Toners are no longer just astringent formulas used for additional cleansing, instead they are an essential daily step for achieving hydrated skin
Sometimes moisturizer just isn’t enough. Skin, depending on the season—or your genetics—can be dry, temperamental or simply in need of additional nourishment like antioxidants, which is why incorporating a toner into your daily routine should be a critical step.
“The purpose of a toner is to restore the skin to its natural pH balance,” says Charlene Florian, vice president of corporate creative development for skincare brand Kerstin Florian. “It is the second step in the cleansing process and prepares the skin for the treatment and moisturizing phase.” Generally used to remove any lingering traces of impurities or dull skin surface, toners rebalance skin, whether you’re looking for a formula that hydrates, cleanses, nourishes, refreshes, eliminates oils or acts as an anti-inflammatory. “The category of toners has really expanded to benefit all skin types and lifestyle habits. Toners have even crossed over into the treatment category in some cases,” says Florian. “Along with its traditional use, we recommend using a toner in the morning in place of a cleanser as a gentle way to prepare the skin for a serum and/or moisturizer. You don’t always need to cleanse the skin in the morning, particularly with normal, dry, mature and sensitive skin types.”
Toners now come in a variety of formulations, from traditional liquids applied with cotton pads (we love Renée Rouleau’s antioxidant-packed Elderberry Toner) to mists (like Kerstin Florian’s incredible Rehydrating Neroli Water Toner, which smells like the Amalfi Coast/heaven). “The toners that are applied with a cotton pad generally have a more targeted effect, for example cleansing. You can see the effect it has on the skin by looking at the cotton after applying it, particularly if it has astringent ingredients in it. Mists are generally used more as a refreshing, hydrating pick-me-up while delivering nourishing ingredients to the skin.”
For its Rehydrating Neroli Water Toner, Kerstin Florian uses the bitter orange blossom from which neroli is derived. It’s has antiseptic qualities (plus it has an invigorating citrus green floral scent). Natura Bissé’s new Diamond White Clarity Toner Lotion harnesses pomegranate enzyme extract to brighten skin and assist in lowering hyper pigmentation in sun-sensitive skin by interfering with the melanin formation, plus it help skin retain water for increased hydration. Paula’s Choice fragrance-free Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner helps eliminate dry, flaky skin by delivering antioxidants and plant extracts in a weightless liquid formula to normalize pore size.
Florian suggests avoiding alcohol or high percentages of exfoliating acids when selecting a toner and instead “look for high-quality botanical and cosmeceutical ingredients.” She also suggests for those with normal, combination or oily skin to try toners with aloe vera, lavender, salicylic acid, rosemary, witch hazel or cucumber. For more sensitive skin, use formulas with neroli, cucumber, witch hazel and aloe vera. “Sensitive skin doesn’t need a toner; a great anti-inflammatory or hydrating mist is best, but all sensitive skin is not equal, so determine where the sensitivity is coming from first.” Those with aging skin should look for ingredients including rose, chamomile, aloe vera and green tea. “Look for a toner based on nourishing, moisturizing and balancing ingredients. Think gentle, rejuvenating and hydrating.”