What does a skin toner do for you?

skin toner

In yesterday’s post about whether you need a skin care regime I said that I wasn’t sure what exactly a toner was supposed to do.  Some people have taken this to mean I don’t think they do anything.  This isn’t the case.  I am sure they must do something given how long they have been selling for. I just haven’t worked out what it is yet.

So it is a genuine question.   What does your skin toner do for you?

It is easy enough to come up with something that cools the skin down a bit, or dries it out quickly so the skin feels like it is tightening up a bit.  But these aren’t really benefits that improve your skin tone.  Or are they?

I’d love to hear what you think.

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12 thoughts on “What does a skin toner do for you?

  1. Diana

    I use it to cleanse the last residues of make up on my face, but also to “balance” the skin if I can say so. The toner I’m using claims:
    Restore skin’s healthy balance with this lightly hydrating, weightless solution. Potent antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients and anti-inflammatory agents help reduce redness and inflammation.
    Maybe not all it’s true, but overall if I don’t use it, I notice the difference.

  2. Valerie

    I find my skin to be a little more dewy looking if I use toner. Also,I tend to get red easily, and my toner helps calm my face down after washing.

  3. Pingback: Olay Oil Minimizing Toner – Dissecting the Label

  4. Jessica Allison

    In my humble opinion (and, well, based on a glance at many, many ingredient labels) toners are nothing but water with ever-so-slight hydration added. To me, there is no benefit to using most basic toners, aside from perhaps the exfoliation you’re getting from the cotton pad used to apply it.

    The one exception I do make is for toners that contain certain active ingredients that otherwise a person would be unable to use. For instance, my skin is dry and sensitive; I cannot use most creams containing glycolic acid because the concentration- often around the 10% mark- is simply too high and irritating to my skin. There are toners, however, that use glycolic in the 2 to 3% range, which is very well-tolerated for my skin.

    This is typically the only exception I make for toner use personally, and for a long time I have encouraged my readers to omit this step and see if they really notice a difference. Granted, if you’re somebody who has been using them for years, it feels strange to skip it at first, but as they get used to a more streamlined routine, I think most people find toner non-essential.

  5. Tabitha

    The only toner to ever noticeably make a difference to me is an alcohol free one:

    “Naturally active ingredients include aloe vera to revitalise and soften and calendula, chamomile, cucumber and natural source vitamin E to soothe and refresh the skin.”

    I notice the difference if I don’t use it – drier skin in winter and more oily skin in summer.

  6. Pedro

    Out of curious you almost don’t use toners in Japan and South Korea. Instead of toner you usually what they call”lotion” (almost everyone use lotions there – even men).

    The concept is different: lotions are very liquid products with a lot of humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid to “soft” the dryness caused by the cleansers. Almost all Japanese women do “double cleansing” (oily makeup remover + regular cleanser) daily, so they don’t need any other product to clean the skin.

    According to the Japanese Skincare Theory due the high amount of glycerin and other glycols the lotions also disrupt momently the skin’s barrier, then the “treatment” product that is used after the lotion can penetrates better.

    (Sorry, I put this same message in a wrong post – now I’m commenting in the right post hehe).

  7. Colin Post author

    Thanks for the comments folks. There is an interesting range of opinions there. It looks like there are three camps. Toner lovers who appreciate the cleansing, alcohol free toners that are moisturising and toner skeptics.

  8. Gibson Girl

    I’ve used a few different toners through the years, they all acted a little differently… my early toners (used as a teen) were mostly for drying out the skin to soak up excess oil. Toners I use now tend to have acids in them to smooth the skin out more.

  9. The Stitch and Fold

    I’m surprised by the number of people who say that toners have a moisturising effect for them. For me, I find that toner has a mild cleansing effect, but that’s about it. Perhaps some toners are comparable to creamy facial washes (with added moisturiser) while others have more astringent properties. Personally, I’d never buy toner – I’d just use a facial wash.

  10. Kath's Notes On Beauty

    Traditionally toner was used to ‘break down’ the oilyness of cold creams which were used to remove heavy makeup. Cold creams would contain animal fats and waxes and the toner would help remove the layer of oil left on the skin.

    Now toner is a broad term encompassing everything from astringent ‘oil removing’ toners to ‘mineral infused’ water. I think the more astringent toners are often mis-used now as people often associate the feeling of tightness with clean-ness and are over-drying their skin. I tend to stay away from astringents in my professional work and stick to the mineral infused waters. I’m not entirely sure if they are actually beneficial to the skin but is great when used in a spray bottle to freshen-up the look of over-powdered makeup. It would be interesting to hear your take on this Colin?

  11. Xenobio

    I use toner mostly to clean my face after riding my bicycle to work. Currently I’m using Body Shop’s Vitamin E toner which as far as I can tell is non-alcoholic, and it does seem to have a moisturising effect. When I was a student in the USA I used to use unbranded witch hazel astringent because it’s cheap. As Kath said, “toner” appears to have become a catch-all for “non-viscous liquid that you wipe on your face”.

  12. livvi

    Slightly late on the uptake of this post! I have rather congested and acne-prone skin, so I use toner to remove cleanser (I use quite a hydrating cleanser), but I always like to use a toner that does more than that. There is obviously a big trend in the industry at the moment for acid toners (pixi glow tonic, clarins, P50 etc). Personally I make my own with rose water and a small amount of glycolic acid, then finish this off with LRP serozinc 0- this is a new purchase and i’m not sure how effective it is at the moment but it definitely calms the skin if i have breakouts.

    would be interesting to hear your thoughts!

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