This Is How (and When) You Should Be Applying Toner
We’re advised to double—even triple—cleanse our skin, exfoliate a few times a week, apply serums before bed, and be diligent with broad-spectrum sunscreen. When pesky blemishes appear, acne-fighting spot treatments come to the rescue. For extra skin hydration, we keep sheet masks and moisturizers handy. Peel pads, essences, and toners are also on rotation. Long story short: we frequently purchase and test out trending products, but do we know what the most basic of them actually do for our skin?
Take your toner, for instance. Have you ever finished applying toner to your face and paused, wondering, what exactly is this toner doing for my skin? Or, what is the right way and right time to be applying toner? Sometimes we forget to ask these critical questions or do our due diligence before trying a product. In an effort to keep you from applying your skin care products willy-nilly, we’re breaking down exactly how and when to correctly apply toner, below.
What Is Toner?
There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about toner. Some people wrongly assume that all toners are harsh or drying on the skin, or that they don’t serve a real purpose. We’re not going to pretend they are the most important product in your skin care lineup, but they do exist for a reason.
Toners are a liquid or lotion that can, first and foremost, clean the skin’s surface. But that’s not all a toner can do. Today’s toners actually serve many purposes. There are toners that can hydrate the skin, balance the skin’s pH levels post-cleansing, soothe the skin, remove excess oils, and even fight acne. Depending on your skin type and concerns, you can pick the best toner for you. For example, if you have oily skin and a perpetually shiny t-zone, you can reach for a mattifying toner. If your skin is dry and tight, you can reach for a hydrating toner. If your acne-prone skin is acting up, you can reach for an acne-fighting toner.
Think of a toner as a back-up plan to your cleansing routine to ensure all traces of dirt and impurities are effectively whisked away, while also ensuring your skin’s pH balance is in check. “If the pH balance in a product is too alkaline, the product can be over-drying and cause the skin irritation, as well as little protection against bacteria growth and breakouts may occur,” says board-certified dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant Dr. Dendy Engelman. “If the product is too acidic, it could potentially strip away natural oils and cause disruption to the lipid barrier of the skin.” With the help of a ph-balancing toner, you can help keep your skin protected against over-drying.
When Should You Apply Toner?
As mentioned, toners go beyond basic cleansing. They can also deliver targeted benefits against a handful of skin concerns. The best time to apply a toner is immediately after using a face wash, both morning and night. Since some face washes and cleansers can be harsh and strip the skin, following with a balancing toner can help soothe your skin while removing any lingering cleanser residue, dirt, and/or makeup. While it’s not a bad idea to tone your skin twice per day, if you’re short on time you can stick to toning in the evening only after wearing a day’s worth of makeup and exposing your skin to environmental aggressors.
How Do You Apply Toner?
How you apply toner is just as important as the product you pick. Right after cleansing, soak a cotton pad in the toner of your choice and sweep it across your facial contours. Depending on how effective your cleansing session was, you may need to use multiple cotton pads. You’ll know you’re done if the cotton pad comes away from your face looking clean.
What Toner Should I Use?
There are plenty of toners available, so pick one that best suits your skin type and concerns. After applying your toner, follow with your serum, moisturizer, sunscreen, etc. Continue reading below for our picks of some of the best toners from the L’Oréal portfolio of brands.
Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol-Free Toner
Made with whole flowers and pure extracts, this effective toner can help gently cleanse and soothe the skin without the use of alcohol or harsh drying agents. It's formulated with calendula, burdock root extract and allantoin.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner
Formulated with salicylic acid and glycolic acid, this toner is best suited for oily or acne-prone skin types. The formula can help remove excess dirt and dead skin cells from the skin’s surface for a clean feeling.
AcneFree Witch Hazel Mattifying Toner
If you suffer from year-long oily skin, then this mattifying toner will work wonders for your dewy-looking complexion. The formula—with a high concentration of witch hazel, plus exfoliating glycolic acid and soothing aloe vera—can remove leftover debris while giving the skin a fresh, clean and matte look.
AcneFree With Hazel Mattifying Toner, $7 MSRP