Do you really need toner? Toner has undergone an interesting transformation in the past few decades. When I was in skincare school, even our relatively modern study material referred to it by the mostly now-dated term “astringent.” That word conjures up tactile memories of pretty unpleasant sensations for even the oiliest of skin types due to its harshness. (Like “cream rinse” for conditioner and “dungarees” for denim, it appears this term has been rightfully retired.)
As you probably know if you’ve experienced intermittent skin issues, breakouts and irritation often go hand in hand. Even when your skin is producing crazy amounts of sebum, using a toner with lots of alcohol can greatly exacerbate the problem. (The layman’s version of this phenomenon that I’ve been taught is that when oily skin is stripped frequently of oil, it creates even more to compensate. While I wouldn’t advise adding oil, as some believe, I have witnessed this vicious cycle on the faces of breakout-plagued clients.) The vast majority of skin-types don’t require such severe intervention, even if your first impulse is to dissolve the oil away with “stronger” ingredients- essentially, Seabreeze is out.
So as you’re allocating your skincare budget, is toner worth the investment? Yes and no. The best strategy for toner use is not to strip skin, even if it feels temporarily good to get it squeaky and oil-free. Although you won’t find many high-end beauty fans rocking toners like the aforementioned Seabreeze or cleansers like classic Noxzema, ingredients like camphor, clove or menthol products often appeal to oily-skin types and exacerbate the breakout cycle. Toners with harsh ingredients are certainly not going to benefit your skin.
However, toners do have a place both in the cleansing routine and in skincare overall. In facials, estheticians often use the product between every step of a facial, regardless of facial style. Toner has many functions- it serves as a second step for cleansing, removing residual traces of eye-makeup remover and cleanser. It provides a layer of hydration to skin (this is important) before moisturizer is applied- moisturizer, both for face and body, works best when there’s a little bit of moisture to lock into skin.
Toner can also be used to refresh skin throughout the day, and add little moisture. Lastly, toner can be used to set makeup when lightly applied in a spray toner bottle.
For Oily Skin: Try Bliss Daily Detoxifying Facial Toner with hydrophilic hyaluronic acid. Citrus provides a slight astringent effect without stripping skin of essential moisture.
For Dry Skin: Perricone MD Firming Facial Toner has firming Alpha Lipoic Acids to soothe skin and diminish fine lines.
For Combination Skin: DDF Aloe Toning Complex is soothing and provides all over moisture.
For All Skin Types: Rosewater, a common ingredient in certain cuisines, is one of the oldest and most revered toners for all skin types. It’s refreshing and inexpensive, and can be found at food markets and decanted into sprayers for frequent use.
Do you use toner frequently or even daily? How do you work toner into your skincare routine?