Should I be using toner?
Years ago we were told you needed to use toner every time you washed your face. Now, I rarely hear people talk about it. In fact, I only know 2 people (not including myself) that use a toner.
These days it just isn't clear if and why you should use toner. So to help clear up some of the mystery around these products, I put together this post. Here goes!
So what does a toner do?
Toners were made to balance the pH, or acidity level, of skin. When skin pH is balanced, it's less oily and less likely to become infected. Skin is smoother and more beautiful.
While they're not crucial for skin care, toners can tighten pores and improve skin texture. They also can bring cleansing to a whole new level by removing oil, dirt, and pollution leftover after washing.
Some Dermatologists Feel Toners are 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
They're unnecessary, unless you have really oily skin.
And Other Dermatologists Highly Recommend Them:
“Toner is something I consider a second step of the cleansing process,” says Dr. Alicia Zalka, a Yale-affiliated dermatologist. “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.”
How do you choose a toner?
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 any skin type because of their ability to tighten pores and improve skin texture.
There are several different kinds of toners. You'll hear them called astringents, splashes, balancers, clarifying lotions, skin purifiers, or rejuvenators.
“Toner products are more varied and diverse than ever,” says Dr. Jennifer MacGregor, at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York. “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.”
People with oily skin should use an astringent. This type of toner removes oil and fights acne. They 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, sensitive skin, use a water - based toner. 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.
Just FYI, collagen peptide supplements have been proven to help with dry skin. You should check out our post.
SkinCeuticals LHA Toner
Designed for skin prone to breakouts, LHA Solution includes 3 different exfoliating agents. Together, they remove residue and surface skin cells to unclog your pores.
- LHA reduces skin discoloration, fine lines & wrinkles
- Helps improve skin tone & texture
- Removes dirt & oil that lead to breakouts.
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.
How to Use:
Twice daily after using LHA Cleansing Gel, place a small amount of toner onto a cotton ball and smooth over your face, neck and chest.
Allure.com likes the SkinCeuticals LHA Solution. (Now it's called LHA Toner.) Here's what they have to say:
"WHY WE LIKE IT:
As toners go, this formula is impressive: It cleans and exfoliates, helping curb breakouts without leaving skin dry or tight. But the spray top isn't an improvement over a regular screw cap—you'll still need to mist the toner onto a cotton pad." (Now it's sold in a bottle with a screw top. No more spray top.)
SkinCeuticals Equalizing Toner
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.
- Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory
- Ideal for all skin types
- Botanical extracts soften, soothe and tone the skin.
- Fragrance and oil - free
Botanical extracts: Witch hazel, rosemary, aloe, and chamomile
How to Use:
Twice daily after using a SkinCeuticals cleanser, apply a small amount to a cotton ball and smooth over face, neck and chest.
SkinCeuticals Equalizing Toner made TotalBeauty.com's list of the 16 Best Toners and Astringents.
Why it's great: TotalBeauty.com members love this product because it's "non-drying," leaving their skin "feeling clean and refreshed."
"Many other toners make me feel like I'm spraying pure alcohol on my face, but this toner is very light," says a reader. She adds that it is also effective in melting away traces of makeup missed by her cleanser.
Another reader reports that prior to using this, she "never believed toners were a necessary part of a skin-care regimen." After trying this, she says, "Now, I couldn't live without it."
Should you try a toner?
Dr. Zalka says that “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 adds that “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 seem to agree that astringents work well on oily, acne prone skin. While they're not a necessity, they can be beneficial in cleansing, tightening pores and improving skin texture. The biggest deciding factor however, should be how well they work on YOUR skin.
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.
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