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What Does A Face Toner Do and Are They Really Necessary??

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With the ever increasing skincare products on the market today, many of us are left wondering which ones are truly helpful and which might be an unnecessary step as well as an unnecessary expense. Today, let’s dive into the possible benefits of facial toners and once and for all determine if this second step in your beauty routine really is vital for healthy skin. 

Benefits of Toners

Toners are one of those skin care products that a lot of people question whether they actually do anything.  In fact, I myself have questioned their importance which is why I decided to do some digging and finally find out if they are more then just refreshing spritzers that smell good.

Originally, toners were absolutely necessary due to cleansers having a very high pH.  In order to restore the skin’s pH after harsh cleansers, a product was needed that had a neutral pH. Also acne-prone skin types were often suggested alcohol based toners in an attempt to dry out oiliness as well as kill bacterial.   

Most skin care companies have wised up to creating such harsh cleansers and using alcohol as an acne treatment and many of  today’s toners contain beneficial ingredients that can be helpful in achieving healthy-looking skin. Wait, what about the rest of your skin care routine? Often times serums, eye treatments and moisturizers target are biggest skincare concerns so this begs the question, do we really need a toner on top of everything else?

What is a Toner?

First off let’s discuss what a toner actually is. Toners come in many varieties, but on a very basic level a toner contains an astringent which will restore the skin’s ph balance and encourage the pores to tighten.  They may contain ingredients that address specific skin concerns like tea tree oil for acne-prone skin or alpha hydroxy acids for anti aging. Hydrosols like rose water may be added to calm and hydrate the skin.

Some toners claim to simply “refresh” the skin, some hydrate and some treat skin issues.   However, there is one benefit that often sits toners apart from other skincare products. Moist skin is much more permeable than dry skin. What does this mean? It means that when your skin is damp after applying a toner, your other skincare products will be able to penetrate more deeply. Using a toner can be highly beneficial if you want to get the most out of your serums, creams and facial oils.

Before you run out and by a toner, remember to always look for an alcohol-free toner. Some toners can still have high concentrations of alcohol. Alcohol-based toners are harsh and will irritate and dry the skin out over time. Alcohol could be detrimental for sensitive skin types. Always check the ingredients. Harsh ingredients defeat the purpose of a skin toner. 

Related Post: Witch Hazel Skin Benefits

What Does Face Toner Do?:

Turns out, there are quite a few benefits of using a facial toner…

  • By using a cotton pad and gently swiping over your skin after cleansing, your toner is picking up dirt, makeup, dead skin cells and excess oil your cleanser may have left behind.
  • Toners with active ingredients such as botanical extracts, aloe, essential oil, hyaluronic acid, hydrosols or glycerin will add extra hydration to the skin.
  • When sprayed over the skin after applying makeup, some toners can actually set your makeup!
  • Toner stabilizes the pH of the skin.
  • Using a toner can reduce the appearance of pores.
  • A toner can help control oily skin.
  • Depending on the ingredients, toners can brightens skin.
  • If a toner is antioxidant rich, it can help combat free radicals.
  • A hydrating toner can increase the moisturizing abilities of a serum or facial oil.
  • Toners can soothe over sensitized, irritated skin and can help accelerate healing. 
  • Improvement of uneven skin tone and be experienced. 

How to Use a Face toner:

Toning is an important part of a skincare regimen. Toners are intended for daily use. How you use a toner depends on what type of toner you choose. 

Toning the skin always comes directly after cleansing the skin and before serums and face oils or moisturizers. After using a facial cleanser a toner can be applied by using a cotton ball or cotton round and is gently swept across the skin collecting makeup, oil and dirt that may be left behind from your cleanser. A toner can also be sprayed directly on the skin omitting the use of a cotton pad. 

If you are using an exfoliating toner or a toner meant to clear skin, a cotton round is necessary for best results. Making sure the product helps remove bacteria left behind from your face wash is only done by wiping the toner across the skin with a soft object that can mop up impurities. When there are ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, vitamin C, glycolic acid, lactic acid or salicylic acid, you will want to use a cotton round to make sure you do not get the toner in your eyes. 

Many toners aimed at simply hydrating the skin can and should be simply sprayed directly on the skin before using a serum or moisturizer. This technique is incredibly gentle as well as a refreshing way to “wake up” your skin. 

Related Post: DIY Toning Wipes


What is the Difference Between Toners and Serums?

This is a question only you can answer after inspecting your products. Often times a toner contains similar ingredients to a serum. Doubling up ingredients such as alpha-hydroxy acids and acne zapping exfoliants can be harmful. Using both a toner and serum that are claiming to do the same thing can also be a waste of money even if the ingredients are gentle enough to use twice. 

It’s wise to be aware that toners can be redundant if you are using a serum. However, the additional benefits of a toner may be helpful to your particular skin type. Especially when you consider that wet skin is better able to absorb serums.

