For many of us, our introduction to skin care was the three-step system of cleanser, toner and moisturizer, but some time in the last few years toners fell out of fashion as a necessary part of a comprehensive skin care routine. Instead, they’re often dismissed as a superfluous step, of which the benefits to the skin are not worth the extra seconds spent saturating a cotton ball.
There is some truth to this: Many toners are as unnecessary and potentially damaging as some experts claim. The purpose of toner used after cleansing was once to restore skin’s pH balance and to defend it against the drying effects of soap and water, but somewhere along the line popular toning formulas began to include super-irritating ingredients like alcohol and fragrance—and not much else.
But a great toner, like a great cleanser or moisturizer, can make all the difference in restoring and repairing skin. Trust us on this one—we were nonbelievers, too, until we started using Kate Somerville KateCeuticals Replenishing Toner ($58, katesomerville.com) on a whim. The milky hydrating formula is packed full of hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, aloe vera, and countless other natural oils and extracts meant to hydrate and replenish, rather than zap the skin of moisture.
We noticed an appreciable difference in our skin on the days that we used the toner as opposed to the days that we skipped the extra step. It didn’t just feel more moisturized and supple, but also seemed clearer and brighter, so much so that we quickly made the replenishing formula a part of our daily routine. We asked Kate Somerville to share her opinion on toner, and she admitted that she, too, always thought of traditional fragrance-and-water toner formulas as unnecessary. But today, she says, “Toners condition and prepare the skin for your serums and moisturizers.”
For those who need more moisture and anti-aging properties, Kate says, “Hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and peptides rejuvenate the skin and improve the look of firmness.” And for the oily and blemish-prone? “Toners offer a gentle exfoliation while controlling excess oil production.” Always, always “avoid alcohol-based toners, which will strip the skin,” and instead look for gentle natural astringents like witch hazel and phytic acid.
Bottom line: Toners can hugely benefit the skin and prepare it for optimally absorbing serums and moisturizers, but choosing the right one is key.
Read more: 3 Models, 3 Amazing Skin Care Secrets