Toners: Forget Everything You Think You Know

July 20, 2016
Jessica Khorsandi
By: Jessica Khorsandi | by L'Oréal
Toners: Forget Everything You Think You Know


Every girl has heard of toner, but many have no clue what it even is, so let’s clear up the fog. On any given day, skin is exposed to dirt, impurities, pollution, and cosmetics that can wreak havoc on a complexion. This is why cleansing is a non-negotiable part of a skin care routine; you want to get every last bit of pore-clogging gunk off your face to avoid the common enemy #1: breakouts. Sometimes, though, the cleansing process can be rushed or not as thorough as it needs to be to completely rid the skin of all the grime. Following up a cleansing routine with a toner can do a few things:

  1. It can help ensure that dirt, excess oil, leftover cleanser, and basically any and all impurities are washed away and off your skin’s surface.
  2. Certain cleansers and environmental aggressors can mess around with the skin’s pH level. A toner may help balance the skin’s natural pH.  
  3. Most formulas can help soothe, moisturize, and hydrate the skin.


We might be going out on a limb here, but the question “Should I be using toner?” is kind of a mystery—nudged somewhere between the age-old questions of "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" and “Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?”—when it comes to skin care. Everyone’s got an opinion in the debate—but who’s right and who’s wrong?

Some experts will tell you that toner is nothing more than a waste of time. And, let’s face it, nobody likes to waste their time, especially when their skin is part of the equation (and potentially at jeopardy). Then, just when you’re about to swear off toner forever, another pro tells you repeatedly that your skin needs it, it’s a cleanser’s back-up plan, and one of the most crucial steps in the cleansing process. The jury’s still out, and yes, it’s confusing as hell. expert and celebrity esthetician Mzia Shiman gave us a glimpse inside her morning and evening skin routine, and guess what—she tones her skin twice per day after cleansing. If toner is good enough for her, it’s certainly good enough for us. 


Ahead, shop 3 of our favorite toners—we’re looking at you, Kiehl’s—on the market right now.


Suited for dry and sensitive skin, this mild toner is formulated with gentle herbal extracts for a soothing, balancing, and mildly astringent effect. Skin is left soft, clean, soothed and (duh) toned. 

Kiehl’s Cucumber Herbal Alcohol-Free Toner, $16


Normal to oily skin types should reach for this toner formulated to gently remove residue, dirt, and oil without stripping the skin of its vital moisture. The non-drying formula is infused with imperata cylindrica root extract and antarcticine to soothe and hydrate the skin. 

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Toner, $16 


This high-performance toner infuses skin with hydrating actives for noticeably cleaner and softer appearing skin. Activated C in the formula helps visibly diminish the appearance of dark spots and skin discoloration. After cleansing, moisten a cotton pad with the toner and apply it to the face in sweeping motions. 

Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Clarity-Activating Toner, $42

Remember: There is no one toner that fits all. Discuss with your dermatologist which toner is right for you, and whether or not you should make it a staple in your routine.

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