If you’re like most people, you probably started becoming aware of skin care just around middle school, when tween hormones started to wreak havoc with your previously perfect skin and you started spending entire weekends at the mall.
In some ways, toner is a little like middle school itself (without all the difficult emotional parts!) in that it’s meant as a step between cleansing and moisturizing. Just as middle school enhances what we learned in grade school and prepares us for high school, toners enhance the effects of cleansing while readying our skin for makeup, moisturizer, serums, or even masks.
You might not be that familiar with toner right now, but once you try it, you’ll likely never be able to live without one. Here’s how to pick the best toner for your skin!
What is Toner? What does toner do for your skin?
As we mentioned above, toner is basically a middle step between cleansing and hydrating that helps reinforce your cleansing step while preparing your skin to take in moisture. Usually water based, toner performs a number of different actions depending on what you need it to do.
Among the many things a facial toner will do is clean your skin. Although a cleanser like our So Clean! natural facial cleanser does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to cleaning the skin, a toner can nudge that last little layer of dirt and oil off. It’s kind of like washing and rinsing your hair a second time just to make sure your conditioner is ready to do the job!
A toner can also exfoliate. Whether we knew it or not back then, this is probably what most of us used face toner for as adolescents—to unclog pores and remove build up from the surface of the skin. Well, guess what? It’s just as vital now that you’re an adult. Exfoliation is one of the best ways to get the skin prepared to take in hydration and replenish your skin’s appearance!
Toners can also really brighten the skin. By exfoliating, they help reveal healthy skin and reduce the appearance of dullness.
Toners can even moisturize the skin! Although many people think most toners do the exact opposite, hydrating toners are incredibly popular. In fact, a hydrating toner is the perfect way to make sure you’re really sealing the moisture in (especially if you’re using a facial toner with hyaluronic acid). This will make other products, like serums, even more effective!
Although this is a bit of an ancillary benefit, toners also feel absolutely fantastic, especially when used in spray form.
Why do you need toner?
Going through a daily skin care routine and not using toner is like painting the entire house and not painting the door. Why not give it that extra little boost to look its best?
The great thing about toner is that it can be used in such specific ways, depending on what you want it to do. You can use toner to help unclog or minimize the appearance of pores. You can use a toner to nourish and replenish your skin’s appearance, or you can use a hydrating toner to return moisture to the skin. It’s really all up to you and what your individual needs are.
The main thing to remember when choosing the best toner for your skin, is that toner basically gives a little extra punch to a specific skin issue.
How and When to Use Toner
How to Use Toner
As far as how to use toner, that depends on what kind you’re using.
If you’re using a spritz bottle, just give yourself a couple of sprays right after you’ve cleansed your skin. Let it dry, and then put your serum or moisturizer on.
You can also pour a little out on a piece of cotton and gently dab the skin with it or even pour a little on your hands and apply it that way.
Remember, too, that you can press and hold the cotton on to trouble spots, just to make sure you’re really getting it in there.
When to Use Toner
Although toner does a lot of different things for the skin, it’s generally agreed that toner always comes as a second step in your skin care routine—right after cleaning the skin and before using a serum or moisturizing.
That said, if you’re using a hydrating toner, there’s no reason you can’t give yourself a few little extra spritzes throughout the day. Nothing feels better than a little refreshing post-hike or post-workout toner!
Best Facial Toners
Best Hydrating Toner for Dry Skin
There are some astounding hydrating facial toners out there for dry skin. When you’re shopping around, look for these ingredients!
Hyaluronic acid – Hyaluronic acid not only draws moisture to your skin, it helps lock it in there, helping to lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It’s an absolute must for anyone with dry skin.
Glycerin – So, you know how hyaluronic acid restores moisture to your face and locks it in? Well, glycerin basically takes moisture from your own skin and pulls it up to the surface. Put a little in your face toner for that extra boost of moisture.
Rose flower oil – If you’re looking for a hydrating toner, it would be hard to find a better ingredient than one with rose flower oil which is why we made it one of the primary ingredients in our Rose and Shine toner! This soothing antioxidant not only naturally hydrates the skin, it increases the absorption of treatment products. It also leaves your skin feeling cool, clean, and refreshed.
Best Toner for Oily Skin
Although there are many, many hydrating toners, soothing toners, and refreshing toners on the market today, most people still usually associate toners with oily skin, probably because in the not-so-distant past, they were thought of as the ultimate oil busters.
They still are, but if you’re not used to exfoliants, they can seem pretty powerful so start out easy at first.
Salicylic acid - If your skin is on the oily side, you might want to consider looking for a toner with a little salicylic acid in it. Not only will it exfoliate, it will really get in there and essentially dig up the dirt and oil that clogs up your pores.
