How Skin Toner Benefits Your Face | The Ultimate Guide

I think the confusion is a result of the many opinions on skin toner benefits. It isn't clear if you should use a facial toner and why. Are there any actual benefits for your skin? And are there any skin toner benefits for sensitive skin? So to help clear up some of the mystery around these products, I put together this post.

Toners Have Been Around a Long, Long Time.

Rose water is one of the earliest skin toners used - possibly as early as the 7th century. Because it has so many benefits for skin, it's an ingredient you might want to explore when looking for a facial toner.

Many toners sold today include rose water - but they also include other ingredients that bring added benefits for your skin.

What Are the Skin Toner Benefits? How Will a Toner Help My Skin?

Skin toners were made to balance the pH, or acidity level, of skin. When your skin pH level is balanced, it's less oily and less likely to become infected. Your skin is smoother and more beautiful!

Though they're not crucial for skin care, facial toners can tighten pores and improve skin texture. They also can bring cleansing to a whole new level by removing excess oil, dirt, and pollution leftover after washing. And the new generation of toners is made to enhance all skin types - even sensitive skin!

What Do Dermatologists Think About Skin Toner?

Some Dermatologists Feel Facial Toner is Unnecessary:

"There's something about toners that people love. Toners are actually relics of the days when most cleansers left a heavy residue on the skin and one needed to remove it by taking this extra step. Today's cleansers pretty much clean up after themselves, so a toner with strong astringent action is unnecessary, in some case, not to mention dehydrating." -- "Age-Less" by Fredric Brandt, MD 

"Toners just add an extra step and expense."  - Dr. Jeffrey Dover, Dermatologist, Chestnut Hill Massachusetts (said in O, the Oprah Magazine)

And Other Dermatologists Highly Recommend Them:

“Toner is something I consider a second step of the cleansing process. The benefit is that, when used correctly, it can help remove excess oils and dead skin cells that may lurk on the face after washing. To some extent a toner can help other skin applications penetrate more rapidly. However, this can be the case when one puts a product on moist skin (water can do this). It is a well-known fact that moist skin can better absorb topical products than dry skin. That is why certain products, such as retinol, come with instructions to apply to skin that is dry to avoid irritation from ‘over-penetration’ so to speak.”  - Dr. Alicia Zalka, Dermatologist, Western Connecticut

Dr. Howard Murad, MD, a Los Angeles dematologist, agrees. "I find that using a toner is just as crucial as cleansing, as it restores the skin's natural pH balance."

How Do You Choose a Toner?

Face toners used to be alcohol based and very drying. The new generation include ingredients that fight wrinkles, acne, and redness. They can be beneficial for all skin types (Yes, even sensitive skin!) because of their ability to tighten pores and improve skin texture.

There are several kinds of face toner. You'll hear them called astringents, splashes, balancers, clarifying lotions, skin purifiers, or rejuvenators.

“Toner products are more varied and diverse than ever. There are formulations with beta and alpha hydroxy acids (salicylic, glycolic) to exfoliate acne-prone skin, antioxidants like vitamin C and witch hazel, moisturizing toners with aloe and vitamin E, calming anti-inflammatory ingredients for sensitive skin and many with retinoids and other anti-aging compounds.”  - Dr. Jennifer MacGregor, Dermatologist, New York, NY

pretty daughter sitting on a rope ladder next to her mom | How Skin Toner Benefits Your Face | The Ultimate Guide | Masterpiece Skin Restoration

People with an oily skin type should use an astringent. This type of face toner removes oil and fights acne. Astringents usually include ingredients like alcohol, witch hazel, or salicylic acid.

Astringents "clean and tighten your pores, making it harder for debris and dirt to penetrate your skin and cause irritation or breakouts," says Murad.

Alcohol is often found in astringents for oily skin, but some dermatologists feel that alcohol - based toners are too drying, even for people with oily skin.

If you have dry skin, sensitive skin, or a combination skin type, use a water-based face toner. (But if you have eczema, skip the toner altogether.) They're sold as splashes or rejuvenators and contain moisturizers and / or antioxidants to hydrate and soothe skin.

