What’s Skin Toner?

Skin toner is one of the most perplexing and enigmatic items in today’s skin care repertoire; many people are unsure of its purpose and whether to use it.

Originally, toners were designed to fight acne; the classic formulations contained mostly alcohol, resulting in overly dry skin.

With time, toners have diversified, and there is currently one formulated for every skin type.

Although using a skin toner today is not considered crucial, there are several advantages to its use.

Toners are an effective way to benefit your skin without adding a lot of time to your current routine.

Should I Bother?

While toners are not an essential part of the contemporary skincare regimen, they have multiple merits when used as part of a daily skincare routine.

Benefits of using a facial toner include:

  1. Removal of trace amounts of dirt, oil, dead skin, and residual facial cleanser.
  2. Balanced skin pH; toners help to return the skin to a lower (acidic) pH after cleansing.
  3. Acne control.
  4. Enhanced penetration of subsequent skincare products into the skin when applied prior to their use.

So, there is really no reason not to use a toner.

How to Use Toner

Toners should preferably be used immediately after washing your face, when the skin has been wet, so that it’s more easily absorbed by the skin.

Using toner immediately after washing your face facilitates removal of debris and residual cleanser.

Toner can be applied to a cotton round (pad) until it is damp and then gently applied to the skin of the face.

The cotton pad is then swept across the skin from the center to the outside of the face until the pad is clean. There is no need to rinse your face after using a toner.

Face-Pads
Round Cotton Pads

Types of Toner

There are a variety of toners specifically designed for use on different skin types:

  1. Deep cleaning: toners with alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) can help to remove dead skin that accumulates around the pores, causing them to appear smaller.
  2. Sensitive skin: toners with “skin calming botanicals” such as chamomile, grape seed oil, and green tea, can be used to soothe the skin.
  3. Oil-dissolving: toners with salicylic acid are good for dissolving oil without excessive drying of the skin, which is ideal for acne-prone skin.
  4. Exfoliating: toners containing natural exfoliants, such as papaya extracts and lactic acid, can be used to refresh dull skin.
  5. Hydrating: toners made with rose water, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid can be used to deeply hydrate the skin.

    La-Mer-The-Oil-Absorbing-Tonic
    La Mer
    The Oil Absorbing Tonic

Common Ingredients

  • Salicylic Acid: gently exfoliates dead skin while increasing cell turnover and collagen production. Keratolytic (peeling agent) that helps to induce shedding of the outer skin layer.
  • Lactic Acid: gently hydrates dry skin without thinning. Stimulates collagen renewal and fades hyperpigmentation.
  • Glycerin: moisturizer with emollient properties that softens the skin.
  • Aloe Vera: soothes and moisturizes the skin; anti-inflammatory. Contains antioxidants, enzymes, and vitamins A and C.Aloe-Vera
  • Hyaluronic Acid: replenishes moisture and creates a “plumping” effect.
  • Witch Hazel: natural astringent that makes skin appear “tighter”; it contains tannins that reduce swelling, facilitate skin repair, and inhibit bacterial growth.

    Witch-Hazel
    Witch Hazel
  • Algae: contains minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids to detoxify and remove irritants from the skin; it conditions, softens, and hydrates the skin.

    Neutrogena-Acne-Stress-Control
    Neutrogena
    Acne Stress Control
    2% Salicylic Acid Toner

Toner vs. Astringent

To further bewilder skincare consumers, toner is often used interchangeably with astringent.

Although the two products may share similarities (both are water-based cleansing products), they usually contain different ingredients for different purposes.

Toners contain humectants, such as glycerin, which help to draw water into the skin.

Astringents generally contain alcohol and are designed to remove excess oil from the skin, which can lead to dryness. Isopropyl-Alcohol

Some overlap may exist between toners and astringents (e.g., toners containing salicylic acid or witch hazel for use on acne-prone skin).

5 Excellent Astringents

  1. Raya 202 Aloe Cucumber Astringent
  2. Zirh Refresh Invigorating Astringent
  3. Anthony Purifying Astringent Pads
  4. Raya 204 Camphor Astringent
  5. Nurtrogena Clear Pore Oil Eliminating Astringent

What’s Micellar Water?

I first remember learning about micelles in cell biology class in college.

