No doubt you’re familiar with the term “toner,” but the real question here is, do you actually know what it is and whether or not you need it?
Once deemed unnecessary in skincare for being too astringent and drying, toners nowadays do quite the opposite. They’re more hydrating and typically alcohol-free.
“Toners have recently undergone a stunning transformation, going from an unnecessary drying step to the essential hydration station of skincare,” explains Korean beauty expert Angela Jia Kim.
In this article, we’re going to explore how toners work, why you need one in your skincare regimen, and how to use one.
Toner is a lot like water but packed with other beneficial ingredients like rose, tea tree, salicylic acid, and antioxidants, depending on your skin’s needs. A good toner should have a slightly acidic pH – roughly 5.5. – to balance the skin’s pH and keep it looking healthy and glowing.
Different toners help with different skincare issues like dryness, dullness, acne, and hyperpigmentation.
Charlotte Cho, the co-founder of Soko Glam, says “Think of toner as prep for your pores. It brings your skin back to its natural acidic state, sweeping impurities away and helping your skin absorb your skincare products.”
She continues, “Your skin is like a dried-up sponge. If you put a thick cream on a brittle dry sponge, it won't accept it and it isn't 'prepped' for moisture. But if you wet the sponge, the cream will sink in more easily.”
“Toners were originally devised as an extra cleansing step to remove dirt and impurities from makeup and environmental pollution,” says Dr. Donna Bilu Martin, a Miami-based dermatologist. That’s why toning is the best way to ensure you complexion is squeaky clean.
Because toners clean and tighten pores, yours will look visibly smoother and prevent future debris from penetrating them.
Provided that you choose a hydrating toner, toning your skin can give it a moisture boost. It’s especially useful when you’re flying as in-flight air is super drying. Keeping a toner close by will keep your skin hydrated.
“I always recommend that people switch from a drying toner to something like rosewater,” explains celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas. “Rose is hydrating, very light, and good for circulation. Lime is a great ingredient for oily skin because it tightens pores and acts as an astringent without over-drying the skin's surface. Plum and strawberry are good for super dry skin. And last but not least, chamomile is great for soothing.”
In other words, there’s a toner out there for everyone.
Now that you know you need a facial toner in your skincare routine, it’s time to learn how to use this product.
For starters, always apply your toner to clean skin. So start by washing your face and patting it dry with a clean towel. Now you’re ready to use your toner.
For toners with a thicker consistency, try pouring a little bit onto your fingertips then massaging it in to your skin. If your toner has a thinner consistency, you can saturate a cotton pad and apply it to your skin. And most importantly, don’t rinse after applying your toner! The point of a toner is that it delivers vitamins and nutrients to your skin – so it needs to stay on a while.
Oh, and make sure you use toner immediately after cleansing. It really helps.
“Most molecules penetrate the skin better when it is wet, so applying active ingredients immediately after cleansing delivers better results,” explains New York-based dermatologist Arielle Kauvar.
Another interesting way to use toner: as a spritz. According to Kim, spritzing toner onto the face works perfectly at setting makeup. It can also give your skin a quick pick-me-up after a tough workout.
Ideally, you should be using your toner twice a day – morning and night. That’s if you’re using a regular, soothing toner. If you’re using acid toners made with AHAs and BHAs, you should only be using it 3-4 times a week in the evening before you go to bed.
That’s because acid toners are more potent. Overusing them can only lead to irritation and redness.
Choosing a toner is a lot like choosing a moisturizer. You need to select one based on your specific skin need, whether that be acne, fine lines, dark spots or dryness.
Got dry skin?
Look for a toner with amino acids that will deeply hydrate the skin. Fermented yeast is another excellent ingredient for treating dryness. Also, make sure you specifically look for a toner with hydrating properties and zero alcohol.
Got acne-prone skin?
If you regularly suffer from breakouts, opt for a salicylic acid-based toner. Ideally, try to find a toner that contains witch hazel too, as this combination will help eliminate excess oil without drying out the skin. Try Truly’s Hemp Jelly Toning Solution.
Got large pores?
Minimize the appearance of large pores by using a toner with AHA’s like glycolic acid. Glycolic acid removes dead skin cells which are responsible for making pores look more prominent.
Got mature skin?
Look out for toners with antioxidants and hydrating ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, glycerine, and rose water, among others. You shouldn’t be stripping the skin of anything here. You should be injecting it with nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Got dull skin?
Seek out toners with natural exfoliants like lactic acid, dead sea salts, and papaya extracts which are all known for brightening the skin. Equally as effective: vitamin C. Vitamin C is a well-known skin brightener.
Got sensitive skin?
Avoid harsh, alcohol-based toners and instead look for a toner with skin calming ingredients. Think aloe vera, rosewater, and tea tree – all extremely soothing ingredients.
Now you know how essential facial toner is and what you’re looking for, we highly recommend investing in a high-quality toner. It is, after all, a crucial skincare step.