Cleanse, tone and moisturize – anyone who knows anything about skincare knows these are the three steps to follow for better skin. A three-step guide seems so easy, right? But when you factor in the MILLIONS of products, all with different miracle ingredients, it gets a little… Okay we admit, it’s confusing AF. Even choosing your toner is a dilemma! But skipping it would be a huge mistake, and so would be using the wrong one for your skin concern.
What Does Toner Do?
The right toner is an essential step between your cleanser and moisturizer, not only will it remove any residue from your cleanser or any makeup trapped around the hairline, but it also removes skin-irritating chlorine and minerals from your water. As well as giving one last sweep of your pores, a toner helps to restore your skin’s pH balance, as many cleansers have an alkaline base, while your skin is naturally slightly acidic.
How to Choose the Right Toner
Depending on the type of toner you use, it can tighten pores or treat pimples, hydrate or brighten the skin. There are so many formulas now, and it’s important to choose one that works for your skin type. If you do have a toner that’s exfoliating, we recommend using it only as part of your nighttime routine and depending on how your skin feels, swapping it out every other evening for something more hydrating and soothing. Listening to your skin is always key. You could consider having two toners so that you could use something hydrating in the mornings or if your skin feels a little irritated, dry or sensitive, and something more powerful with AHAs in for when your skin needs a good detox.
Here’s our ultimate guide to picking the perfect toner for your skin type:
Choosing a Toner for Dry or Sensitive Skin
If you have dry or sensitive skin (you can get sensitive skin even from using products that are too harsh), then hydrating, gentle and soothing formulas are key. Start by looking for the gentlest toner you can find, making sure that it’s alcohol-free and packed with natural ingredients. We love formulas with naturally awesome ingredients like green tea, rose water, and cica, and products that include hyaluronic acid and glycerin, which will also help support skin hydration. Avoid harsh ingredients like salicylic acid, alcohol or lots of acids, as these could damage or dehydrate your skin. Skin-soothing ingredients like vitamin E and aloe vera are perfect as they’re hydrating and gentle on your skin.
Toners for Dry & Sensitive Skin:
Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner, $45: This rose-infused toner is packed with nourishing, hydrating and toning rose fruit extract, rose oil and rose water, and it’s alcohol-free so it’s great for sensitive skin too.
Olivarrier Dual Moist Toning Lotion, $28: Combining the powers of a toner and a lotion, it simultaneously balances pH levels to help restore the skin barrier while hydrating the skin with squalene, hyaluronic acid. It also contains madecassoide to calm inflammation and panthenol and alantoin to protect and soothe skin.
Choosing a Toner for Normal or Combination Skin
A lightweight formula that gently hydrates, tones, and nourishes is ideal! Ingredients like brightening niacinamide and skin-building ceramides will help maintain your skin barrier, repair your skin, and tighten your pores. Dermatologists also recommend changing your toner depending on the seasonal demands of your skin as normal and combination skin can be easily affected by the weather. Look for something lightweight, and packed with vitamins and protective antioxidants for summer and an oil-based, more nourishing formula for the winter months. One of our faves is the Clinique Clarifying Lotion 2, as it removes oil as well as getting rid of any flaky skin leaving your face feeling super fresh!
Toners for Normal & Combination Skin:
Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol-Free Toner, $38: This hydrating, alcohol-free toner soothes and improves the feel of skin and helps improve redness, dullness, uneven texture, and oiliness with a combo of calendula herbal extract, allatoin, and great burdock.
The Inkey List Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA) Gentle Exfoliating Toner, $11: This toner uses gently exfoliating PHAs to lightly buff away dead skin cells combines with brightening and oil-controlling niacinamide to target dullness and uneven texture, dark spots, and fine lines.
Choosing a Toner for Oily or Acne-Prone Skin
For oily or acne-prone skin, a good toner is essential. Look for a toner that gently exfoliates as this will help shed dead surface skin cells that could block your pores. Ingredients like salicylic acid and AHAs, like glycolic and lactic acid, work by cleaning deep into pores and getting rid of any debris that could cause blackheads and pimples. Natural ingredients like ginseng, rose or chamomile help to reduce inflammation and tighten your skin, and are all bursting with antioxidants that will help to fight against damaging free radicals.
Dr. Jart+ Teatreement™ Toner, $30: This purifying treatment toner is packed with tea tree extract to target blemishes and rebalance the skin, while calming green tea, aloe, and chamomile soothe skin. Sweep it on to balance your skin, soothe, hydrate and remove excess oil
Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Toner, $28: This exfoliating toner is packed with salicylic acid to cleanse pores and improve skin texture. It’s also Packed with soothing grape water and rosewater, and anti-oxidizing grapeseed polyphenols that prevent oil turning into blackheads.
Choosing a Toner for Mature Skin
As your skin matures it creates less collagen and skin becomes more supple and typically a little drier. This means a toner that will moisturize and simultaneously rebalance your skin is ideal. Look for toners infused with hydrating hyaluronic acid and glycerin, and formulas that contain anti-aging peptides and skin-protecting antioxidants like niacinamide, which are great because they help neutralize free radicals that cause your skin to age prematurely and help to brighten the skin.
Nourishing ingredients like honey, aloe, and almond oil are great as they’ll help replenish your skin, giving it a more even tone. You can also use gently exfoliating AHA formulas, which help to improve the appearance of wrinkles and gently slough away dead skin cells that can make your skin look dull.
Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner, $34: Inspired by Japanese essences, this non-drying toner is infused with hydrating hyaluronic acid- and aloe vera and boasts antioxidant coenzyme Q10 and sage to protect skin against environmental stressors. Chamomile, cucumber, and papaya extracts leave skin feeling calm and refreshed.
Ole Henriksen Glow2OH™ Dark Spot Toner, $29: This potent toner is ideal for treating dark spots, fine lines, uneven and dull skin as it’s supercharged with potent glycolic and lactic acid. Witch hazel also helps to tone the skin while chamomile, sandalwood extract, and licorice root help soothe skin. We recommend using this as a treatment toner three to five times a week and following with serum and moisturizer to keep skin hydrated.
Check out our guides for finding the right moisturizer for your skin type, choosing the right cleanser, and the right facial oil. Let us know if you have any other skin concerns that you’d like us to write about in the comments.