What exactly does toner do? Whether you’re a skin-care enthusiast or just looking to keep everything clean and clear, chances are you’ve heard a facial toner is a must for any skin-care routine worth its salt. But how does this beauty staple work and why is it so great?
For some, toners are a nonnegotiable—toner is used morning and night, all year long—whereas others prefer to only add one when they’re experiencing a breakout or dry patches. From breaking down what toners are (including whether they do more harm than good), their benefits per skin type, and how to actually layer all of your skin-care products correctly, here’s everything you need to know.
What is face toner?
Why do some of us automatically reach for a facial toner as the second part of our skincare routine while others are still on the fence about whether you really need it? “Toners are controversial products in dermatology due to the drying capabilities of the original toners,” explains Corey L. Hartman, M.D., founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology. “Early toners contained alcohol and witch hazel, which functioned as harsh astringents that stripped all oil from the skin, caused irritation, increased inflammation and dryness, and even flared certain skin conditions like eczema, keratosis pilaris, acne, and rosacea.”
However, toners today have experienced a major upgrade from their predecessors. Featuring hydrating ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and chamomile, they have pivoted away from harsh cleansing to nourishing and restoring the skin, says Hartman.
What are the benefits of face toner?
Given the improved functionality of toners, they are plenty of ways to incorporate them into your skin-care routine if you’re looking amplify results for a particular skin concern. According to Hartman, the right toner can be a game changer: “When the proper toner is selected, it can help improve oiliness, fight acne, reduce pore size, firm skin texture, and increase skin’s radiance.” Still not quite convinced? Read on.
Gives a deep clean
You’ve likely heard of the double cleanse and may be wondering if that is even necessary. If you’re laying up on products in the a.m.—especially sunscreen, which can be hard to break down with water-based cleansers alone—then yes. But if you’d prefer to not apply an oil cleanser before your second one, a toner could be the answer.
Because many toners include a mix of hydrating ingredients to balance out the formula so it won’t strip the skin barrier, Hartman says they are still a great option for those looking to get a deep clean when a single cleansing step won’t cut it. “Excess debris and clogged pores are managed well with toners.”
Smooths skin texture
If smoothing out your skin’s texture and improving its elasticity are important, toners that include hydroxy acids and antioxidants should be top of mind, says Hartman. These ingredients will gently exfoliate rough, dead skins cells, revealing a smoother surface while also boosting skin’s firmness.
How do you use face toner?
When it comes to getting the most out of toners, application is key. “Toners should be applied to a freshly washed face with a cotton swab or pad and allowed to absorb completely for 30 seconds or so before continuing with the rest of the ski- care regimen,” says Hartman. “I like using toners in the morning; always incorporate an antioxidant, retinol, and sun protection factor daily for best results.”
Which toner for which skin type?
While everyone can use a toner, toners aren’t a universal product. Bear with me—facial toners are developed with specific skin-care needs in mind. So if you’re not prone to breakouts and you have a dry skin type, you’ll want to skip any that include salicylic acid, which is better suited for acne prone skin.