What does toner do for the skin?


Once an essential component of any skin routine, toners have slowly been declining in popularity in recent years.

The booming skincare industry and the growing amount of knowledge and education has meant that the way we approach skincare has changed dramatically. Perhaps just two decades ago, even the savviest skincare enthusiast carried out a simple 3-step routine consisting of cleanser, toner, and moisturiser, with the advancement of ingredients and applications, basic routines have since evolved.

Ingredient technology means that much more targeted solutions have now become accessible for everyday products as opposed to regular trips to the aesthetician. With the introduction of potent serums, and moisturisers and emulsions containing active ingredients, the philosophy of home skincare routines is now based on treating specific conditions such as signs of ageing, pigmentation, acne and breakouts, and redness among others. As we bid farewell to the humble and very limited 3-step routine, the role of toners have also been brought into question.

What is toner for the face?

Historically, many toners on the market have largely contained a blend of water, alcohol, and artificial fragrance – with very limited therapeutic effect. They made the skin feel tight, clean, and fresh, removing oil and debris but not necessarily in a positive capacity.

As we shift our focus towards active products that aim to build skin resilience and treat specific concerns, we now understand that any products fitting this description offer more harm than good, over-stripping the skin and even sensitising users to ultraviolet radiation through the application of artificial fragrance.

Most cosmeceutical skincare brands have since adapted their toners to reflect modern knowledge, technology, and skin needs. Many toners are available to provide various benefits, from soothing and hydrating, to reducing breakouts. So what should you be looking for in a quality, skin-loving toner, and what benefits can one offer?

Removing excess product

If your toner is applied to a wipe or pad, swiping this over the skin after cleansing can be a great way to ensure everything has been properly removed before moving onto your serum and moisturiser application.

Calming the skin

Those prone to sensitivity may enjoy using a toner that contains soothing ingredients to refresh the skin after cleansing and reduce redness, without inhibiting the actions of your serums. Though it should be noted that if your cleanser elicits too much irritation, it may not be suitable for you.

Spot treatment

Some toners utilise active ingredients like salicylic acid in order to reduce breakouts and more deeply penetrate pore blockages. These can be used on the entire face for very problematic skin, but can also be very useful as a spot treatment (applied to a cotton pad) for those not needing to apply throughout their entire complexion.


Many toners today come in the form of a facial mist, and can be sprayed on the face as much or as little as required. They generally contain hydrating, moisturising agents designed to boost skin nourishment and squeeze some extra active ingredients into a routine. These are ideal to spritz immediately after cleansing and prior to serums, as they can assist with their absorption. They are also an effective way to add some extra nourishment throughout the day by spritzing over makeup, topping up the skin’s protective barrier and locking in hydration. 

What shouldn’t a toner do?

If you are using a toner, whether it be a liquid applied to a cotton pad or a spritzing facial mist, you should have a good understanding of why you are using it, what role it plays in your routine, and what benefits it is offering. A quality toner should add value to your routine and complement your other products. It shouldn't trigger redness, burning, or discomfort in the skin such as tightness or dryness. The only exception to this rule are skin prep toners, which are designed to lower the pH of the skin immediately prior to chemical peeling agents in order to ease the skin into this process and enhance their outcomes. These of course should only be used as per instruction by your skin therapist, and should still only induce a mild tingling sensation. 

Just like any product in your home skin routine, a toner should provide you with one or more benefits that complement and enhance your routine. 

While they cannot replace cleansers, serums or other products, they can be a fantastic way to pack additional hydrators, calming agents, peptides, micronutrients, and antioxidants into your routine in addition to your existing serums, oils and moisturisers.

Toners may not be necessary or desirable for every individual, but for those looking for a simple but powerful way to amplify their routine, a refreshing facial mist may be the perfect solution. You can find our range of facial mists here.

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By Mukti

Mukti has been actively involved in the beauty and personal care industry for over two decades. Her varied career has encompassed a common thread focusing on health and wellness. Her aim is to reconnect people to nature, creating health and happiness via toxin-free lifestyles and beauty regimes.