Face toner: what is it and what is it for?

The face toner is often a "forgotten" component of our skin care. Instead, if facial cleansing is to be part of our daily routine, a face toner is an indispensable part of the process. It represents the intermediate step: cleanse, tone and hydrate.

It is meant to be used after washing our face thoroughly, but before using either a serum or a moisturizer.

What is a face toner?

A skin toner is a gentle cleansing and purifying liquid that contains active ingredients designed to refresh and revitalize our skin while balancing its pH levels as a preparation to optimize the effectiveness of the treatments to be applied next.

It is used after cleansing, not only to further cleanse the skin but, above all, to restore its pH balance and visibly shrink its pores, thereby reducing the amount of dirt and grime that can penetrate the skin causing acne, dullness and discoloration.

A good toner will also replenish our skin through essential antioxidant and moisturising factors that may have been removed during cleansing. In fact, a toner is a product designed to be a humectant, that is a substance helping the skin to retain moist.  A more hydrated skin has a more young-looking appearance.

Additionally, the toner can reduce the occurrence of ingrown hairs thanks to alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid . The molecules of this acid work to slough off dead skin. Removing dead skin cells not only prevents those pesky ingrown hairs but also reduces acne, blackheads and the appearance of wrinkles. The end result is a noticeably fresher, more vibrant and healthier looking skin.

How does the facial toner work?

The toner removes the remaining traces of dirt and impurities stuck in the pores after washing our face. When added to our daily skincare routine and used regularly, it can have a positive impact on the appearance and tightness of our pores.

In addition, the toner also restores the pH level of the skin making  it smoother and firmer.

When should we use a facial toner?

How often is a face toner necessary? 2 times a day? Is it better to use it in the morning or in the evening, before bedtime?

As we said before, the toner should be used after cleansing the face and before moisturizing it. So it should always be used after washing our face skin and before applying a moisturizer or other facial care treatments.

You can use a face toner 2 times a day: here are the steps to follow to use it correctly.

How to use the face toner in the evening

  • Cleanse your skin with your favorite cleanser. Make sure that no cleanser residue is left on the skin.
  • Squirt a little toner onto a cotton ball and use it to cleanse your face. It is best to clean it with upward strokes, against the direction of the hair growth, in order to make it penetrate more deeply under the small hairs growing on the face. Some toners come in a spray bottle, so you can just spray them.
  • Complete your evening skincare routine with your usual treatments, serums and moisturizers.

How to use the face toner in the morning

  • As in the evening, you can wipe your face with a cotton swab saturated with toner.
  • Complete your skincare routine with a daytime moisturizer and sunscreen.

How to apply the face toner

Do you know how to use the toner in your facial cleansing routine? It can be applied in various ways:

  • Saturate a couple of cotton balls with the toner and gently cleanse the entire face;
  • Spray the toner directly on your face (if you bought a product that comes in a spray bottle);
  • Apply the toner directly to the face with your fingertips, tapping it gently until completely absorbed.

We usually tend to ignore the neck and neckline. But what does a well-groomed, clean and bright face look like with a neglected neck and cleavage?

Who should use face toner?

Generally everyone. But if you have oily skin, are prone to acne, or use makeup, you may particularly benefit from it, because the toner "goes the extra mile" to cleanse and tighten your pores.

When it comes to healthy-looking, glowing skin, toning is a vital step in your routine.

Types of face toners

Which face toner should you choose among the many products on the market? We can categorize toners both by function and by content. The facial toners classified according to the function they perform are:

  • Moisturizing toners : hydrate the skin that needs more hydration.
  • Stimulating toners : soften the skin.
  • Astringent toners : Help control excess oil and minimize pores.
  • Soothing toners : suitable for more sensitive decongested skin.

According to the content, the toners are divided into 3 groups:

  • Alcohol-Based Face Toners : Toners that contain alcohol, typically not the best alternative in the range of face toners on the market, unless you have very oily skin.
  • Water and glycerin-based face toners : These face toners are significantly less harmful than alcohol-based ones; however, the perfume extracts they contain can cause damage to your skin, especially if you are allergic.
  • Water-based face toners : These face toners are normally free of harmful ingredients. Instead, they contain beneficial substances that prepare your skin for makeup or enhance your daily skincare routine.

Choose the face toner according to your skin type

  • Oily skin : It is convenient to use a gel formula that balances the production of sebum and leaves the skin with a matte finish.
  • Dry skin : Choose a toner that contains soothing and hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid , glycerin, vitamin E , chamomile, and antioxidants like green tea.
  • Sensitive skin : use an alcohol-free toner with Calendula herbal extract which is pure and delicate.
  • Acne-prone skin : Choose a toner to purify your skin and reduce blemishes over time.
  • Mature skin : You need a hydrating toner to rejuvenate ageing skin, like one based on hyaluronic acid, which boosts moisture.
  • Dull skin : Try toners with exfoliating ingredients like glycolic and alpha hydroxy acids. They are toners that eliminate dead skin cells, accelerate cell renewal and give the skin a brighter look.

Face toner with oily or acne-prone skin

What does a face toner do if you have blemish prone skin? Controlling excess sebum and preventing blemishes are common reasons people include toners in their skincare routine.

