What Does Toner Do for Skin? Everything You Need To Know About Using Toner on Your Face

Felicia Sapountzis
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Ever wondered what toner does for your skin? Why on earth you might want to use a toner after cleansing your face? Facial toners work in a few different ways to keep acne in order, minimise pores, and even help to control the vapid pH levels on our skin.

Like any worthwhile addition to your skincare routine, a toner might take a while to work. But, toners are an essential part of a balanced skincare routine – just as much as cleansing and moisturising.

RELATED: How to cure adult acne

How do face toners work?

Toners are usually made from a super-fine formula that looks and feels like water. There are also cream toners, though these are less common. Skin toners work best when applied to clean, dry skin–so, usually the best time to apply a toner is after you’ve cleansed and dried your face.

Face toner works by helping to balance the pH level on skin to 5.5, which is ideal for clear, healthy skin. Sometimes, using too many chemicals and even tap water can turn the pH level too acidic, and this can create redness, irritation, pimples or even adult acne.

Do I need to use a toner on my skin?

Your skin doesn’t need a toner, but is it important to use one–especially if you have oily skin or are prone to getting blemishes. Over the years, toners have been used after cleansing to remove any extra bit of makeup or residue from the skin. Apply a few drops onto a cotton pad, and gently swipe upwards to the forehead. Take special care when using around the mouth, hairline, and eyes since these areas are usually ultra-sensitive.

Toners are also used to tighten the skin, and minimise the appearance of enlarged pores. Think of it this way; hot water has the ability to open pores and remove any excess dirt and bacteria, but toners close them up afterwards. Don’t let this scare you! They are really easy to use, and help to remove any excess build-up of bacteria which cleansers can miss.

Will a toner dry my skin?

Many toners available these days are made from natural, plant-based ingredients–so while some will dry your skin out, with a bit of care you will find the right toner for your skin type. Your skin might feel a little tight afterwards, but this is totally normal. It’s just because the toner is working!

Despite this, there still are a number of toners that are packed with alcohol, and designed to tame oily skin. This is probably why toners are sometiems feared in the beauty community, because some can completely dry the skin out and create extra irritation. Use a fragrance and alcohol-free formula (like this one from Kiehl’s) if you suffer from extra-dry or sensitive skin, just to be safe. Follow-up with a hydrating moisturiser to lock-in a soft, smooth texture which is perfect for any skin type.

A great way to ensure that your toner doesn’t dry your skin is to only apply a few drops over problem areas such as the t-zone – you don’t need to apply a toner all over your face.

How should I use toner on my face?

The best time to use a toner is after cleansing your skin. Make sure your makeup has been completely removed (yes–even that pesky mascara), and gently pat your face dry with a towel. Apply a few drops of toner onto a cotton pad (or between your palms), and softly dab it onto your problem areas.

As a general rule, don’t apply any type of skincare product over inflamed or damaged skin, since it could only make the area more irritable. Follow up with a serum, eye cream, and finally a hydrating moisturiser on both your face and neck.

Shop 3 of our all-time favourite toners below:

1. Aesop – Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Facial Toner

2. The Ordinary – Glycolic Acid Toner

3. Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol-Free Toner