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  • Writer's pictureAnjana Rajbhandary

What does face toner do?

What does toner do for your face?

You likely know the importance of moisturizer, serum and sunscreen in your skincare routine. However, if you want glowy skin, toner is a must.

From tightening pores to removing impurities to balancing your skin’s pH level, a good toner can accomplish a lot. But choosing the right toner for your skin isn’t so simple. There are hydrating toners for those with dry skin, gentle toners for sensitive skin, and toners that work to reduce pimples for those with acne-prone skin, to name a few.

Not sure which one you need? Keep reading to see how toners can benefit your skin.

What is face toner?

Face toner is a water-based liquid that’s usually infused with skin-soothing and nourishing ingredients like witch hazel, glycerin and fermented yeast extracts. A toner’s purpose is to refresh your skin without stripping it of its natural moisture — a lack of moisture can leave your skin dry and irritated.

Toner helps your skin get ready to efficiently absorb other skincare ingredients in your serum and/or moisturizer. It can also remove the last traces of dirt, impurities and makeup left behind after you wash your face. When added to your skincare routine, a toner can improve the appearance of your skin, making you look more luminous.

Restoring your skin’s pH with toner

Among its many benefits, toners are known for their ability to restore the skin’s pH level. pH is measured on a numeric scale that goes from 0-14. Lemon juice, for instance, has a pH of 1 and is highly acidic. Water has a pH of around 7, which makes it neutral. An example of a very alkaline product is bleach, with a pH of 13.

The skin on your face is naturally acidic and can fall anywhere between 4-5.5; the safe range for pH in skin care products falls between 3-7. However, some cleansers, especially those made for oily skin, can have a higher pH, which might leave your skin feeling too dry. Toners, which are typically in the 5-7 range, work to bring your skin’s pH level back into balance after you’ve washed it.

How to use toner in your skincare routine

Face toner should be the second step in your skincare routine, after washing your face with a cleanser or face wash. Simply soak a cotton ball with the toner and gently sweep it across your face and neck every morning and evening after cleansing. You may, in fact, want to use two different toners: a moisturizing toner in the morning and an exfoliating toner in the evening.

Who should use toner?

Anyone can use toner. If you have acne-prone or oily skin, a toner can help clean your pores and keep oil production in check. If you wear makeup, a toner can effectively remove the last traces of it. For everyone else, adding a toner to your skincare routine can help the overall health of your skin.

Benefits of face toner

In addition to balancing the pH of your skin, face toners have other benefits.

  • Improve the effectiveness of other products: According to dermatologists, exfoliating toners can help prepare your face so products can penetrate deeply into the skin.

  • Remove impurities: Toners can remove excess dirt, oil and makeup from your skin, leaving it healthy and clean.

  • Minimize the appearance of pores: Toner can help keep your skin smooth and moisturized, which can lead to the reduction of pore size with time.

  • Protect the skin: Toners prevent pollution and grime (which can otherwise cause inflammation and acne) from getting deep inside your skin.

  • Reduce signs of aging: Some toners have active ingredients like alpha-hydroxy acids that can reduce visible signs of aging, such as fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.

Best toners for your skin type

Best exfoliating toner

Youth to the People Kombucha + 11% AHA Exfoliation Power Toner: available at Youth to the People and Sephora This multitasking toner has 8% lactic acid and 3% glycolic acid to gently exfoliate your skin and kombucha to enhance skin's natural microbiome, leaving it clearer and firmer.

Best for dry/sensitive skin

Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner: available at Ulta Beauty and Amazon This hydrating toner has hyaluronic acid to boost moisture retention, and centella asiatica to calm sensitive skin while maintaining optimal pH balance.

Best for oily skin

COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner: available at Ulta Beauty This daily exfoliating toner has glycolic acid to brighten skin and betaine salicylate to clean pores. It has a pH of 4-5.

Best for acne-prone skin

Proactiv Revitalizing Toner: available at Proactiv, Sephora and Ulta Beauty This toner was developed by dermatologists specifically to reduce acne and blemishes, and it's suitable for anyone with oily, combination or normal skin.

Best for sensitive skin

Caudalie Vinopure Clear Skin Purifying Toner: available at SkinStore, Violet Grey and LovelySkin This toner has 100% natural salicylic acid that helps minimize pores and control oil. It's gentle enough for use on very sensitive skin.

Best drugstore toner

Pixi Glow Tonic: available at Ulta Beauty, SkinStore and Amazon Made with 5% glycolic acid, this toner can exfoliate and brighten your skin on a budget. It has aloe and ginseng to soothe the skin.

Best toner with vitamin C

Murad Environmental Shield Essential-C Toner: available at Murad, Ulta Beauty and LovelySkin In addition to balancing the skin's pH, this toner has vitamin C to protect the skin from environmental stressors and orange fruit extract to refresh the skin.

Best toner for redness

Dermalogica Multi-Active Toner: available at Dermalogica, Sephora and LovelySkin This light facial toner spray has lavender to soothe skin and arnica to prevent inflammation, resulting in less redness.

Best toner for pores

Perricone MD No:Rinse Intensive Pore Minimizing Toner: available at Sephora, Ulta Beauty and LovelySkin This powerful toner can gently exfoliate and target enlarged pores while minimizing oil production and shine, leaving you with clean and matte skin.

Best vegan toner

Herbivore Jasmine Green Tea Balancing Toner: available at Sephora and Credo Beauty This jasmine water toner is infused with green tea and witch hazel to balance the skin's pH. This product is vegan, cruelty-free, non-comedogenic and free of silicone, fragrance, gluten, artificial ingredients, unnatural preservatives and fillers. It also comes in recyclable packaging.


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