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Okay, WTF Is Toner? Do I Really Need It?

Okay, WTF Is Toner? Do I Really Need It?

For as long as I can remember I’ve heard of this thing called ‘toner’. No, not the printer one – the skincare one. Apparently, it’s a mystical substance that is crucial to the process, but no one really knows why. Kinda like Bran on Game of Thrones.

So I set out to get the truth. What the heck is toner actually and why do we need it? Is it truly an important part of the skincare process or just another old-school narrative? Well, here are the facts:

Related: What Every Girl In Her 20s Should Know About Skincare


What the heck is Toner?

Think of toner as a continuation of your face washing routine. Toner ensures that there is no remaining dirt, oil or impurities in your skin even after you’ve washed your face. We’ve all been victims of the white face towel that is covered with black lines – even though we swore we took all of our makeup off! Ugh!

As opposed to just cleansing your face, toner has a slew of added benefits that make it worth the extra 90 seconds. Toner can also shrink your pores, restore your skin’s PH balance, and acts as a moisturizer.


Can you explain the PH-stuff?

Sure! Basically, our skin is naturally acidic. In fact, our typical pH balance is generally between five and six (on a scale from 0 to 14). But that balance can get out of whack after you wash your face. The reason? Soap and cleansers are usually alkaline in nature. So if you follow up with a toner after you wash your face, you are working to restore balance to your skin.

What’s actually in Toner?

Most toners are water-based and made up of essential oils or plant extracts. My personal favorite are the ones with either Witch Hazel or Rosewater – like this one. 10k+ Amazon reviews with 4.5 stars and less than $10, yes please!

Give it to me straight, is toner absolutely necessary?

Yes & No. I would never recommend something I don’t use personally, and for the last 5 months, I’ve made toner a part of my nightly regimen. If you have oily or acne-prone skin then yes, toner is necessary.

If you wear makeup that is “heavy” and by that I mean, any type of liquid foundation, then yes, toner is necessary. Toner does more good than bad so I would recommend that everyone add a least a spray style mist to your routine immediately. 

Related: 3 Common Mistakes That Will Destroy Your Skin

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Ok fine, when should I apply it?

Both morning and night! Think of toner as an extension of washing your face.

Step 1: Micellar water/makeup wipe

Step 2: Face Wash

Step 3: Toner

Wow. There are a million types of toner, which is right for me?

Hm, glad you asked! Here’s a rundown:

  • For sensitive skin, always go natural with Vitamin E, Aloe and alcohol-free
  • For dry skin, Glycerin or Essential Oils will be key
  • For acne-prone skin, choose an alcohol-free toner with alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) with or without salicylic acid
  • Normal skin toners may include coenzyme Q10, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and Vitamin C
  • For combination skin, look for toners with Lactic Acid

Here are some of my favorites: