Cleanse. Tone. Moisturize.
We all know the mantra. But, how true is it?
I mean, we all know we have to cleanse our faces and use a moisturizer to keep skin clean, healthy, and soft. But, toner? Is that necessary, too?
For years, I used to believe so. Every day after cleansing, I’d pour some toner on a cotton pad and swipe it on my face. Then, one day, I ran out. I decided to skip toner for a couple of days, which turned into weeks and then months when I realised something funny: my skin didn’t suffer for lack of toner, at all.
Toner didn’t make it look better. Lack of toner didn’t make it look worse. Toner didn’t affect my skin at all. For all those years, I may as well just have splashed water on my face. I would have gotten the same result (and saved a lot of money, too).
So, I started wondering: why is toner so popular if it doesn’t do anything? Or does it work only for some skin types? Or was I using the wrong kind of toner all along?
What Are Toners?
Toners are lightweight, liquidy lotions that are usually applied all over the face with a cotton pad because of their runny consistency. Their formulas vary widely, but the most common ingredients are hydrating humectants (they replenish moisture), skin soothers, and astringents.
Then, there’s the alcohol. Most toners contain some. It’s one of the most important ingredients. So important that toners can be classified into three groups based on the amount of alcohol they contain:
- Freshners: the mildest form of toners, they are alcohol-free and suitable for all skin types, including dry and sensitive.
- Tonics: they contain a small amount of alcohol, and are mostly suitable for normal, combination, and oily skin.
- Astringents: the harshest form of toners, they contain antiseptic ingredients and a high amount of alcohol, and aren’t suitable for anyone. Avoid!
What Do Toners Do?
Toners are designed to do a number of things:
- Remove the impurities still left on the skin after cleansing.
- Restore the ph balance of the skin.
- Shrink the pores and prevent them from getting clogged.
- Keep oil production under control and reduce shine.
So useful, right? But, wait. Some of those jobs aren’t as important as they seem. Let’s investigate each one of them, shall we?
1. Do You Really Need A Toner To Cleanse Skin?
I get so annoyed whenever someone says you need to use a toner to get rid of the impurities your cleanser leaves behind. If your cleanser leaves anything behind, that’s a sign it’s not doing its job as it should.
Toss the cleanser, and replace it with something that works. I recommend Liz Earle Hot Cloth Cleanser. Takes everything off quickly and is so gentle on the skin.
If you ‘re using an oil-based cleanser, it’ll leave an oily residue behind. This is totally normal, and not a good reason to invest in a toner, either. Just double cleanse with a foaming cleanser. Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser is only $6.49 and does the trick just fine.
Cleansing skin is your cleanser’s, not your toner’s job.
2. Do You Really Need A Toner To Restore The Ph Balance Of The Skin?
Cleansing doesn’t just take off dirt and makeup. It also removes some of the oils that keep skin naturally moisturized. That alters your skin’s ph. So, using a toner to restore the original ph balance should be a good idea, right?
Mmm. Don’t underestimate your skin. Did you know your skin can replenish its natural ph balance on its own, and within only 15 to 30 minutes after washing, too? Do you really want to spend money on a toner that does what your skin naturally does for free?
Thought so. Besides, if you use a gentle enough cleanser, those natural oils will stay on your skin. That means no ph alteration and so nothing to restore.
Skin can restore its ph balance on its own – no toner needed!
3. Do You Really Need A Toner To Shrink Pores?
Sorry to burst your bubble, but, your pores size is genetically determined, so you can’t change it.
So, why do pores look smaller after you use toner (or better, an astringent), then? Because the alcohol has irritated your skin and caused your pores to swell. That makes them look smaller for a bit, but causes a lot of damage in the long term. Irritation is NEVER good for you.
While we’re talking pores, you should also know that toners can’t close pores, either. Nothing can. Pores aren’t doors. They can’t open and close. And why would you want to do that, anyway? If your skin has pores, it means it needs them. Period.
Toners can make your pores look smaller by irritating your skin. But, why would you want to hurt your skin like that?!
4. Do You Really Need A Toner To Keep Oil Production Under Control?
Some toners can really control oil production. But, that’s not necessarily a good thing.
It is good if the toner contains salicylic acid. It’s an exfoliant that can get inside the pores. Once there, it removes all the crap that’s clogging them up, which also makes them look smaller. It helps keep oil production under control, too.
But, most toners use something nastier to reduce oil and shine: alcohol. Here’s how it works. Alcohol dries out skin, getting rid of all the extra oil and that shine that goes with it. But, skin needs some oil. When it doesn’t have enough, it simply produces more. Before you know it, the oil is back again, as bad as it was before. It’s a vicious circle that never ends. There’s only one thing to do: stay well away from them.
Toners with salicylic acid can really help keep oil production under control. Those with alcohol, on the other hand, do more harm than good.
What About Hydrating And Anti-Aging Toners?
If you’ve read this far, you probably think that all toners, bar those with salicylic acid, are useless. But, there’s another type of toner I haven’t mentioned, yet.
I’m talking about toners that are rich in antioxidants and moisturizing ingredients. They’re more common in the East, but can be found here in the West as well, if you know what to look for. Depending on what ingredients they contain, they can give skin that extra boost of moisture, or prevent the appearance of premature wrinkles. That’s always a good thing.
So, Should You Use The Good Kind Of Toner?
That depends. Your skin will definitely benefit from them. It’s your wallet I’m more concerned about. Let me explain:
If You Have Oily Skin…
You need salicylic acid. But, whether you get it in a toner, exfoliant, serum, or moisturizer, it doesn’t matter. Just find a product you like and that works for you. If it’s a toner, use a toner. If it’s a serum, use a serum and skip the toner.
Opted for the toner? Try DHC Salicylic Acid Toner. It’s quite basic but helps to keep oil production under control.
If Your Skin Lacks Moisture…
Investing in a hydrating toner may be a good idea. Or, you can switch to a richer moisturizer. Experiment to find out what your skin prefers.
If that’s the toner, I recommend Paula’s Choice Resist Weightless Advanced Repairing Toner. It’s so hydrating, and, like all Paula’s products, packed with antioxidants and soothing agents, too.
If You’re Concerned About Wrinkles…
Antioxidants are a must. The more the merrier, really. Even if you’re using an antioxidant rich serum, your skin will still benefit from an antioxidant rich toner. But, that’s a plus. If you can afford to splurge on an extra product, go ahead and do it. But, if you’re on a budget, stick to the serum and forget the toner.
Why not use the toner, as it’s probably cheaper? Well, you could use the toner, but serums contain a higher concentration of antioxidants, so it’ll work better and faster. It’s not really worth it to save money if you save on results, too, is it?
If you want to use both and need a toner, go for Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Enriched Calming Toner. It’s packed with antioxidants that help fight premature wrinkles, and moisturizes skin, too.Toners aren't necessary. But, a good toner can give your skin a boost.Click To Tweet
The Bottom Line
Nope, toner is NOT necessary. But, the good kind of toners – those free of alcohol and rich in antioxidants, salicylic acid, and moisturizing ingredients – can give your skin a little boost. But, only invest in them if you can afford the little splurge.
SHOP THE POST
Take The Guesswork Out Of Skincare Shopping
Get access to the “Pro Skincare Library” for exclusive skincare routine “cheat sheets” and tricks to help you navigate the beauty aisles jungle like a pro and immediately know what to pick off the shelves to achieve the gorgeous skin of your dreams - even when you’re drowning in an endless sea of skincare products.