Too many of us might have decided to kick toner out of our beauty routines when we left our teens behind. After all, what does toner do for the face aside from drying up pimples? As it turns out, that old-fashioned view of toner can be harming your complexion. Toner can actually be the missing ingredient in your skincare regimen.
In this article:
- Toner’s Many Benefits
- Toners vs. Astringents: What’s the Difference?
- The Right Toner for the Right Skin Type
- Best Facial Toner Ingredients for Certain Skin Types
- Working Toner into Your Routine
- How to Apply Toner
What Does Toner Do Exactly? Benefits of Using Toner
Toner’s Many Benefits
Most toners are liquid-based. They provide deeper cleaning and makeup removal than cleansing alone provides. In addition, astringent toner ingredients like witch hazel or alcohol help make pores look smaller by providing a tissue-tightening effect and cleaning out surrounding dirt and old skin cells.
Of course, deep cleansing and pore-tightening have been the principal benefits of toners for decades. But the new generation of toners can deliver additional benefits.
First, skin toner restores pH balance after using a soapy cleanser. It also boosts circulation, helping to “wake up” skin when it’s muddy, flaky, or overly pale. Can’t carry your cleanser with you when you leave home? A small bottle of toner whisks away the grime and sweat of a day at the office or after a workout.
Most people with non-oily skin reject toners as too drying. But many toner products have little or no alcohol. At the same time, they do contain humectant ingredients. These compounds trap moisture, providing a layer of protection throughout the day.
In general, toners balance your skin like no other beauty product can manage. And with today’s toners offering additional benefits, there’s no reason for people with dry or sensitive skin to miss out on toner’s ability to clean skin and tighten pores.
Toners vs. Astringents: What’s the Difference?
How similar (or different) are face toners and astringents? All astringents are toners, but not all toners are astringents. Still confused? That’s fair, given the glut of products on the market. What’s important to remember is that astringents are a type of face toner with the highest amount of alcohol. They can be useful for oily skin. But their drying effect is often too strong for other complexions.
In fact, even acne-prone people may find that the stronger astringent toners have a “boomerang” effect on their complexions. All skin types need natural oils as protection against the elements. If a strong astringent strips away all of them, the oil glands go into overdrive to compensate. When that happens, pimples actually get worse.
That’s not to say that astringents are the wrong choice for oily and acne-prone skin. But it may take some experimenting to find an astringent toner blend that removes only excess oil — rather than all of it.
The Right Toner for the Right Skin Type
Gone are the days when all toners were alcohol-packed astringents that stripped skin of its protective oils. These days, even the types blended for acne-prone complexions temper their oil-controlling ingredients with other beneficial compounds.
Best Facial Toner Ingredients
In addition, virtually every skin problem will find a skin toner formulated to treat that problem — without causing new ones. Knowing what works for your complexion and your skin type is important.
- Oily and/or pimply skin. Rather than choosing a high alcohol content to de-grease your face, look for ingredients that address excess oil problems without stipping all of it away. Witch hazel is a liquid base with astringent properties but is more gentle than alcohol. Salicylic acid is useful for treating pimples without over-drying the surrounding areas. Learning how to use toner for oily skin can actually help decrease the production of grease.
- Large pores. A skin toner with gentle exfoliation powers addresses a common problem for people with large pores. These complexions tend to accumulate dirt and old skin cells, adding to the “crater” look. Choose a face toner with glycolic acid, which whisks away that excess debris and helps tighten pores.
- Muddy skin. Dull-looking complexions can be brightened with face toner. Select a type with brightening ingredients. Teas, including antioxidant-rich purple tea, provide this benefit. In addition, look for lactic acid or papaya extract enzymes, which gently exfoliate dull skin.
- Mature skin. Antioxidants are the way to go for older complexions. Antioxidants, especially from botanicals, offer protection from sun damage and other aging elements. Purple tea is packed with polyphenols and anthocyanins, which have anti-aging benefits to fight wrinkles and age spots. For hydration, choose a skin toner with rose water, glycerin or hyaluronic acid.
- Dry skin. Of course, some of the ingredients that help keep mature skin hydrated can also help younger complexions with dry skin. Aside from toners formulated with hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or rose water, consider ones with amino acids. These compounds penetrate dry skin for extra nourishment.
- Sensitive skin. Sensitive complexions are among the most challenging to treat. Stronger blends can cause additional problems in addition to the ones you were trying to treat in the first place. Sensitive complexions tend to redden and break out with more powerful ingredients. Make sure to look for a face toner clearly labeled “for sensitive skin.” Helpful ingredients include witch hazel or rose water rather than alcohol. Soothing, anti-inflammatory antioxidant botanicals like chamomile, calendula, purple tea, and aloe are all soothing to sensitive skin.
Working Toner into Your Routine
Even those of us convinced of toner’s importance don’t always know exactly where it fits into our skincare routine. Learn how to use toner here.
For best results, apply skin toner right after washing your face in the morning and at night. In fact, if your skin is still damp from cleansing, the active ingredients in the toner will penetrate more efficiently.
How to Apply Toner
Follow the steps below to learn how to use face toner:
- To apply face toner to your still-damp skin, soak a cotton ball or clean cloth with toner from the bottle.
- Swipe it over your face and neck. Don’t forget your jawline and hairline, where oils can accumulate.
- Some people prefer tapping the toner over their faces with their fingers, instead of a cotton ball. For best results, start with your cheeks and chin, which are drier.
- Move onto the more oily parts of the face next — the forehead and nose — and finish with the neck.
- If necessary, use two saturated cotton balls so that you don’t starve your skin of the skin toner it needs.
The face toner step should come after cleansing and before applying serum and/or moisturizer. Give the toner about a minute to set before applying the next product in your routine.
Some toners come in a spray bottle, offering the option to spritz it over the face and neck. This method doesn’t provide the deep benefits that the cotton ball or fingertip methods do. But for an afternoon skin refresher, spritzing can be a great lift for tired skin.
Find out more astringent vs toner differences in the video by Buzzle below:
So — what is toner? As you can see, this helpful liquid is several beauty products in one. Whether you want to shrink your pores or soothe irritated skin, there is a toner that will meet these needs.
What ingredient would you like to be in the toner you use? Share your thoughts below!