Skincare Basics: To Tone, or Not to Tone?

To tone, or not to tone? That is our question today.

Toners, also known as clarifiers, astringents, fresheners, or tonics, are usually applied immediately after cleansing and drying your face. There are several schools of thought on using toner products. I’ll explain a few here to help you decide if you need to consider using one.

Way back in the days of cleansing the skin with bar soaps, cold creams, or Noxzema, toners were created to help restore the skin’s pH level, so that the skin was prepared to receive the next skin care step. Nowadays, most facial cleansers are already formulated to be pH-balanced to the skin, and toners generally serve a different purpose.

So, why use a toner?

Some use a toner as an extra cleansing step to help remove any leftover makeup or other residue from cleansing. Others must use a toner as a boost to their acne care regimen to deliver ingredients that help clear break outs or calm skin inflammation. One of the best reasons I have heard for consistently using a toner is that it helps to remove any invisible film leftover from the water you use to rinse your face (similar to how we use a “rinse-aid” in the dishwasher to keep dishes and glassware free of water scale).


I see toners fitting into your personal skin care regimen based on your skin type first, and then skin conditions second. For example, a dry skin type will want to use a different toner than an oily or problem skin type. If using your normal skin care routine (cleanser, treatment product, hydrating product) still leaves your skin feeling dry, you may consider adding a humectant toner to your regimen before applying your treatment product and moisturizer. Humectant ingredients attract and hold moisture from the outside environment to help increase moisture within the skin.

Oilier or problem-skin types choose a toner with oil-controlling or antibacterial properties to help curb excess sebum production, clean pores, and kill acne bacteria. Keep in mind, however, that no matter what the packaging claims, a toner will not be able to reduce your pore size.

A well-formulated toner will contain non-irritating, skin-soothing ingredients, and ideally, a blend of natural moisturizing factors, antioxidants and gentle cleansing agents.

In general, I consider the toner step to be a matter of choice. If you are not sure you need to be incorporating a toner into your skin care regimen, I do have several options from which to choose, and I’m here to help you with that decision.

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