Toners help restore your skin to a healthy pH and remove any excess oil or impurities that your cleanser missed. Here’s how to incorporate one into your routine.

What Is toner?

Think of a toner as insurance for your cleanser. The watery toner formulas can serve as a final clean sweep post-cleanser to ensure that all makeup, excess oil and impurities are removed before you move on to your treatment products. Toners can also help balance your skin’s pH levels after cleansing. Depending on the formula, toners can offer additional hydrating, exfoliating, soothing or acne-fighting benefits. Plus, they can help products like essences and serums penetrate the skin more effectively. 

When to Apply a Toner

Apply a toner immediately after cleansing morning and night. Follow with treatment products like an essence, serum and moisturizer. 

How to Apply Toner

There are two ways to use a toner: The first is to saturate a cotton pad and gently sweep it across the face. The second is to pour the formula into clean hands and press it into skin. Neither method is better or more effective than the other — it really comes down to personal preference and your skin concerns. For example, if you have acne-prone skin, you might want to avoid touching your face, so the cotton pad technique could be the best choice. For more tips, check out this guide on how and when to apply toner

Common Types of Toners

Exfoliating Toners 

Because the ingredients in toners aren’t often highly concentrated, this category doesn’t take the place of your exfoliator step. When formulated with chemical exfoliants like alpha-hydroxy-acids or beta-hydroxy-acids, however, exfoliating toners can help gently purify pores, prevent acne blemishes and promote a glowier and smoother complexion. 

Editor’s Pick: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner

For more recommendations, check out these articles: 


Hydrating Toners 

Dry skin types can benefit from a hydrating toner that’s infused with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and formulated without moisture-zapping ingredients like alcohol.

Editor’s Pick: Lancôme Tonique Confort

For more recommendations, check out this article: 


Soothing Toners 

The right toner is safe to use on sensitive skin. Look for a soothing toner formula that contains anti-inflammatory ingredients such as aloe vera and calendula and is free of potential irritants like alcohol and fragrance.

Editor’s Pick: Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal-Extract Toner

For more recommendations, check out this article: 



Astringents are usually more potent than toners. Besides cleansing, they can be used to help tighten the appearance of pores. In comparison, toners tend to be milder and less drying than astringents. These formulas are best for those with oily or acne-prone skin. For more on the difference between toners and astringents, check out this guide

Try: Thayers Original Witch Hazel Astringent


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