7 Reasons Toner Should Be In Your Skincare Routine

Janell M. Hickman
Girl with clear skin


Walking down the skincare aisle at your favorite beauty emporium (or even drugstore) can often be overwhelming. With so many products lining the shelves, it’s hard to decipher what you really need to add to your skincare regimen. However, a good skin care routine doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming! Often misunderstood and underrated, the benefits of toner has often been debated—is it really needed? We spoke to five experts to set the record straight on one of beauty’s underdog products.

Up The Ante On Your Skincare Routine
“Toner (like Organic Pharmacy’s Herbal version) in my opinion is a secret weapon in skin care which most women have forgotten,” shares Margo Marrone, co-founder and chief chemist at The Organic Chemist. “Our skin is made up of water and when it is dehydrated our pores look bigger, wrinkles and lines look more prominent and the skin generally looks lifeless. Think of moisturizing as a two-step process—first toner in the form of water and second your moisturizer.”

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Toners Have Come A Long Way
“Traditionally, toners are mainly used to eliminate traces of makeup and residual cleansers, and to balance the pH in your skin after using an alkaline bar soap,” shares Dr. Daniel Stangl, Director of Innovation at La Prairie. “Today toners are becoming more and more part of the treatment process rather than supporting the cleansing process. Toners can also provide gentle exfoliation and help prep the skin for proper absorption of other skincare products used afterward, such as serums and moisturizers.”

Find The Right Ingredients
“Alcohol-free toners are best,” explains Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, Co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C. “My favorite formulas for acne-prone and oily skin contain glycolic acids to help remove all excess oil and continue to treat the skin to keep the pores clean—oily skin and acne-prone skin types are the best candidates for toners. [Certain formulas] can get the skin even cleaner  [in addition to a regular cleanser] and leave a little salicylic acid behind to exfoliate and keep pores clear.”

The Right Toner Can Work Wonders
“Toners are products that are specifically designed to restore pH balance to the skin,” shares Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of her namesake salon (and skincare collection). “You can use toners medicinally for acne, to increase hydration or to calm skin, but most people use toners to secondarily clean the skin of any remaining oil on the skins surface.” Vargas recommends ingredients found in nature like rose, lime, plum, strawberry and chamomile to soothe and hydrate sensitive skin.

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Daily Use Is Necessary
“For best results, and depending on the sensitivity of your skin, a toner should be used at least once a day and up to twice a day, after cleansing and before moisturizing,” shares beauty expert Tracie Martyn, facialist to the stars and founder of the Tracie Martyn spa and skincare line. “You can also splash toner on the face any time you want to freshen up.” Her Absolute Purity Toner addresses concerns for all skin types from sensitive skin to breakouts and even rosacea.

In A Pinch, Swap Cleanser For Toner
“Swiping on with a cotton pad or ball are recommended for oily skin, and if the toner is used as a cleanser—think when water isn’t available— explains Martyn. “If used as a hydrating and treatment leave-on product, simply pat the product on your face with clean hands. A mister works well too but be cautious not to spray in the eyes since most toners contain active, astringent ingredients.”

Keep The Season In Mind
“For instance in colder months or climates, skin can become irritated. You may want to switch to a formula which helps promote moisture-retention and provides soothing benefits,” shares Stangl who’s a fan of La Prairie’s Cellular Softening and Balancing Lotion, a hybrid formula suitable year-round. “On the contrary, in warmer months and climates you may want to include a formula that provides gentle exfoliation to help combat the buildup of dead skin cells that can occurs more regularly during this time.”