Is Your Skincare Regime Missing This Crucial Step?

It could be the secret to healthy, glowing skin.

toner, skincare, clear skin, beauty, advice
Image: Sara Donaldson via @harperandharley

I’ve been obediently applying a toner since I started a skincare regime. But even though I consider myself a beauty fanatic, toners have always been somewhat of a mystery to me. Sure, I love the refreshing aspect of a toner, but I’m sure about their other skin benefits. And, I bet I’m not alone.

That’s why I decided to call in the skincare gurus for the lowdown.

What is a toner?

According to FacePlus Medispa’s Advanced Dermal and Laser Therapist, Yvonne Culhane, a toner completes the skin cleansing routine. “A toner’s main function is to regulate the PH levels of the skin post-cleansing,” she explains.

How do you apply it?

It’s fairly simple. Right after cleansing, use cotton pads to apply toner to dry skin. According to Culhane, the cotton pads should come away completely clean.

If you’re using a spray toner, apply liberally over the face. Spray toners can also be sprayed over makeup throughout the day to hydrate the skin, says Emma Hobson, Education Manager for the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica.

What are the skin benefits?

According to Hobson, toners are designed as treatment products for specific results for the individual’s skin condition. However, toners in general terms are designed to:

  • Remove traces of makeup, pollution, and impurities.
  • Boost the moisture content of the skin to help reduce dehydration and fine lines.
  • Even out the skin’s surface porosity (i.e. they’ll help balance out the dry patches).
  • Introduce water-soluble ingredients into the skin such as antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, vitamins, peptides etc.
  • Prepare the skin for moisturiser.

How do you choose the right one?

Like any other skincare product, the key to choosing the right toner is to pick one that’s suited to your skin type. As a general rule of thumb, avoid toners with alcohol and artificial fragrance, as they can be drying, warns Hobson.

1. Sensitive skin

Sensitive skin, toner, skincare

If your skin is sensitive, Culhane recommends looking for ingredients such as aloe vera and rose water. Why? Both of these ingredients have a calming and soothing effect. Dr. Spiller’s Aloe Sensitive Tonic and Sodashi’s Calming Rose Face Mist are great options.

2. Dry skin

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For dry skin, water or glycerin-based toners will help add moisture back into the skin, says Culhane. We love Burt’s Bees Rosewater Toner and Kiehl’s alcohol-free Ultra Facial Toner because they both promise to soothe and hydrate without stripping the skin. 

3. Normal skin

Normal skin, skincare, toner, beauty adviceNormal skin types should look for cucumber in the ingredients, according to both skin experts. Dermalogica’s Multi-Active Toner combines Arnica and cucumber extracts to help keep skin smooth and refreshed. Meanwhile, Pixi’s Glow Tonic is an exfoliating toner that works to slough off dead skin cells for a healthy, radiant glow.

4. Oily skin

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If you’re on the oily end of the spectrum, a key ingredient to look out for is witch hazel, says Culhane. S.W. Basics’ Toner is made with only five good-for-your-skin ingredients—water, raw apple cider vinegar, witch hazel, and clary sage and sandalwood essential oils—and it’s affordable. Aveda’s Botanical Kinetics Toning Mist also harnesses witch hazel, along with white oak and peppermint, to help balance oily complexions.