Is Toner Necessary?

This is a heated topic among beauty experts and skincare professionals alike: is it really necessary to incorporate toner into our skincare regimens? 

This is a heated topic among beauty experts and skincare professionals alike: is it really necessary to incorporate toner into our skincare regimens?  There are many theories as to why we should or should not use toner.  We’ll discuss the reasoning behind these concepts and give our opinion.

What is toner?

A toner is a liquid that is applied immediately after the skin is cleansed.  Its main purpose is to remove any residual dirt, soap, and oil that have remained on the skin.  By doing so, people sometimes experience a “tight, refreshed” feeling, and pores may seem more diminished in size.

Toners are also known as pH-balancing liquids.  When we wash our face, we often use soaps that are alkaline (a pH of between 7.1 and 14).  By nature, our skin’s pH is slightly acidic at 5.5.  Toners help to reduce the skin’s pH to its natural state.

Types of Toners

Skin fresheners:  These are the mildest of toners.  They have virtually no (0-10%) alcohol and are best suited with people who have dry to normal skin.  A popular example is rosewater.

Skin tonics:  Tonics have a slightly higher alcohol content (up to 20%) and can be used by people with normal or combination skin types.  Orange flower water is a type of tonic.

Astringents:  Astringents are the strongest of all toners.  They contain the most alcohol (20-60%).  They should only be used by people with oily or acneic skin.  Witch hazel is an example.

Arguments Against Using Toner

Many people, including some dermatologists and skincare experts, think that toners are an absolute waste of money.  They say that a cleanser suited for your skin type should already properly clean the skin.  They also state that toners can be very harsh, stripping away natural oils that are supposed to lubricate and protect the skin.  They further claim that you can get the same “tightened pores” effect by simply splashing cold water on your cleansed face to constrict them.

Our Opinion

So what do we think of toners?  We believe that there is a place for toners in the skincare regimen.  Let’s address the three statements above.

First, it is an unfortunate truth, but most people are not using a proper cleanser.  And even if you are, think about this: how many times have you used your bar soap in the shower because you didn’t have time to use the face wash?  Also, we still sometimes see traces of dirt and makeup on our toner-drenched cotton ball even after using a skin brush like the Clarisonic PRO.  To us, a clean palette for our antioxidants and moisturizers is a must.

TonerAnd yes, toners can be harsh on the skin if you are using the wrong one!  Choosing the right toner for your skin type is essential.  Cosmeceutical-grade toners are designed to accommodate many different skin types, and many even have soothing lubricants such as glycerin.  The general rule of thumb?  Most people are best suited for alcohol-free toners.  Only people with very oily skin should use astringents.  If in doubt, do a half-face test for one week.  If your skin feels very dry at the end of 7 days compared to the non-toned side, your toner is too strong.

Finally, we agree that cold water or air can give you a “tight and refreshed” feeling.  However, most toners are known for also correcting your skin’s pH.  Tap water is still alkaline at an average of 8.1 pH in most of the country.  If we had the choice of using alkaline water or a pH-balanced toner, we’d choose the latter.

So the bottom line is to choose the correct toner for your skin type.  We believe people are turned off by toners because they may not be using the right ones.  That’s our two cents – what’s yours?

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