What is Toner Used For?

What is Toner Used For?

There are so many skincare products on the market today that it becomes really easy to lose yourself in all the terminology. From cleansers, serums, creams, masks, and moisturizers, to lotions, essential oils, toners, and essences, it's hard to know where to start.

A quick online search will tell you the order you should use the products - and we have one of those too! But what’s the difference between them, and what are they used for?

If you’re asking yourself any of these questions - don’t worry; you’re not alone!  

In this article, we'll focus on toners and give you a clearer view of what exactly a toner is, whether you need it, and what you can use it for.

What Exactly is a Toner?

woman touching face

Many dermatologists reference toners as one of the most essential products in your skincare regimen. Experts agree that toners are more important than serums, lotions, oils, and masks and can do more for your skin in keeping it clear and clean.

But what are toners?

If we're going by official definitions, a toner is a liquid skincare product designed to cleanse and even skin tone, reducing the appearance of large pores. Applying a face toner is pretty straightforward. Just take a cotton ball, dip it in the liquid, and cover the whole face.

There are three types of toners in skin care.

Classical Toner


Typically, classical toners have always come with a high amount of alcohol in their formulation. They hydrate, balance your pH, tighten the skin, and prepare the pores for better product absorption. This is why using a moisturizer after applying this type of facial toner is imperative to prevent your skin from becoming dry.

Classical toners are best for normal or oily, acne-prone skin.


Fresheners are the mildest and gentlest type of toner, which makes them most suitable for sensitive and dry skin.

These toners contain little to no alcohol in them. But be careful. Many freshening toners contain many extracts and fragrances that may irritate sensitive skin. Keep an eye on the ingredients, especially if you have sensitive skin, or go for a toner made from natural ingredients.


Astringent toners are the most famous type, typically associated with the more general meaning of the word “toner.”

Astringents are the toners advertised for oily and acne-prone skin due to their highest alcohol content and abrasive, oil-reducing properties. However, due to these properties, astringents should be used with caution. You can try to dilute them if you find them too strong, and always use a cotton ball. This is because the cotton will absorb much of the liquid, making it less irritating for the skin. Make sure to apply a good moisturizer designed for acne afterward.

Witch Hazel is the most widely used ingredient in astringent toners.

cleaning the face


What To Use A Toner For? - Benefits Of Using Toner For The Skin

It doesn't matter whether you have dry or sensitive skin. Everyone can and should use a toner in their skincare routine. Toners are packed full of benefits, and here are just a few.

Toners Help Clear Oily and Acne-Prone Skin

 choose the right toner

Toners won’t directly attack existing pimples, but they can act as a preventive measure against new acne outbreaks. This is because facial toner completely cleans the skin and removes built-up dead skin cells, debris, makeup residue, and excess oil, all of which clog the pores and lead to irritation and inflammation.

Most small pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads appear due to environmental pollutants. Using a toner twice a day will significantly reduce the possibility of acne breakouts on your skin.

To clarify, toners can’t replace cleansers, and you shouldn’t use a toner to cleanse your face or remove makeup. Use it after your cleanser.

Toners Help Shrink Large Pores

shrink large pores

Sometimes large pores result from genetics. But, most of the time, excess oil, dirt, and dead skin build up inside the pores can enlarge them. Keeping the pores clean and empty will help them shrink to their original size, making them less visible on the face. So if you want to tighten pores and improve your skin texture, get yourself a good skin toner.

Toners Help Restore Your Skin’s pH balance

The pH scale is 0 to 14, and 7 is neutral. Every value below 7 is acidic, and every value above 7 is alkaline.

The human skin’s normal pH is slightly acidic, with a pH of 5-6. Most problems occur because soaps and other cleansing agents are alkaline and can reduce the acidic nature of the skin. Using a toner after cleansing will balance the skin quickly and without consequences. This won't upset the pH of the skin.

Toners Renew and Protect Your Skin

woman smiling

Tap water contains many chemicals that can irritate the skin. After washing and cleansing, a toner can protect your skin by removing chlorine and minerals present in tap water.

We already mentioned that toners help to shrink pores. Tighter pores will prevent the chemicals from tap water and other factors from penetrating the skin's surface and damaging it.

Side-Effects of Using Toner for the Skin

Toners are safe, and there are no known dangerous side effects. But, many famous toner formulas contain fragrances and alcohol in high amounts, which are not suitable for sensitive and dry skin.

People with sensitive skin might experience redness or a burning sensation after applying toner, also known as irritative contact dermatitis. If you experience any discomfort, wash your face with cool water and don’t use that product again. If the discomfort persists, contact your dermatologist or doctor.

Some specific types of toners can cause dry and textured skin to become tight and dull or even cause patches and flaking. But this doesn’t mean you should give up on toners. Research to find the best one for you. Always finish with a moisturizer after applying a toner.

When to Use Toner

time for toner

It’s best to use a toner after you cleanse your skin but before applying a moisturizer.

This is how a simple skincare routine should look:

Step One: Wash your face with lukewarm water and a gentle cleanser to remove dead skin cells, debris, or makeup residue. Then, pat your face dry with a clean, soft towel.

Step Two: If you're using a strong toner, take a cotton pad, dip it in the liquid, and gently rub it over the face. Avoid sensitive areas around your eyes, nose, and mouth. You should feel a tightening sensation after a few minutes.

