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Skin Toners: Understanding The Role of Toners In Your Skin Care Ritual

Jan 12, 2022

Skin Care

Toners may be one of the most misunderstood (and underappreciated) parts of a typical skin care routine. This is the case for a few reasons. Many people aren’t clear on what toners even really do, and descriptions of toning products online don’t always help to clarify it. With jargon like “promote bright, even skin” and “balance skin,” it all feels a bit vague, especially if you’re not a skin care aficionado. But the truth is, everyone could benefit from a quality toner.

Toners play a vital role in maintaining clear and beautiful skin. That said, not all toners are created equal. So understanding how toning products vary, plus which ones are best for your specific skin type and/or concerns is key when looking to incorporate a toner into your routine.

What is Toner, and What Does It Do?

At their core, toners (which often have the consistency of water) remove excess oil from the skin. This is particularly useful for people who experience acne, bumpiness, or blemishes in general.

Historically, toners were used as an extra step in cleansing, incorporating high concentrations of alcohol to remove any remaining traces of oil on the skin’s surface. But based on what we know now, overly cleansing the skin actually works against clear skin, as it strips the skin of natural oils needed to maintain balance (i.e. not disrupting your skin microbiome which protects your skin).

Today’s toners are formulated to remove only traces of excess debris, while also nourishing skin after the use of a cleanser, replenishing nutrients and minerals that are removed when washing your face. So while they still promote clear skin, they aren’t harsh. And in addition to toning, many toning products also include other ingredients to address other skin care concerns, be that hydration or calming.

Benefits of Face Toners

To sum it up, face toners:

  • Remove excess oil and debris: Think dirt, bacteria, pollution, and leftover makeup that can all linger after washing your face.
  • Protect skin from environmental stressors: Toners help to close gaps in skin cells, creating a protective barrier for your skin. One happy side effect of this is that it also makes your pores appear smaller.
  • Improves the effectiveness of other skin care products: By balancing the pH level of your skin, toners allow products to have better absorption.
  • Soothes dry or irritated skin: Toners replenish essential vitamins and nutrients your skin might be lacking.

Are Toners Good for All Skin Types?

The short answer is, yes! Toners play an integral role in maintaining healthy skin, regardless of your skin concerns, largely because they help all of your other products work even better. But like with any product, it’s important to use one that’s formulated for your skin type.

Sensitive Skin

Though the toners of two decades ago were likely too harsh for sensitive skin, many modern toners are formulated with ingredients that work to reduce redness or irritation. If you have sensitive skin, steer clear of alcohol-based formulas and instead look for toners with calming ingredients like Rosewater or Chamomile.

Dry Skin

The best skin toners for dry skin are ones that specifically focus on hydration. For instance, toners with Hyaluronic Acid help retain moisture in the skin for longer, reducing flakiness or tightness.

Acne-Prone Skin

For those who struggle with acne, an astringent toner will help to control the production of excess sebum while reducing breakouts and blackheads by filling the gaps in your skin cells, as we mentioned earlier in the benefits of toner. Look for ingredients such as Tea Tree Oil and Vitamin A.

Normal/Combination Skin

If you have relatively normal or combination skin, you can rely on toners that mainly target balancing the skin’s pH levels and removing any excess impurities. You can also switch things up if you find your skin needs vary based on the season (e.g. needing hydrating formulas in the winter vs. acne-fighting formulas in the summer).

All of this to say, when looking for a toner, keep an eye on the ingredient lists, plus how the product is described, and use your judgment based on what you know about your skin. You can also consult with your dermatologist or an esthetician for personal recommendations.

How And When To Apply Toners

Toners can be applied in a few different ways. The most typical method for applying a toner is via a cotton ball or pad, but some toners come in mist form, or you can apply directly with your fingers (make sure your hands are clean).

The best time to use a toner is after cleansing your face and before adding any other products, such as treatments or moisturizers. This allows you to remove excess oil and debris leftover after washing your face while prepping your skin to absorb your other products. When in doubt, the skin care application rule of thumb for products (post-cleansing) is to start with the thinnest products and build up to the thickest. If you toned after moisturizing, for instance, you’d remove your moisturizer and also miss out on the opportunity to boost its hydrating effects.

As for the frequency of application, most skin types can tolerate the use of a toner twice a day (morning and evening) if the toner itself is soothing and mild. More aggressive toners, however, will need to be tested out to see how your skin reacts. Start by using the toner once a day (nighttime is a good place to start so you can remove makeup and debris from the day), and then bump up to twice a day if you need/want to.

If you find that your skin is reacting negatively to a toner, opt for another formula or reduce application to once per day. When trying any new products, it’s wise to start with one new product at a time so you can better understand how it impacts your skin.

Add A Toner To Your Ritual

Curating your skin care routine, when done intentionally, evolves into a holistic skin care ritual that centers around self-care. Caring for our skin is one, simple way to care for ourselves, fostering beauty from the inside out. To round out your skin care ritual, we recommend exploring the addition of toner to your collection of beauty products. Not only does it offer skin-changing benefits, but incorporating it is a reminder to yourself that taking care of yourself matters.

Our Balance Restoring Serum doubles as a toner, clarifying skin and minimizing the appearance of pores and dark spots. Alcohol-free, we’ve opted for Tea Tree Oil, which has been used for centuries to treat and cut wounds with its soothing antioxidants. We’ve also formulated the serum to restore your natural moisture barrier with ingredients like Cucumber Extract and Chamomile. Given its restorative and soothing nature, our serum is ideal for all skin types.


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