For someone who has access to powerful serums, luxurious cleansers, and rich moisturizers, you’d be surprised by how simple my skin-care routine is: cleanser, moisturizer (and SPF), and the occasional mask or eye cream. It wasn’t until recently, when my aesthetician recommended incorporating a toner to balance my slightly oily/slightly dry T-zone, that a new product took a spot in my starting lineup. It turns out toners have come a long way since their association with acne-plagued teenagers and the distinct astringent scent of Sea Breeze. While I love the refreshing aspect of a toner, I was less sure about its other benefits. So I spoke to Erin Gilbert, a New York City dermatologist, and Ruthie Harper, of the Laser and Skincare Clinic in Austin and founder of SkinShift Skin Care, to find out more.
What’s the story with toners? They seem misunderstood. “The old story on toners was one of pH balancing and removing the stuff from your face that your cleanser didn’t, to achieve a squeaky clean,” says Harper. “But now, toners are actually quite hydrating and packed with active ingredients to treat and soothe skin.”
Who should use them? “There is an ideal toner for every skin type,” says Gilbert. “It’s just a matter of finding the perfect match. Toners containing alcohols remove excess oil from the skin and can actually help prevent breakouts for those with acne-prone skin. Toners with glycerin and hyaluronic acid can help hydrate the skin and prevent dryness.”
Any special ingredients to look for? “I really like those with brightening agents like orange extract, and antioxidants like tomato extract, bergamot, and vitamins E and A,” says Harper. “They deliver immediate hydration and keep skin looking youthful.” “Chamomile and other plant-based extracts can also be very calming, especially for those with redness and any inflammation,” adds Gilbert.
When should we use them? “As the weather warms up, even combination skin tends to break out, so toners with salicylic acid can be really helpful for gently unclogging your pores and preventing summer breakouts. They are even great in the winter, when the ambient air is dry,” says Gilbert. “I like to recommend toning while traveling,” says Harper. “The air in-flight is so drying, and a toner will cleanse, hydrate, and leave you feeling refreshed.”
Can a toner be hydrating enough to replace your daily moisturizer? “They are not exactly a replacement,” says Harper. “I tell my patients with extremely oily skin that they can sometimes get away with skipping a moisturizer in the summertime if they use a toner instead,” adds Gilbert. “A toner can be hydrating enough, but don’t forget sunscreen.”
Originally featured at Allure.com