Do You Need To Use Toner?
Skin care can be very tricky, especially if you've never put much thought or effort into it before. That's my story, anyway. I hardly ever washed my face, I bought average drug store products, and I never had any skin problems - and then all of a sudden I was thrown into a confusing world of reading ingredients, understanding what my skin needs to be healthy, and not knowing where to start with it all.
It was a long journey to "teach" myself, to learn all of this stuff - which is why I started this blog, wrote the eBook, and answer questions on social media about skin care - because it is a LOT of work, and I want to make the work just a little easier for someone else.
One of the more puzzling questions about skin care is in regards to a toner. We've all likely been told to cleanse, tone and moisturize, but what does that even mean?!
Before I got acne I had no clue what a toner was for your skin - I knew what toner is for your hair, what toner is for your printer, but what the heck is a toner for your face, and - do I need one?
Hopefully I can help answer that question for all of you, today. So, let's get into it.
What is a toner?
A toner is a lotion or liquid designed to "cleanse the skin" and "shrink the appearance of pores". It can also be used to even out skin tone, and exfoliate, depending on the ingredients. It is used after cleansing, before moisturizing, usually applied to the face with a cotton round.
Some people will tell you that a toner is needed in the process because it helps complete the cleansing of the skin - to either remove whatever your cleanser missed, or remove the cleanser residue itself. First of all, after you remove your makeup and cleanse your skin, if you still have makeup residue left on your face - you need to get yourself a better cleanser or remove your makeup better. You shouldn't need a toner to remove it - it's not tree sap, it's makeup. It should come off easily with a good cleanser and makeup removing routine. Also, good cleansers should also not leave a residue on your face. The point of a cleanser is to loosen and lift away dirt, dead skin, makeup - as well as itself. Cleansing your skin is your cleanser's job - not your toner's. Don't waste your money buying double the product to do one product's job, just get a better cleanser, like those mentioned here.
People may also tell you that you need a toner in your skin care routine in order to "close your pores". Well, that's just nonsense - you cannot and should not want to close your pores. Pore size is genetically-determined, so you cannot just up and change their size. Toners may help to shrink the appearance of pores temporarily, probably due to the alcohol swelling and irritating your pores, but the damage you're likely doing to your skin in the process really isn't worth it. Instead, opt for a good primer. It will also temporarily fill in your pores so they don't look as large, but without any drying, irritating effects.
Toners were also once recommended as a way to restore the skin's pH balance after using a bar soap or bar cleanser (which a lot of people used, and still use) because those types of cleansers raise the skin's natural pH to an alkaline level that isn't good for your skin. For this purpose, these toners were usually slightly acidic, which in and of itself is a good reason to use it. Thankfully, most cleansers today (if you're picking a good one like this one) are gentle, pH-balanced, and not stripping - so for these purposes, a toner is no longer necessary, unless you're still using that ol' Dove bar to wash your face.
But that doesn't mean a well-formulated toner isn't a good idea.
So what is in a toner that supposedly makes it do all of these amazing things?
Depending on the toner, and what its intended purpose is, it can contain ingredients like chamomile, or ingredients like alcohol. Some toners claim to be soothing, others claim to be astringent (to "restore" our natural pH).
Every toner will likely be different - there are toners out there geared toward every kind of skin type; however, a good toner will be one that is chock full of skin-identical, cell-communicating, skin-healing, skin-healthy ingredients, like antioxidants, fatty acids and ceramides.
Here are some toners I personally like, and would recommend:
This is actually a great little toner, with simple, soothing antioxidant ingredients that would be ideal for any skin type, but especially for sensitive skin. Plus it contains green tea extracts, a favourite of mine, which has been shown to help with acne - as well as allantoin, chamomile and aloe vera, all great as skin-calming agents. It is also fragrance-free, for those of us sensitive to scents, as well!
This is another toner with good, simple ingredients, however, I would encourage people with normal to combination skin to use this rather than people with sensitive skin, who may experience some dryness from the witch hazel.
This toner is ridiculously full of skin-healthy ingredients that will repair damaged skin, as well as soothe. However, it does contain glycolic acid (good for exfoliation), so if you're using it, please wear a good SPF and only use it at night.
If the other Andalou Naturals toner isn't for you, perhaps you'll enjoy this sensitive skin one which is also chock full of antioxidants that your skin loves and needs!
So what's the bottom line?
1. Avoid alcohol-based toners that claim to be astringent (you'll see this a lot for products geared toward acne like high concentrations of witch hazel, or menthol). While I used alcohol-based products in the past, and many people swear by it, all it does is cause unseen free-radical damage and irritation, which will in turn affect your skin's ability to repair itself. In the short-term it may work by drying your skin up, but we've seen here why the dry-it-out method doesn't work.
2. Toners with a lot of unnecessary essential oils and glycerin should also be avoided - they're loaded with fragrant irritants that do nothing for your skin except irritate and damage it. Keep in mind that just because an ingredient isn't damaging your skin doesn't mean it's doing any good - adding unnecessary products into your routine can encourage bacteria to proliferate and throw your skin out of balance.
3. A good toner should be full of antioxidants and things like niacinamide, pycnogenol, green tea extract, allantoin, chamomile, aloe, things that are soothing, calming, skin-repairing, cell-communicating, etc.
At the end of the day, is a toner necessary? No, absolutely not. Can a toner be beneficial? Of course it can. The right toner can add much-needed antioxidants and other skin-healthy ingredients to your skin which can help in secondary skin problems like acne or rosacea. If you find a toner that has good ingredients and works for your skin, then keep it up! But if your toner contains harsh ingredients like alcohol, drop it like a bad habit and instead look for a better cleanser and moisturizer.