However, beware of the fact that many toners contain harsh alcohols that completely strip the skin of oil and may potentially make things worse.

This is not good for 2 reasons:

  1. When you irritate the skin's surface, it disrupts its ability to regenerate and heal from wounds, which can make acne and blemishes worse.
  2. When your skin senses that it's too dry, it actually produces more oil as a defense to protect itself.

The best face toners for oily or acne-prone skin, instead, control the amount of oil , do not completely eliminate it, and contain ingredients that encourage skin cell repair.

A toner that features exfoliating properties, such as salicylic or glycolic acids or amino acids, will ensure that you get rid of those dead skin cells and other impurities that clog your pores and leave your skin smooth and healthy looking.

Oily or acne-prone skin , howevever, requires a different treatment, especially if the skin produces too much sebum. Some ingredients have mildly astringent and antibacterial properties to help balance your skin and reduce oil:

  • Aloe vera
  • Clary sage
  • Lavender
  • Sandal
  • Green tea
  • Salicylic acid
  • Witch hazel

Toners for dry skin

We recommend you to choose alcohol-free face toners to avoid further drying out of your skin. Toners that contain ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid will help moisturize your skin. Moisturizing toners can also icontain aloe and vitamin E to soothe the skin.

Dry skin can often lead to clogged pores, which can cause acne. Exfoliating toners are suitable for eliminating dead skin from its surface.

Dry, mature or sensitive skin needs more care and hydration. Essential oils with moisturizing and soothing properties are a great complement.

  • Aloe vera
  • Marigold
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Rose

Toners to soothe your face skin

Nowadays, toners for sensitive skin are easy to find on the market. They contain soothing plant-based ingredients , such as chamomile and aloe vera. These ingredients are excellent for reducing inflammation and redness and can also be used by people with problems like rosacea and eczema.

Toners for combination skin

How does a face toner work if you have combination skin? It's a rather common question. Combination skin requires the right toner, as you may have more oil in the T-zone (forehead, nose and chin) and dry or normal skin on your cheeks and jawline.

A harsh toner might dry out normal to dry areas and make oily areas even more greasy. You therefore need a tonic that helps maintain the skin balance in order to minimize pores and cleanse the face without upsetting both combination skin areas.

Normal to combination skin is closest to its natural pH level. A toner with the following ingredients is suitable for this skin type:

  • Aloe vera
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Rose
  • Willow bark extract
  • Witch hazel

Skin benefits of a face toner

The benefits of pa face toner are manifold: it hydrates, refreshes, revitalizes and rebalances the skin besides restoring its pH. It should always be used to ensure effectiveness of the following treatment.

The face toner should be used for all skin types, especially dry skin, due to its hydrating properties. In acne treatments, it helps  minimize pores without clogging them .

It is also worth mentioning that, due to their astringent properties, face toners also work as a gentle exfoliators.

It is also advisable to use a toner with a light, watery texture as it dries faster. 

Benefits of using a face toner daily

Here are the benefits of using a good toner:

  • It cleanses the skin because it represents a second step in facial cleansing, hence eliminating everything that even a thorough cleansing has not been able to eliminate.
  • Restores the pH balance of the skin : The optimal pH of the skin is 5.5. Howevever, as this can be affected  by a cleanser, a good toner can prevent the skin from becoming too dry or oily after washing the face.
  • Reduces the appearance of pores : Toners cleanse and tighten pores. This not only makes your skin visibly smoother, but it also prevents dirt from penetrating into it.
  • Removes impurities from the skin .
  • Moisturize the skin: A toner is especially helpful because, when you are outdoors, the skin tends to dry out. A quick swab of toner with a cotton ball cleanses and moisturizes without using water.
  • Prevents ingrown hairs : If the pores of the skin are clogged with impurities that accumulate on the surface of the epidermis, the hairs become ingrown. A face toner may help remove dead cells and dirt besides preventing their formation.
  • Removes excess sebum and reduces acne and blackheads: a toner that contains glycolic acid or salicylic acid can reduce sebum and add shine to your skin.
  • Evens out skin tone
  • Reduces the appearance of wrinkles  as it moisturises and tones the skin.
  • Makes skin more vibrant and young-looking.

Tips and tricks for face toners

  • Keep your facie toners in the fridge so as to make them even more refreshing. Scientific research suggests that cooling the skin makes the absorption of nutrients much better.
  • Choose a face toner with exfoliating acids like glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acid instead of using harsh physical exfoliants.
  • Store the toner in a spray bottle, both for easier use and to save on cotton pads.
  • If you prefer a non-spray product, use a cotton pad rather than a swab when applying the liquid toner to minimize product waste.
  • Apply a squirt of toner after finishing makeup for a more dewy finish.
  • Always apply toner before using a face mask.
  • Apply a moisturizer immediately after the toner while the skin is still damp to enhance product absorption.

Toner vs. lotion

  • The liquid and watery consistency of toners provides hydration and restores balance to the skin.  Toners are typically alcohol-free even though the wide range of face toners also includes astringents, which are water-based but contain alcohol and are used to both control excess oil and minimize pores.
  • Even if liquid like a toner, a lotion doesn't contain alcohol and hydrates the skin generously. Being a gentler cleanser, it can be soothing for sensitive skin.

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