Try to avoid astringent toners that include alcohol, retinol, glycolic acid, or benzoyl peroxide. These ingredients are drying and can cause redness and irritation.

“Patients with skin conditions such as eczema should avoid using toners.”  - Dr. Meghan Feely, Dermatologist, New York City, NY

How You Use a Facial Toner Depends on Your Skin Type.

“You can use a toner every day. If your skin is oily or prone to acne, tone twice a day (morning and night). I always tell my patients that the telltale sign is the four o’clock shiny nose; if that’s what yours looks like in the afternoon, then you should tone twice a day.”  - Dr. Debra Jaliman, Dermatologist, Manhattan, NY

If you have dry, sensitive or combination skin, use your toner once a day.

When to Use Skin Toner: 

  1. Clean your face.
  2. Put a small amount of toner on a cotton ball or cotton pad. While your face is still damp, gently rub the cotton ball / pad over your face and neck. (Damp skin absorbs better than dry skin.)
  3. Then follow your normal application routine (spot treatment > serum > moisturizer > sunscreen > makeup).


Designed for acne-prone skin, LHA Solution includes 3 different exfoliating agents. Together, they remove residue and surface skin cells to unclog your pores. ( likes the SkinCeuticals LHA Solution too - now called LHA Toner!)


  • LHA:  A lipo-hydroxy acid, LHA exfoliates your skin, decongests clogged pores, refines your skin's surface. It also has anti-bacterial & anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Glycolic Acid:  This AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) eliminates dead skin cells & improves skin hydration.
  • Salicylic Acid:  This BHA (beta-hydroxy acid) refines your pores while reducing acne.


Formulated for all skin types, this alcohol-free toner helps balance, refresh, and restore the skin’s pH while removing residue. It's a fruit acid blend that gently exfoliates dead skin cells. (SkinCeuticals Equalizing Toner made's list of the 16 Best Toners and Astringents. Their average member rating is a 9.4*)

Ingredients Include These Botanical Extracts:  Witch hazel, rosemary, aloe, and chamomile

Should You Try a Toner?

Dr. Zalka says “toners are not necessary, but they can be a great adjunct to a skincare regimen for those that need help with oily skin or markedly plugged pores. My main use for toners are in my acne patients.”

Dr. MacGregor feels “every person needs an individualized skincare regimen. Using a toner can be a nice way to add active ingredients like retinoids, antioxidants and exfoliants to your existing products.”

Most dermatologists agree that astringent toners work well on oily, acne-prone skin. And while they aren't a necessity, water-based toners are great at cleaning skin, tightening pores, and improving skin texture for all the other skin types. So there are some definite skin toner benefits! The biggest deciding factor should be how well they work on YOUR skin. Good luck!

Head shot, Amy Takken, RN & Founder, Masterpiece Skin Restoration

Amy Takken, RN

Amy Takken is a registered nurse with 20+ years of experience helping people improve their health. Her in-depth skincare articles have been featured on Nazarian Plastic Surgery and The Palm Beach Center for Facial Plastic & Laser Surgery. She's also been quoted on

Amy loves research and constantly watches for new products and treatments to help you improve your skin’s health – because healthy skin is beautiful! To reach Amy, visit our contact page.

Masterpiece Skin Restoration is your online resource for all things medical aesthetics, skincare, beauty, and wellness. We keep you up to date on leading edge technology and the services available to help you restore your natural beauty.

We have all the information you need to restore your skin.

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References:  What You Should Know About Rose Water | Medical News Today


The Information provided on our website is not medical advice and should not be viewed as such. By law, only a medical doctor can diagnose or give medical advice. As a registered nurse, my goal is to educate, so I provide information on skin care, skin products and treatments. If you have any condition that concerns you, please see a medical doctor. While most skin conditions are benign, some - like melanoma - can be deadly. If there is any doubt, please, please consult your physician. Thank you!

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