If you're using a mild, alcohol-free freshener instead of a cotton pad, use your fingers to apply the toner. This is because the cotton pad can absorb the product and leave a thinner layer of the toner on the skin. After this, repeat the same procedure as described in the paragraph above.

Step Three: After a few minutes, when your toner has been absorbed completely, apply your favorite moisturizer.

This order will lock in long-lasting moisture and hydration.

How to Choose the Right Toner


If you have oily skin or combination skin, use a water-based toner, as this will help matte your skin rather than making it shinier. Contrary to this, if you have a dry complexion or aging skin, look for a hydrating toner enriched with essential or natural oils and vitamins that provide more moisture.

If you have sensitive skin, add an all-natural toner to your skin care routine. Make sure it doesn’t contain harsh or abrasive ingredients.

Additionally, always look for toners that are 100% alcohol-free.

Make a habit of searching for ingredients suitable for your specific condition. For example, look for facial toners enriched with vitamin E oil or tea tree oil if you’re fighting acne. Pair them with a salicylic acid cleanser like this. Opt for a soothing toner with rosewater or chamomile if you have sensitive or easily irritated skin.

If you don’t want to spend money on yet another product or you’re a fan of natural remedies, here are the best natural toners for various skin types and specific skin concerns.

Top 8 Natural Toners

rose water

Rose Water

Suitable for all skin types.

Rose water is great for controlling the skin’s pH balance and also keeps oil production under control. It comes with many benefits for the skin. Being so light and gentle on the skin, rose water can be used on all skin types (including oily, dry, normal, or combination skin) and up to twice daily. Best of all, rose water smells amazing, and you can even use it as a perfume.

Witch Hazel

Suitable for normal and oily skin. Not suitable for sensitive skin.

Witch Hazel is a famous and strong natural remedy with many benefits backed by science. Today, it’s used worldwide in a broad range of skincare products, but most famously for oily skin and acne problems.

Witch Hazel is strong and should be diluted with water or another natural ingredient before being used directly on the skin. You can use it every second day.

green tea

Green Tea

Suitable for all skin types.

Green tea is high in antibacterial and antioxidant properties, which will keep the skin clean, protect it from oxidative damage, and provide nutrients from which your dull skin will feel like silk. To use green tea as a toner, brew 1 cup of green tea and let it cool down. After it gets to room temperature, it’s ready to use.

Chamomile Tea

Suitable for all skin types.

Chamomile tea is the gentlest of all the toners out there. Applying it to the skin provides an extremely soothing feeling. Chamomile has been linked with the ability to ease the pain from dry skin cracks and flaking, itchiness, and acne inflammation.

Because it’s so gentle, you can use it as many times as you feel you need. Just make sure the tea is at room temperature before applying.

Apple Cider Vinegar

apple cider vinegar

Suitable for oily skin type. Not suitable for dry skin.

Apple cider vinegar is one of the most referenced natural remedies for cleaning the skin, removing bacteria, and fighting off acne. It’s really powerful and can dry off the pimples and prevent new outbreaks. The downside is that it can cause irritation and overdry the skin, as it’s highly acidic, which can have an adverse effect on acne. So how do you prevent this and still get the benefits of apple cider vinegar?

First, dilute it with water in a 1:1 ratio. Second, always use a moisturizer after applying apple cider vinegar.

It’s not recommended to use it frequently - twice a week should be more than enough.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is suitable for oily skin but not dry skin.

Lemon juice, besides having all the benefits of apple cider vinegar, can also brighten the skin and reduce the appearance of brown spots or uneven skin tone. It’s high in vitamin C, which also has amazing benefits for the skin. Unfortunately, like apple cider vinegar, lemon juice can dry out the skin and trigger the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. This is why you should always invest in a good moisturizer, which you should always use after treating the skin with lemon juice.

Cucumber Juice

Suitable for all skin types.

Cucumber juice has a cooling and refreshing effect on the skin. It will keep it clear, nourish it with many essential vitamins, and hydrate it enough to prevent it from drying out. This is why it's especially beneficial for dry and sensitive skin. To make a toner out of fresh cucumber, you need to cut one cucumber into small pieces, place it in a big bowl, and cover it with fresh water. Leave it in your fridge for 24 hours, then use it as a toner.


Final Thoughts

Now that you know what exactly a toner is, what you can use it for, and what you will get out of it, you can decide whether you need it in your skincare routine. Most experts weigh in favor of using toners mostly because they cleanse the skin and keep the excess oil, debris, and dead skin cells in control and away from the pores.

Additional benefits associated with using toners include shrinking large pores, regulating the skin’s pH balance, and acting as a protective layer against environmental pollutants. 

Toners are really easy to use, and the whole application process is done in less than 5 minutes - which is yet another plus for using toners.

But, because most toners are gentle, some people don’t see results and decide they can go without them, while others might opt out of their use because some cleansers might dry the skin.


Before deciding to give up on toners, you should experiment with different types meant for different skin types and conditions. You can also try using some of the natural ingredients as toners in your everyday skincare regimen.

One of the most important things you can do to improve your skincare regimen is to determine your skin type and then research which toner suits your skin type.


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