Glycolic acid – Like salicylic acid, glycolic acid helps exfoliate the skin which helps restore a youthful, glowing look!
Green Tea – If you’ve got oily skin but don’t like the idea of using an exfoliant, green tea is a great option. EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), a compound found in green tea, is thought to help control oil. Though sebum can help keep the skin lubricated, it can also clog pores, especially in oily skin. A toner with green tea can help balance skin’s natural oils.
Best Toner for Combination Skin
If you have combination skin, you’ll want to focus on balancing the oil in your skin while hydrating the dry parts. When found in face toners, these gentle ingredients should help do just that!
Squalane – Combination skins are generally all about maintenance and balance which is why squalene is so perfect for combination skin. Squalane is basically derived from oils you already have in your skin (appropriately named squalene), and is well known for its ability to help balance the skin’s natural oils.
Rose flower oil – If we’re starting to sound like a broken record, it’s because rose flower oil just works on so many skin types. Known for its ability to smooth the skin and control excess oil, it’s perfect for combination skin!
Best Toner for Acne
If you’re trying to control acne, toner is a great way to increase those efforts. Just be sure you get the facial toner with ingredients that are right for you!
Cucumber – Believe it or not, cucumbers actually contain a mild astringent. Astringent, as you may remember from those beloved, aforementioned middle school years, helps minimize the appearance of large pores and control oil, making it a great help to those of us with oily skin.
Algae – Algae is an ingredient that helps balance skin’s natural oils, making it perfect for people with acne-prone skin.
Best Toner for Sensitive Skin
Sensitive skins will want to be on the hunt for facial toners that calm and protect. Here are some ingredients that do just that!
Chamomile – You know how chamomile tea is known for its calming properties? Well, it has an equally gentle effect on the skin. Leaving skin feeling smoother and calmer, it’s perfect for sensitive skin. No wonder it’s been used on the skin for thousands of years.
Aloe Vera – You may have used this calming botanical straight from the actual plant for any number of reasons but when used in a toner, aloe vera can moisturize and soothe sensitive skin.
Ginseng – Whether used in a toner or other product, ginseng is an ingredient everyone sensitive skin should know about. Not only does it help firm and plump the skin, it helps alleviate temporary redness.
Best Toner for Glowing Skin
A good facial toner can really bring out your inner glow, especially if you give yourself an extra spritz or two on clean skin! Check out these ingredients to make sure your skin glows at high volume!
Niacinamide – Niacinamide (or vitamin B3) is known for its brightening properties and ability to revive dull skin. It also helps even out skin tone and minimize the look of large pores.
Rose flower oil – As we said above, rose flower oil makes a great hydrating toner, really creating a plumper, more refreshed face. It also helps promote relaxation and who couldn’t use a little more relaxation?
Vitamin C – Like the vibrant fruit with which it is associated, vitamin C is known for its ability to bring brightness to the skin.
Best Toner for Anti-Aging
Facial toners are a great way to make sure your skin is maintaining a plump, youthful look! There’s one category in particular we really love!
Amino acids – You know the expression, “There’s an app for that?” Well, chances are, if you have a skin issue, there’s an amino acid for it. Often found in toners, amino acids do so many things it’s kind of extraordinary. Amino acids often found in toners include: arginine, which helps hydrate the skin, lysine, which helps firm skin, glycine, which helps smooth the skin and lessen the appearance of fine lines, and proline, which helps provide protective moisture.
Toner ingredients to avoid
As great as toners are, some of them have ingredients that are totally unnecessary and even harmful in some cases. Here are some of the ingredients you want to try to avoid when choosing a toner.
Artificial Fragrances – Where to even start with this? If you have allergies you should run from artificial fragrances like the plague. With all the beautiful natural scents out there, using a toner—or any skin care product—that incorporates artificial fragrance, is like covering a delicious plate of vegetables with sugar.
Parabens – There’s been quite a bit of debate about the safety of parabens in the last few years and not just because they could be bad for your skin. Some feel these synthetic preservatives are just fine, while others feel they carry serious health risks. Our feeling is that until the debate is settled, it’s best to stay away from them.
Salicylic acid – Yes, we know we said above that oily skins should look for salicylic acid in their toners but everyone else—especially dry skins—should think twice about it. If you’re looking for a hydrating toner, this is one ingredient that could really dry you out.
Alcohol - You know how you start to crave water when you’ve had a drink or two? That’s because alcohol is incredibly dehydrating. Found in many toners in high concentrations, this is definitely an ingredient you want to steer clear of, especially if your goal is to find a hydrating toner.
So that’s the scoop on finding the best toner for your skin! We hope if you’re not currently using one, we hope we’ve convinced you to give it a try. And let us know if you have a sudden urge to go to the mall!