Chances are you’ve dispensed a toner onto a cotton pad and wiped it gently across your face. Many have included this step into their routine—and many continue to do so today.
Facial toners have crowded the skincare market in the last few years. Its sudden popularity is thanks to the multi-step Korean skincare trend, which helped many skincare enthusiasts learn about various products and their effects on the skin.
A facial toner formulated for your skin type might just be the one product missing in your routine. But before you start shopping for one, it helps to understand its purpose.
In this article, we’re breaking down exactly what a toner is, what it does for your skin, and how you can incorporate it into your regimen for healthier skin.
What is Toner?
A toner is a water-based, fast-penetrating product packed with hydrogen and oxygen that helps bring back moisture to the skin. Depending on the type of toner, this water-like product carries other beneficial ingredients such as acids, glycerin, antioxidants, herbal extracts, and anti-inflammatory properties.
What Does Toner Do?
The primary use of toner is to rebalance the skin’s pH level after cleansing to bring it back to its natural acidic state. This is when the skin absorbs moisture and other ingredients easily. When you use a cleanser with a different pH level to your skin, it can affect the skin’s functions or cause dryness and irritation.
When the skin is dry, it cannot effectively soak up all the good ingredients from your serums or moisturizer. But when the skin gets prepped for moisture, it accepts the products better. Think of using a toner to prep the skin for the products applied after, including makeup.
Besides prepping, toners also get rid of stubborn dirt or impurities your facial wash missed. Plus, it eliminates excess residue from cleansing, giving your face a deeper cleanse.
Some toners are designed to address specific skin problems. For instance, a toner that carries glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or lactic acid can help with mild exfoliation, while niacinamide toners brighten and evens the skin tone.
To use your toner, you can either use a cotton pad or apply the product directly onto your skin. A cotton pad helps get rid of excess oil and dirt that your cleanser may have missed, whereas patting on the toner helps the product penetrate more easily into your skin.
Is Toner Necessary?
So, do you need a toner? Toners aren’t exactly a necessary step in a skincare routine, but they can be a superb addition that helps the other products in your regimen penetrate better into the skin, and of course, reap their incredible benefits as a result.
You’ll find many types of toners out there, each carrying unique ingredients to suit different skin types. Some toners promise to remove excess oil and reduce pimples (astringent toners), while others offer hydrating properties to soothe the skin (balancing toners). That’s why it’s essential to determine your skin type and specific issues first to get the product suited for you.
Toners for Different Skin Types
Similar to choosing a serum, essence, or moisturizer, you also need to find a toner that matches your skin type and targets your specific skin problems.
- For dry skin
If you tend to be on the dry side, keep an eye out for products with hydration-boosting ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid and niacinamide. Stay away from alcohol-based toners, as they may only do more damage to dry skin.
A gentle toner like Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Toner will not strip the skin of its natural oils. This product helps clarify the skin’s texture, prepping the surface. It rebalances the skin pH for optimal comfort to absorb all the goodness from the succeeding products like the Ultra Facial Cream or Moisturizer.
- For oily or acne-prone skin
Avoid toners with high alcohol content as these can only exacerbate oiliness. Keep an eye out for a non-comedogenic and alcohol-free toner, as it will not block your pores. Instead, it will help balance and soothe the skin and get rid of excess oil. If you want a multi-tasking toner for oily or acne-prone skin, look for those formulated with AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) and BHA (beta-hydroxy acid) for mild exfoliation.
Check out Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Toner, which is specially formulated to visibly reduce excess oil on the skin, making you look fresh and hydrated after wash. The alcohol-free formula is non-drying, so it removes dirt and residue without stripping your skin of its natural oils.
- For combination skin
It’s tricky to find suitable products for combination skin since there are spots that are oily and other parts that are dry. If you want to add this step into your skincare routine, you need to find a formula that targets oiliness without amplifying dryness.
Alcohol-free toners with balancing formulas can mattify shiny spots and, at the same time, boost hydration to areas that need moisture. Look out for oil-fighting ingredients like glycolic acid and hydration boosters like fatty acids and ceramides to reinforce the skin barrier.
Calendula extract is an excellent ingredient that addresses acne, soothes irritation, and keeps skin hydrated all at the same time — three things you want in a toner for combination skin. Kiehl’s Calendula Alcohol-Free Toner is packed with effective herbal extracts that gently soothe irritation while addressing oiliness and acne-prone problem areas. It’s also free from harsh chemicals, so it won’t dry and irritate the skin.
Here’s something interesting about Kiehl’s Calendula Toner—the calendula petals in the bottle are carefully inserted by hand. This is part of Kiehl’s apothecary tradition to guarantee the most effective and potent formula.
- For sensitive skin
When searching for toners for sensitive skin, choose those with skin-calming and moisturizing ingredients like glycerin. Or, you can consider all-natural toners to ensure they’re free of harsh chemicals that can aggravate sensitive skin.
Avoid toners with synthetic drying agents, alcohol, and strong fragrances since these can irritate the skin. Toners containing jojoba oil help reduce redness and calm the skin, while squalane carries anti-inflammatory properties to soothe inflamed skin.
If you’re looking for an extra-gentle toner, check out Kiehl’s Cucumber Herbal Alcohol-Free Toner, which is the mildest one in their selection. The cucumber-based formula delivers a natural soothing, balancing, and mildly astringent effect that leaves your skin soft, clean, and soothed.
Tone-up for Your Best Skin
As you know, a good base is necessary for effective skincare, and toner is a worthwhile addition to your skincare routine to help get the most benefits from the other steps. If you want to add more steps to your simple regimen and indulge in your self-care schedule, complete it with a toner suited to your skin.
Now that you understand what toner is and how it works, stop by Kiehl’s website to check out toners like the Calendula Alcohol-Free Toner and other products for normal to oily skin types.