Related Posts: The Benefits of Using Apple Cider Vinegar as a Toner

Toner Ingredients to Avoid:

  • Fragrance-Artificial fragrances are big NO in my book. They are detrimental to the overall health of your body and can mess with your hormones.
  • Alcohol-Alcohol is incredibly harsh and drying and should never be used to “dry out” oily skin. Drying out oily skin will only lead to an imbalance which will cause even more issues. 
  • Phthalates and Parabens-Both are low cost preservatives and toxic to the body.
  • Benzoyl Peroxide-Benzoyl peroxide is often used in acne treatment products and is often too harsh for most skin types.
  • Salicylic Acid-Salicylic acid is also harsh and a very common exfoliant that tends to do more damage than good. 

How to Make a DIY Toner:

Making your own toner is one of the easiest skincare diys you can make. Not to mention you can easily customize it to suit your specific skin type!  Key ingredients of a homemade toner are witch hazel and hydrosol. When making your own toner you can control exactly what is in the product making sure to only use natural ingredients. 

I usually use equal parts of witch hazel and hydrosol or aloe vera and have recently posted a recipe using hyaluronic acid in a toner! I have also experimenting with adding color to a toner by using a few drops of chlorophyll or infusing hibiscus into the toner creating a pretty pink hue. 

As far as preserving your DIY water-based toner, I prefer using a natural preservative called Leucidal Liquid. It is gentle on the skin and safe to use in organic formulations. 

Related Post: Green Tea Cucumber Spritzer

Possible Ingredients in DIY toners:

  • Water
  • Herbal Tea
  • Witch Hazel
  • Hydrosols
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Essential Oils
  • Aloe Vera
  • Glycerin
  • Botanical Extracts
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Salicylic Acid
  • Vitamin C
  • Glycolic Acid

DIY Toner Recipes:

My Personal Opinion on Using Toners:

Honestly, I have always questioned whether toners were necessary and often skipped them in my routine. The conclusion I’ve come to is that toners can truly enhance what the rest of your skincare routine is meant to do simply because they make the skin more permeable. With all the incredible benefits a toner can have on the skin, toners can be an integral part of your daily routine. 

If you do not use a serum, toner is definitely a worthwhile investment. However, if you are an avid serum user, you very likely are doubling up on products that are essentially doing the same thing and it would be wise to check both products for ingredients and the benefits that are being claimed. 

In conclusion, if you are looking to simplify your skincare routine and need to omit a step or two, toner would be that step. However, toner is not a useless products and a well-formulated toner whether it be store bought or DIY can be a useful and a lovely addition after cleansing. Afterall, the benefits of a toner on it’s own are quite impressive. 

xx, Jenni

P.S. I offer a toner in my Etsy shop if you’re interested-Find it HERE. It is a popular seller and smells incredible. I use it every morning myself before using my Fast Absorbing Day Oil because I can tell it truly helps with absorption of the oil. I reserve my Wrinkle Defense Hyalruonic Acid Serum for evening use and omit the toner then.

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Jennifer Phillips

Jennifer Phillips

Jennifer Phillips worked as a licensed aesthetician for over 8 years before creating the green beauty blog, Jenni Raincloud and her natural skin care line, J. Raincloud Organics. Jennifer has been blogging full time for 9 years and loves to gain and share knowledge on how to achieve beautiful skin the natural way.

13 thoughts on “What Does A Face Toner Do and Are They Really Necessary??”

    1. Sonia-Hydrosols have their own preservative but it’s true, when making toner, I don’t make too much because the shelf life is much shorter then an oil based recipe.

  1. I’m hoping you can help me out. I am 62 and have extremely dry and sagging skin. I have a fair and sun damaged skin. My diet is being overhauled, but the deep wrinkles and over exaggerated sagging skin under my eyes is so depressing. Do you have recommendations for me?

    1. Hi Karen! It’s good that you are overhauling your diet-this will help over time for sure! I always suggest oil cleansing and using a facial oil day and night to support your skin. Also, hyaluronic acid can help tighten quickly. Unfortunately reversing sagging skin and deep wrinkles can be very tough but keeping with a healthy lifestyle will really make a difference! If you are looking to make your own products, oil cleansers and facial oils are really easy. I also offer these products plus the hyaluronic acid in my Etsy shop-

  2. I make my own Queen of Hungary’s Water. It is a very old recipe that supposedly the Queen of Hungary used that made a 25 year old man propose to her at the age of 70 (well, she was a QUEEN…)
    Anyway, I use it as a toner, a hair rinse and much more.
    I have used the recipes from these posts:

    They are all basically the same, but I like to try them all.
    I usually make a gallon at a time, and it does last a long time as I often forget toners!
    For me, as a hair rinse I spray it on after I’m out of the shower and have towel dried my hair. This makes my hair a bit ‘crunchy’ and gives it a bit of body that I like.

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