Do You Really Need To Be Using Toner?


Chances are you’ve heard the beauty term “toner” thrown around when people discuss their skincare regimens. Maybe it’s even part of your routine, but you’re not quite sure how it works. Toners have caused a lot of confusion in the beauty world, but they’ve recently gotten a K-beauty upgrade and are back in the skin routine game.

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“The older generation of toners tended to be extremely drying and really unnecessary for most skin types,” explains NYC Cosmetic Dermatologist Sejal Shah, founder of SmarterSkin Dermatology. Natural Korean beauty expert and Savor Beauty founder Angela Jia Kim shares similar feelings. “Toners have recently undergone a stunning transformation, going from an unnecessary drying step to the essential hydration station of skincare,” she says. Older generation toners contained drying alcohol that would strip the pores of its natural oils, but the new products have nixed the alcohol and contain nourishing ingredients that work to hydrate and rebalance the skin. While its alcoholic days are behind it, the question still remains, what exactly is a toner?

Really, what is a toner?

Toner is similar to water but packed with more hydrogen and oxygen molecules. It can also be packed with other beneficial ingredients like tea tree, rose, salicylic acid, and other skincare essentials, depending on your needs.

How do you use a toner?

Both Kim and Dr. Shah agree the best time to use a toner is right after cleansing as it balances out the skin’s pH. Kim points out that you can “spritz it onto the face to set makeup or after a workout to give yourself a little ‘skin shower,’” she says.

To use toner, you can saturate a cotton pad and apply the toner, or mist the toner directly onto skim. Kim points out it is best to allow the skin to breathe for a few seconds after cleansing then apply. “When the skin is moist, it can absorb ingredients better, delivering nourishment deeper into the epidermis,” explains Kim.

When should you use toner?

You can include toner in your morning and night routines. Dr. Shah notes that if you are exfoliating or using a very drying toner, it’s best to use it every other day and gradually increase usage as you build a tolerance.

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If you have sensitive or dry skin…

Look for alcohol-free hydrating toners and ingredients that can soothe, calm and hydrate the skin.

If you have oily or acne-prone skin…

Look for salicylic acid and mattifying ingredients that won’t dry your skin or agitate your skin.

If you want to fight wrinkles…

Look for alcohol-free, antioxidant-based products.


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