For a lot of people, toner is a beauty treatment like strobing or balayage. You might have heard people talk about it, but you’re not entirely sure what it is. Or maybe you think you’ve even used toner before, but you’re not really sure. Or maybe you think it looks so much like regular water, you’re not sure why you should even bother.
Well, we promise that by the time you finish reading this article, you’ll be the Jane Goodall, the Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Mayim Bialik, the…OK, let’s just say, you’ll be a serious expert on toner—and most likely, a convert. In this article, we’ll talk about what it is, how to choose the best toner for your skin, how to use toner, and when to use toner, and we’ll answer your questions about toner!
Why is Toner So Confusing?
Part of the reason you might be confused about toner is that it gets thrown in with or sold under a lot of names—tonic, oil, facial mist, solution, facial spray, facial treatment…the list goes on and on and on. Some of these may be true toners, while others may not be. It just depends what the product does.
In the not-so-distant past, toner was frequently—in fact, almost always—referred to as astringent and although it’s still on the market, astringent is a little bit of an old school term and product. Old school because it was and still usually is loaded to the gills with alcohol. If you’ve ever used it, you probably remember it making your eyes sting as if you had just eaten a raw jalapeño with not an ounce of water in sight. It also made your skin feel as if you were somewhere out in the middle of the Sahara.
Meant primarily to help balance out excess oil in (usually) teen-age skin, astringent also usually has a percentage of salicylic acid in it. While these may work wonders for some people, for those of us past our oily teenage years, they might be a little too harsh (unless, of course, you like having your eyes water for two hours after you clean your face).
Today’s toners are much more gentle and actually perform more functions than astringents so fear not! There is a toner out there that’s perfect for you!
What is Toner and What Does Toner Do for Your Skin?
Toners are generally water-based liquids that act as a sort of booster to your cleansing step and help prep your skin for moisturizing or make-up application.
Think of it this way: You know how, when you go to the car wash, you get a basic wash and then maybe add on a couple of little detailing steps? Like, maybe you get a little tire shine or a little wheel cleaner because you know the car will be seen by other people and you want it to look just a little bit better?
That’s kind of what a toner is—a supplement to the cleaning step that helps bump up its appearance and get it ready for the next step so your other products work better.
Today’s toners are seriously multi-taskers! Here are some of the things a toner will do for your skin:
1. Toners clean – We know what you’re thinking: if the toner comes after my cleanser, why do I need something else to clean my skin? It’s kind of like the car analogy. Yes, your car is clean after going through the car wash, but then you have to wait while they go over it with towels and make sure all the grime and even soap is truly off the surface of the car.
A toner helps take that last little residual layer of dirt and oil (and even cleanser) off your skin.
2. Toners protect – We promise we’ll stop with the car references after this, but you know how you can opt for a wax to protect your car? That’s exactly what a lot of toners do. Protect your skin from outside elements like free radicals that can really damage skin.
3. Toners exfoliate – Many toners promote skin turnover through exfoliation which really helps unclog pores and soothe skin!
4. Toners temporarily tighten pores – A good toner will help temporarily tighten pores and really minimize their appearance!
5. Toners brighten skin – Because toners help slough off all that old, dead skin, they help brighten skin’s appearance!
6. Toners hydrate – One of the biggest reasons people use toners today is to moisturize their skin. Not only do today’s toners moisturize the skin on their own, but they help get the skin ready to be moisturized so that moisture really stays locked in there!
7. Toners feel great! – Plain and simple toners just feel fabulous, especially on a hot day or after a long workout!
How to Pick the Best Face Toner
Choosing the best toner for your skin is really going to depend on what kind of skin you have and what you want the toner to do for you. Remember, toners these days have very specific jobs so you can really decide what it is you want in a toner.
Toners for normal or combination skin
Since you’re not necessarily looking for toner to solve any problems, a good option would be a toner that really brightens your skin and minimizes the look of your pores (toner is a serious over-achiever in this area!). Try to find something with niacinamide (or vitamin B3) which is known for its brightening properties and ability to revive dull skin. It will also help even out skin tone and minimize large pores.
Toners for oily skin
You’re most likely going to want something to slough off those dead skin cells and help balance your skin’s natural oils. Try a toner with a little glycolic acid. Glycolic acid helps remove dead skin cells from the skin and prevents clogged pores—a constant problem for those of us who have skin with more oil than Texas! It’ll also help keep those breakouts at bay.
Toners for dry skin
Lucky you, one of the things toners do best is hydrate! Look for a toner with a little glycerin. 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.
And nothing is better than a toner with a little rosewater which will not only soothe and hydrate your skin but naturally cleanses and moisturizes it! And wow, does it smell good!
When Do I Use Toner?
When used as part of a daily skincare routine, toner should always come right after you’ve cleaned your skin with a natural face wash and before you’ve moisturized it with a hydrating moisturizer. If you use a serum or eye cream, the toner should come before that, too.
Think of it as W.T.M. Wash – Tone – Moisturize!
That said, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it other times! Here are some other great ways to use toner!
- Maybe your hormones are a little off or you’ve had a stressful week, but for whatever reason, your skin is a mess. Try using a little extra toner on your t-zone to balance oils and even out skin tone (just make sure you’re doing it on clean skin).