A micelle is a droplet (suspended in water) composed of molecules with one end that is attracted to water (hydrophillic), and one that is repelled by it (hydrophobic).

The hydrophillic ends make up the outer “shell” and interact with the water molecules, and the hydrophobic ends make up the center of the molecule (where dirt and debris is trapped).

Micellar-Water
Micelle Molecule

This allows the suspension to accomplish the same thing as a detergent; it increases the amount of surface area of the water that is available to dissolve dirt and pollutants.

Micellar water and facial toner are often grouped together because they both liquid products.

Micellar water is unique in that it can actually cleanse and hydrate the skin at the same time.

Micellar water is applied with a cotton pad and swept across the face until the pad is clean (much the same way as using a pre-moistened pad for acne).

Although it’s effective as a cleanser capable of removing makeup on its own, it is probably best to use it after cleansing the face to remove residual traces of cleanser and dirt (the same was that a toner is used).

In a pinch, using micellar water by itself is preferable to going to sleep without washing your face.

5 Micellar Water Solutions

  1. La Mer The Cleansing Micellar Water
  2. Biore Charcoal Cleansing Micellar Water
  3. La Prairie Crystal Micellar Water
  4. Bioderma Sebium H2O Purifying Cleansing Micelle Solution
  5. Garnier SkinActive Mattifying Micellar Cleansing Water

Nothing to Lose

Despite not being paramount to a skincare routine, there are multiple advantages to adding a toner to your regimen.

Toners should be applied after washing your face so that they can “prime” the skin prior to the application of subsequent products.

No matter what type of skin you have, there is a toner designed with your personal needs in mind.

Even though toners and astringents have many things in common, most toners are less likely to dry out your skin.

Micellar water is a solution of extremely tiny lipid molecules suspended in water that is able to simultaneously hydrate and cleanse your skin.


Best Toners for Men

  1. SkinCeuticles Conditioning Toner
  2. Dermatoligica Multi-Active Toner
  3. Ole Herriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner
  4. Brickell Men’s Balancing Toner
  5. Baxter Herbal Mint Toner
  6. Ursa Major 4-in-1 Essential Face Toner
  7. Clinique for Men Exfoliating Tonic
  8. Origins Zero Oil Pore Purifying Toner
  9. Chantecaille Pure Rosewater
  10. Sunday Riley Martian Mattifying Melting Water-Gel Toner

Personal Favorites 

  1. La Mer The Oil Absorbing Tonic
  2. La Prairie Cellular Refining Lotion
  3. SkinCeuticles LHA Toner
  4. La Mer The Tonic
  5. Estee Lauder Nutritious Micro-Algae Pore Minimizing Shake Tonic

Toner Values

  1. Kiehl’s Cucumber Herbal Alcohol Free Toner
  2. C & C Tough Love Acne Clearing Peppermint Toner
  3. The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
  4. Neutrogena Acne Stress Control Triple Action Toner
  5. Thayers Rose Petal and Witch Hazel Alcohol Free Toner

6 Replies to “What’s Skin Toner?”

  1. I have to say the toner is the favorite part of my skin regime! My husband is slowly getting into the whole skin care regime too! Sometimes he even uses my toner.

    1. Thanks for your post…I do think that the toner step is often overlooked, but it can be SO helpful! Lol. I just turned 42, and still no wrinkles or lines. Maybe it’s working…I usedto use my ex’s toner and face cream just to try new things. It’s really all the same.

  2. Interesting post!
    I did not know what skin toner was before reading this post.
    I like the sound of the toners with skin calming botanicals because that could be soothing for my slightly sensitive and dry skin.
    I have never used a skin toner but will look to add this to my routine.
    Thanks for the helpful list of products to try!

    1. Thanks for the site visit!
      I am going to try and re-arrange the lists of products with some that are my personal favorites. It’s sometimes difficult to categorize the products into specific categories because some of them fit into multiple sections.

      A good one that comes to mind is Keihl’s Cucumber Herbal Alcohol-Free Toner
      It’s about $15-20 for 8.4 oz.

  3. Thanks for your post, you provides all information needed so i can select my suitable toner based on my skin type and how to use.
    However, When the effective time to use the toner, day or night? and can be used during the day and exposure to sun!
    Thanks,

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