Toner vs. Tonic: Is There Really a Difference?
Whether it's knowing the difference between salt scrubs and sugar scrubs, balms and ointments or toners and astringents, learning about the purposes of similar-sounding skin-care products is important. Take toners and tonics, for example. While they may sound the same and potentially even look the same, board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com expert Joshua Zeichner, M.D., explains the skincare benefits of each, including how to determine which one to use.
What is the difference between a toner and a tonic?
Toners and tonics are both lightweight, liquid products, which is why they are recommended for use after washing your face but before you apply your heavier, thicker serums and creams. In the past, toners were traditionally designed to balance the skin's pH and address excess oil on skin’s surface, making them a solid choice for people with oily skin, says Dr. Zeichner. Tonics, on the other hand, “may have toning benefits but they are primarily used to perform a specific job, such as brightening, soothing or strengthening.” For example, the Kiehl’s Rare Earth Pore Refining Tonic is made with Amazonian white clay to help absorb excess oil and allantoin, which is found in the root of the comfrey plant to help absorb excess oil and soothe the skin. The truth is, though, “the line between tonics and toners has been blurred,” says Dr. Zeichner. “The latest toners have hydrating and anti-aging benefits and are no longer made to just remove oil.”
So, should I use a toner or a tonic?
“While traditional toners may have been a favorite for people with oily skin, now it does not matter,” explains Dr. Zeichner. “Most toners are now alcohol-free and non-drying, so they can be used across all skin types.” For instance, the Lancôme Tonique Confort Re-hydrating Comforting Toner With Acacia Honey is a silky, soothing and moisturizing toner that gently purifies and rehydrates dry and sensitive skin. Ultimately, the best way to determine whether you should use a toner or a tonic is by reading the label to see what ingredients it is made with and whether the product is designed to do what you are looking for your skin. “No toner or tonic is created equally, so it’s important to note that what may be right for someone else might be completely wrong for your skin,” adds Dr. Zeichner.