By - Stormie McNeal
There's a lot of misinformation about toner around the internet. Despite it commonly being referred to as a way to shrink pores, that isn't what toner actually does to your skin.
The "pore shrinking" is just a byproduct of cleaning your pores; less noticeable sebum and balanced healthy skin will naturally leave you with smaller pores. Toner was originally marketed as a cleanser to combat the residue left behind by soap-based skincare products from the 1900s, but now soap-based products are few and far between, so do you still need a toner?
In this article, we demystify and debunk common myths about the world of face toners and let you decide if you really need one.
Can Toner Strip Your Skin?
The answer is sometimes, depending on the ingredients in your toner. Of course, some toners contain alcohol, which can dry your skin. Skincare products with alcohol are typically only beneficial to those with oily skin as it helps break up the excess oil produced by their face.
A lot of the rumors around toner being incredibly stripping are actually from being confused for astringents, which are often confused for or lumped together with toners. Astringents are liquid products intended to dry out the face and are only recommended for those with oily complexions.
Still, some toners still contain alcohol, even if it's less drying than an astringent. Check the ingredients list before buying and avoid any toners with alcohol unless your skin needs the extra oil-fighting power.
Who Really Needs Toner, Anyway?
Honestly? It depends. Not everyone needs toner according to Dr. Zoe Diana Draelos, a consulting professor of dermatology for Duke University School of Medicine. Dr. Zoe claims the benefits of toners already exist in most skin care routines, and the benefits toners aren’t needed for skin health.
However, most toners have ingredients to help with redness or to reduce inflammation. Also, toners can provide hydration and mild cleansing. In the event your skin is too sensitive for traditional cleansers, a toner is a gentle option.
Another benefit of toners is that they can help your skin absorb other products better. If you have stubborn skin that doesn’t seem affected by products you use, or a specific problem like acne or wrinkles, the products you use for those issues can be aided by a toner to prime your skin. The extra post-cleanser cleansing, on top of skin-penetrating ingredients, means that products applied afterward can be absorbed by your skin better. This is especially important if you have clogged pores often, if you have oily skin, or use heavier makeup.
If you're still struggling to get the desired effects of a product you are using, use heavier makeup products, have oily, acne-prone skin, or just need a little extra hydration, you should add a toner to your routine.
So, Which Toner Do I Use?
If you decide that you want to use a toner, choosing one will depend on your skin type. Everyone's skin chemistry is different, so what works for your friend or your sister will not always work for you. If you've used a toner in the past that left your face sticky, extra and unneeded ingredients your skin can't absorb could be to blame. If your toner leaves your skin dried out, harsh ingredients could be at fault.
There are many different types of toners with different toning effects, but here are five of our favorites:
Sensitive skin should avoid harsh products, like alcohol or other harsh chemicals. Rosewater and witch hazel are two natural remedies accessible wherever you buy skincare. Thayers Rose Petal Facial Toner combines those two products, is great for sensitive combination skin, and is perfect for skin balance.
If you have oily skin but still want to avoid harsh alcohols, this CoQ-10 Toner by Indie Lee is excellent. The self-proclaimed "antioxidant-powerhouse" contains aloe and cucumber to soothe your skin as it primes.
BHA is one of the most common chemical exfoliants, and this Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner is a toner with BHA that smells like summer, and PHA to hydrate and promote elasticity. During clinical studies, 100% of users claimed it made their skin feel “hydrated and replenished”; I like those odds.
Got acne? Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner by La Roche Posay has you covered. Featuring salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and an oil-free ingredients list, this toner is dermatologist tested and approved for all skin types.
Paula’s Choice Pore-Balancing Toner has hydrating ceramides that keep your skin soft and is approved for twice-daily use. It contains antioxidants and plant extracts to help cut through the oil and nourish your face.
Toners aren't always necessary. However, when used to help out your other skincare products, or target a specific issue, toners enhance your skincare routine and give it an extra boost. Toners are easy to add to your skincare routine too; just spray on or wipe on your face with a cotton pad after your regular cleanser. Overall, if you decide to add a toner to your routine, it can leave your skin soft, balanced, and beautiful.