- About to do your make-up? Give your face a little spritz of toner. We bet your make-up will go on more evenly.
- Want a little extra moisture but don’t necessarily want to use more moisturizer? A good, moisturizing toner can give you that extra boost of moisture you’re looking for.
- A little spritz of toner both before and after a mask can feel fantastic and since your skin is probably at its cleanest, there’s no better time!
- Love the dewy look but don’t love the make-up you have to use to get it? Spray a dab of toner on your cheeks and even brow bone. It’ll give you that fabulous glow!
- Nothing feels better after a workout than a quick spritz of toner! Just make sure you give your skin a quick clean so you’re not just layering toner on top of sweat.
- Same for the beach! Although you’ll want to make sure you’re not applying toner on top of sunscreen, if you’ve got a clean face, treat yourself to a little spritz! A hydrating toner will relieve some of the dryness caused by the sun’s rays!
- Give it to your guy! Men have a tendency to just wash and go—he’ll love the extra hydration it brings to his skin!
How Do I Use Toner?
Of all the beauty products in the world, few could be easier to use than toner! Here’s how to use toner as part of your skincare routine:
- If you’re using a spray bottle, just spritz it on to your face! You don’t want it running down your cheeks—just a light spritz and you’re good. If you want a little extra boost you can spritz it, let it dry, and then give your face another little spritz.
- Whether you’re using a spray bottle or not, you can soak a clean cotton pad with some toner and wipe your face with it—gently—in a upward direction. If you’ve got a particularly difficult spot, you can go over it again with a new pad.
- If you prefer, you can also spray a little toner on your hands and pat, pat, pat your face all over. Some people feel this helps them make sure the toner is truly all over the skin. Just make sure your hands are super clean when you do!
- You can also put some toner on a cotton pad and press it into your skin to make sure the toner is really getting in there. Be sure to get the areas that have fine, dry lines so they have a little extra hydration.
- Whatever method you’ve used, let your toner dry before putting on the next product like a serum or a moisturizer. This makes sure it gets into your skin properly.
Different Kinds of Toners
Although toner used to come in just a bottle form, today it comes in many forms! Below, we outline the different types of toners and how to use them. All the instructions below are for use on a clean face.
Bottle – This is probably what most people think of when they think of toner. The best method for using this type of toner is to put it on a clean cotton pad and wipe up, repeating with clean pads until there is no more dirt.
Spray – Spray toners are nice not only because they distribute the toner evenly on skin, but, well, they just feel good! Spray toner is used pretty much as you would guess—just spray on skin, making sure to get your cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead—and of course, make sure you close your eyes! If you want a little more control, you can spray the toner on a clean cotton pad and then go over your skin until the pad is clean. You can also spray it on to your hands as long as they’re clean!
Pro tip: a spray toner kept in the fridge feels really refreshing in the summer!
Roll-on – Yes, there are roll-on toners now which is great if you don’t want to deal with cotton pads. Just roll that toner on clean skin and you’re good to go!
Sticks – There aren’t a lot of these on the market yet but wow, is this a great idea! Not only are they easy to use, but if you’re traveling you can take them with you in a carry on without the risk of spilling anything! Simply rub the stick on clean skin and follow with moisturizer!
Frequently Asked Questions About Toner
Do I need a toner?
Yes! Toner may seem like one of those steps you can skip, but in fact, absolutely everyone should be using a toner, regardless of skin type.
Going through a whole skin care routine only to neglect toner is like doing a whole jigsaw puzzle and then leaving one piece out. And while a good skincare routine should be easy overall, nothing could be easier (or feel better) than using a good spray toner, so there’s no excuse not to use one!
How often should I use a toner?
You should definitely be using a toner at least twice a day as part of your regular skincare routine, but there are lots of other ways to use it!
Just be sure to consider what your toner is doing. If you’re using toner to combat oiliness, you want to make sure you don’t use it so much that you start drying your skin out.
Should I use a toner every day?
Not only can you use a toner every day, you should use a toner every day! And feel free to supplement your regular usage with a few boosts every now and then!
Do I use toner before or after my moisturizer?
Definitely before! A good toner helps get off all that dead skin so your moisturizer can really work its magic. We think after a few days you’ll see a real difference in the way your skin holds moisture!
Do I use a toner before or after a mask?
Both, actually! Use it before to get the dead skin off and after to help remove any remaining residue from washing your face. You’ll probably also want to moisturize after your mask as toner will help add and/or lock in that moisture.
We hope that takes the mystery out of toner for you! Once you’ve got the right toner for your skin, we think you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!
Fleur & Bee: Know Who You’re Buying From
At Fleur & Bee, we’re a small, close-knit team that makes natural skin care that's good for you, good for your wallet, and good for the planet.
Our clean skin care products are packed with carefully selected botanical ingredients that are time-tested and proven to work gently. Our collection is 100% vegan and cruelty-free and are free of nasties like parabens, sulfates, phthalates, silicones, and artificial fragrances. Oh and everything is under $30!
We’re also a sustainable skin care brand. Our products are crafted with sustainably sourced ingredients and are made with 100% renewable wind energy, and our packaging is up to 90% recyclable!
If we sound like your kind of clean skin care brand, check out our product lineup! Also, stay tuned to our blog for tips on easy, affordable, good-for-you skin care choices and ways to get your glow on!