Facial Toner: What It Is & Why Your Arsenal Should Never Be Without It

November 16, 2018
Margaret Fisher
By: Margaret Fisher | skincare.com by L'Oréal
Facial Toner: What It Is & Why Your Arsenal Should Never Be Without It

If you’ve heard of facial toner, you’ve also probably heard quite a few opinions on whether or not it’s a must-have product in a skin care routine. While everyone is entitled to their own thoughts on facial toner, we at Skincare.com firmly believe that toning can make a big difference in the look and feel of your complexion, from dry skin to oily skin.  

We also believe that it’s important to know the benefits of facial toner before deciding to cut it out of your routine—so that’s precisely what we’re here to help you achieve. Read on to discover everything you need to know about toner, including what it is, the purpose it serves, and how to use most formulas. But that’s not all. We’re also sharing our picks of the best facial toners—from the L’Oréal portfolio of brands—to try out, just in case you realize it’s more of an essential step than you first thought.

What Is Facial Toner?

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Typing in the words “toner skin care” into a quick Internet search renders titles that are basically all variations of the same question: what is a toner? Upon hearing its name, you may have initially associated it with toning your muscles, and not without some trepidation involved. But worry not—we’re not talking about toning the look of your muscles. There’s no sweat involved when it comes to using a toner in skin care, and the only time your heart rate will go up is when you see what it’s doing for your skin. But before we get into just what a toner can do for your skin, let’s go back to dealing with that first question: just what is a toner, anyway?   

At its core, you can think of a toner as the backup singer to a cleanser’s lead vocals. Sometimes a simple cleanse is just not enough to carry all those pesky impurities—excess oil, dirt, leftover makeup—away from your skin. This may be the reason why, no matter how clean you may think your skin is, you still have frequent breakouts. Toners, though, have your cleanser’s back. It goes in and finishes the job, helping to make sure that when impurities are gone they’re gone for good.  

Also keep in mind that a toner should not be confused with an astringent. Although both are water-based solutions that can give your skin a deep clean, toners tend to be a lot milder and less drying than astringents. More on what else toners can do, next.   

What Does Facial Toner Do?

To determine if your skin care routine should include toner, you’ll first need to know what toner can do. In the past, the primary purpose of toner was to balance the skin’s natural pH levels. That’s because, at the time, cleansers were often basic, while your skin is naturally slightly acidic. But today, most cleansers don’t disrupt the skin’s pH levels, which explains why some people consider toner an outdated product. What they’re failing to realize, however, are the other benefits of using toner. Following up cleansing with toner can serve a variety of purposes, a few of which we’re naming below: 

Toner Benefit #1: Cleanse Your Skin. Prior to using a toner, you should have washed your face, but that doesn’t mean your skin is completely clean. You may have missed a spot, or there could be lingering cleanser residue still sitting on your skin’s surface. A few swipes with a cotton round saturated with toner can ensure that lingering dirt, oil, and residue are effectively wiped away before it’s time to layer the rest of your skin care products over top.

Toner Benefit #2: Hydrate Your Skin. Toners are often listed as something to avoid when you have dry skin, but that isn’t necessarily the truth. While toners formulated with alcohol can be irritating for dry or sensitive skin types—since they can dry out your skin further—there are plenty of toners that can do just the opposite by hydrating your skin.

Toner Benefit #3: Refresh Your Skin. Everyone needs to refresh their face from time to time, and toner is the perfect way to do it. You can even fill a spray bottle with your favorite toning liquid and use it to mist your face whenever you need a quick pick-me-up.

Toner Benefit #4: Minimize the Look of Enlarged Pores. Suffering from large pores? Lucky for you, another talent of a toner is that it can help reduce their appearance. Although their job description mainly pertains to cleaning the skin’s surface, some toners actually shrink the look of your pores as well.

Toner Benefit #5: Mattify Your Skin. You may see the words “gives your skin a matte finish” on the label of a lot of skin care products. That’s mainly to assure you that your face won’t look as shiny as a traffic light from the product’s residue. Since toners help to remove any of the oils lingering on your face, they can help your skin look matte as a by-product.

How to Use Facial Toner

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If you’ve resisted using facial toner until now, you’ll be pleased to hear it’s extremely easy. To use one, you typical have two choices: apply with a cotton ball or round or splash it directly onto your face. Either way, you don’t have to rinse off. Just wait for it to dry.

When to Use Facial Toner

Now that you have the what, the how, and the why, you’re probably wondering when’s the best time to use a facial toner. We can surely answer that question for you as well! We recommend that, since toners are left to pick up whatever your cleanser couldn’t, you use the toner after you cleanse. This will ensure that you don’t have any unwanted impurities taking up fulltime residence on your skin. Simply clean as you regularly do, then sweep a toner-soaked cotton pad over your facial contours.

Although some toners can hydrate your skin, make sure to follow-up with moisturizer after using one. Your skin could always use a moisturizing boost, whether it comes in the form of your typical moisturizer or as a treat in the form of a face mask. Wondering what kind of ingredients can get the job done? Glycerin and hyaluronic acid are a few moisturizing ingredients we love.  

6 Best Facial Toners to Try Now

Now that you know toners clearly can be useful and understand why you should incorporate them into your skin care routine, let us fill you in on a few of our favorites.

Lancome Absolue Precious Cells Revitalizing Rose Lotion Toner

Lancôme Absolue Precious Cells Revitalizing Rose Lotion Toner: Infused with actual rose petals and rose water, this toner deserves a spot in your arsenal and in the front row of your beauty shelf. While it’s sure to look amazing on your vanity, the nurturing and soothing formula’s noteworthy too. You can use the Lancôme Absolue Previous Cells Revitalizing Rose Lotion Toner twice daily—in the morning and in the evening—with the assistance of a cotton pad.  

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Biotherm Purefect SkinToner: Notice your complexion looks a little too shiny after cleansing? That’s where a mattifying toner comes into play, then you can say grease-be-gone. This purifying option is ideal for normal to oily skin types. 

Vichy Pureté Thermale Toner: In case you need proof that toners aren’t always drying, here it is. This alcohol-free toner, which has been tested on sensitive skin, removes makeup residue and impurities and leaves skin looking clear and fresh. Its hydration stems from Vichy’s trademark Thermal Spa Water and glycerin, which can not only add another layer of moisture to your skin but helps to improve its resistance against aggressors.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Toner: You’re likely familiar with Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream—since it’s a fan favorite—and the Ultra Facial Toner deserves the same status. The mild yet effective toner is suitable for all skin types and helps to refine surface texture while providing the ideal preparation for your moisturizer.

SkinCeuticals LHA Toner: Chemical exfoliators are all the rage in skin care right now, and liquid versions are even trendier. Formulated with exfoliants such as glycolic acid, and salicylic acid, this toner hits all the notes by containing alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), beta-hydroxy acids (BHA), and lipo-hydroxy acids (LHA).

acneefree mattifying witch hazel toner

AcneFree Witch Hazel Mattifying Toner: It’s very likely that you’ve heard of witch hazel before. It’s a drugstore favorite in the skin care community and serves as an effective ingredient in lifting impurities from your pores. The team at AcneFree brings some of the benefits of witch hazel to you in the form of their AcneFree Witch Hazel Mattifying Toner. This witch hazel toner eliminates shine as well as pore-clogging impurities from your complexion. Just dab it on to your face using a cotton pad, and you’re good to go!

Interested in seeing what toners are out there for your body skin? Check out a list of our favorites here!

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