Toner is the step that comes after cleansing our face. Ideally, right after. The basic idea is that toner gets whatever the cleanser did not. The truth is that cleansers are great for removing most of the gunk from your face, but sometimes they don't get everything. Following cleansing, it is not abnormal for stuff to get left behind - makeup sitting in nooks and crannies, pollution, chlorine and minerals from your tap water, even traces of cleanser can still be clinging to the skin. But not to worry. That's why we have toner!
The other important function of a toner is to help restore the skin's pH balance. Following cleansing, it's not unusual for our skin's pH to be out of whack. Your skin is meant to be a little naturally acidic, but in the process of cleansing our skin of excess oil and debris, the washing process can also disrupt that natural protective barrier. Toner is what helps balance things out again, allowing the rest of our products to work better as well.
HOW TO TONE:
Ideally we want to use toner day and night, but at least once a day. As we've already discussed, toner is meant to be used right after cleansing and before you apply other product.
It's important to know that toners come in different formats from cleansing pads to spritzes, to just a big old bottle of liquid. To truly effectively cleanse the skin, get a cotton round damp with toner and then swipe the whole face with it.
If the toner is hydrating, we have a couple of options - spritz directly onto the face and wipe off the excess with a cotton round, or spray it on to the cotton round and wipe clean. A spritz of toner can be nice for extra hydration or setting makeup.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
On top of everything we've already discussed, it's important to know that different toners do different things. This is critical to choosing the right one. So many people make the mistake of grabbing a strong astringent toner geared at targeting breakouts, but many of those products are too harsh and can actually aggravate your skin by over-drying it. Luckily, there are many other options. Toners can be balancing, yes. But did you know they can also be hydrating? Some of our favorite toners contain hyaluronic acid, which helps bind water to your skin. This is beneficial for all skin types. Along with hydrating, toners can be soothing with ingredients like aloe or rose. Or exfoliating with ingredients like lactic or glycolic acid. If you are acneic, a balancing toner is good but you can also incorporate something that is antibacterial and astringent.
TIPS & TRICKS:
Many people are afraid of toner because we all remember the awful, stripping, alcohol-based toners that we used in the nineties. But don't let that scare you away from today's toners. We like toners that employ special denatured alcohol or SD Alcohol, which is a cosmetic-grade alcohol. It is more sophisticated than rubbing alcohol and is used more as a binding agent to link other molecules together and drive other active ingredients into the skin.
You don't need to avoid all alcohol in toners. Just look closely at ingredient names. You want Alcohol Denat, SD Alcohol, Cetyl, Stearyl, and Cetearyl Alcohol - these are your "good" alcohols.
Photo by @gagewoodphoto courtesy of Sorella Apothecary