch hazel is great for those with sensitive/irritated skin because it has been shown to suppress erythema – a reddening of the skin caused by injury or irritation – by up to 27 percent. Preliminary research also shows that witch hazel’s anti-inflammatory properties may help in the fight against acne. Furthermore, witch hazel acts like an astringent that can help shrink your pores, and the tannins in witch hazel may help protect against skin damage when applied topically.

The other key ingredient in Obagi Nu-Derm Toner is aloe, or aloe vera, a medicinal plant that has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide variety of ailments. You may already know about using aloe vera to help heal burns because of its soothing, moisturizing and cooling properties but aloe vera can also be used to help clear acne. This study finds that combining acne medication with aloe vera gel made the acne product significantly more effective than acne medications alone, in treating mild to moderate acne. In fact, aloe vera in combination with witch hazel are botanical anti-inflammatories that are commonly used in acne products.

Obagi Nu-Derm Toner is step 2 in Obagi’s 7 step Nu-Derm System – a complete skin care system specially formulated to help correct hyperpigmentation (such as dark spots and melasma) and transform the appearance of aging skin. With its combination of witch hazel, aloe vera, sage, which is high with antioxidants, and borage extract, which is also used for inflammation and acne, the Nu-Derm Toner has all the ingredients to make it the perfect mild, alcohol-free, non-drying toner. Read on to see what I thought of this popular and highly rated toner!

About the Brand

Obagi was founded in 1988, as a skin care line dedicated to utilizing formulations backed by skin care science and innovation. Obagi offers powerful formulas that not only focus on restoring the skin but promoting overall skin health on a daily basis and beyond. Obagi believes skin care is more than “correcting” or even “preventing,” it’s about unleashing your skin’s full potential. Designed to target a range of concerns including acne, discoloration, and dry and aging skin, Obagi products are inclusive and deliver a combination of powerful ingredients that support every skin tone and type. Obagi skincare products are scientifically backed, clinical-quality formulations that promote healthy, future-facing skin. The complete Obagi line includes treatments, cleansers, toners, moisturizers, serums, masks, eye care, body care, and sun protection


  • Non-drying

  • Adjusts the pH of the skin

  • Helps correct hyperpigmentation

  • Reduces the size of pores

How to Use

After cleansing, apply toner onto face and throat with a cotton ball. Do not rinse off.


Key Ingredients

  • Witch Hazel, Aloe

Full list of ingredients

  • Purified Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Hamamelis Virginiana (witch Hazel) Distillate, Potassium Alum, Sodium PCA, Panthenol, DMDM Hydantion, Polysorbate 80, Allantoin, Salvia Officinalis (sage) Leaf Extract, Borago Officinalis Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Saponins, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Fragrance, FD&C Blue No. 1.

My Take

After I finished my Glow Recipe Watermelon PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner, I wanted to try a new toner and through my research, I found that Obagi Nu-Derm Toner was highly rated. I have a close friend who is a huge Obagi fan, so that also contributed to my decision to try this toner. The Obagi Nu-Derm Toner comes in a white bottle, with a screw on top and a (not very good) slow-pour spout. The toner is a watery light blue liquid with a medical scent, similar to an antiseptic. The scent isn’t very strong, and it doesn’t last after applying the toner. I applied the toner at night after cleansing my face and applied it to my face and neck with a cotton pad. Then, I waited for the toner to fully absorb into my skin before continuing with the rest of my nighttime routine.

Because I have a lifelong struggle with acne, the first thing I always look out for with any new skincare product is whether it will give me breakouts and I am happy to report that the Obagi Nu-Derm Toner passed this very important test. And, in spite of its antiseptic smell, which made me fear that the Nu-Derm Toner would be too drying for my skin, I actually found the opposite – it was very gentle, with no stinging, tingling or discomfort during or after application. Although, I wouldn’t claim that the Obagi toner was moisturizing, I will say that it did not strip moisture from my skin, providing further evidence of its claim that it “restores skin’s natural pH". And, on the few occasions that my cleanser missed some residual debris on my face, the Obagi Nu-Derm Toner removed these impurities without causing any tightness in the skin.

Although the Nu-Derm Toner is part of the 7-product Nu-Derm System, the toner worked very well by itself and I noticed that it helped to make dark spots on my neck less visible. Additionally, there are two skin specific lines of the Nu-Derm System, one for normal to dry skin and the other for normal to oil skin, which ensures that the toner you purchase is the one best suited to your skin type. To be honest, I don’t know which Nu-Derm Toner I received – whether it was from the normal to dry or the normal to oily Nu-Derm System line – because as far as I can tell there isn’t any labelling on the toner indicating which Nu-Derm line the toner I received came from. However, I don’t think it matters in the end because my Nu-Derm Toner did not cause my sebaceous glands to go into overdrive and that is all that matters!

Nevertheless, I have a few critiques of the toner. One critique is the spout, no matter how gently or gingerly you attempt to pour a small amount into the cotton pad, a gush will come out. This was particularly frustrating when the product was new and almost every time I used it in the first couple weeks, some of the toner would spilt into the sink. I think the bottle would benefit from a better engineered slow-pour spout. Another thing I could have done without is the scent, don’t get me wrong, it is a very mild fragrance, but it is enough to remind me of being in a hospital. Another thing that didn’t affect me but is something to keep in mind depending on the state in which you live, is that the Nu-Derm Toner is part of the Nu-Derm System, which according to the Obagi website, requires a prescription, likely due to the fact that some of the products (Nu-Derm Clear, Blender and Sunfader) have 4% hydroquinone. To be clear, if you only buy the toner you probably don’t need a prescription but if you want to try other products in the line, you may need a prescription.

I like the Obagi Nu-Derm Toner and I recommend it to those who want a gentle, non-drying toner that can help correct hyperpigmentation. I use multiple products that help fade dark spots but I use those products primarily on my face, the Obagi Nu-Derm Toner was the only product that I also used on my neck and I noticed it helped fade dark spots there and along my jaw line. And although I didn’t notice any change in the size of my pores, Obagi Nu-Derm Toner helped maintain my skin’s moisture balance and hyperpigmentation. You should definitely try this toner, it is definitely a good introduction to Obagi skin care products.

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About Me

Hi! I'm Shelli, a travel enthusiast, avid reader and prolific reviewer of everything from books to skincare.  Read more...


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