Face toners can work wonders for your skin. Their quickly absorbing, active and thin fluids can help repair skin from cleansing damage (more about this soon) while also building in the very same benefits you might expect from a serum.
IF… you use and choose a face toner the right way… because face toner done the wrong way, leaves skin dry, tight, dull and aged.
To do this, today we’ll get to the bottom of 3 questions;
1) What is face toner?
2) What does toner do for your face?
3) What are the benefits of using face toner?
Ready to get going my friend? Me too, lets hit this…
What Is Face Toner?
Face toner, is step number 2 in the skincare companies’ prescription for healthy, happy and reading between the lines ‘pore free’ lives. Cleanse, tone, moisturise, cleanse, tone, moisturise, cleanse, tone, moisturise. Somehow the more you chant it, the harder you feel it’s working *winks*.
Back in the day, face toners used to be alcohol laden liquids which would be swept over skin to give a cooling, tingling, tightening sensation.
The kind of sensation that makes it feel like your skincare is working.
… Just like the crispy skin feel of a long swim in the sea.
… Just like the hot water bottle sizzle feel of an hour too long, sun lounging session.
… Just like the tight skin feel of a days walk in almost gale force winds.
You know it my fellow skin savvy. Feeling your skin without touching it, often isn’t a good skin sign… and indeed alcohol high toners will leave skin damaged, dry, dull and dehydrated.
What Does Face Toner Do?
Alcohol free face toners help rebalance your skin’s pH. Your skin my friend, has many measurements. Just like you’d pick up a floral patterned, cut out back, knee-length dress and know that is was A) Floral B) Had a cut out back and C) At knee-length would be appropriate for weddings, celebrations and dinner with your partner’s parents, so too does skin have a bulleted list of measurements.
One of which is pH, or in human terms, how acidic or alkaline something is, with 0 to 6.9 being acidic, 7 being neutral and 7.1 to 14 being alkaline.
Can you take a guess at where your skin’s pH naturally sits?
It’s not alkaline.
It’s not neutral.
…it is slightly acidic.
Skin pH is normally and naturally between 4.2 to 5.6 marks on the pH scale. With the healthiest of skin types or even the pH of skin when it’s not washed for 24 hours i.e. hasn’t been exposed to alkalising shower gels being naturally below pH 5.
— Cheryl Woodman (@HonestyForSkin) 14 August 2017
When skin is outside its healthy pH range, trouble is invited in. Skin with pH levels above 5.6 are prone to dryness, dehydration, eczematous outbreaks, skin infections and more.
Keeping your skin pH healthy can be challenging because many bathing, washing, showering and cleansing products have pH levels well over 5.6. Some bar soaps even have a pH of over 12.
What does face toner do? Face toner can rebalance your skin’s pH levels helping to keep it happy and healthy… just make sure the face toner you’re using is pH balanced, or even better, tells you it’s pH level, of which you want something ideally below 5. Not sure what to look for? I have some great face toner recommendations listed below.
What Does Toner Do for Your Face?
Choose the right face toner and it’s skin friendly benefits just will not stop working. After marking a jumbo tick against pH levels, the second most common benefit of face toner is exfoliation. A benefit which will help your skin to look fresher, glowier and more youthful.
Toning tonics containing ingredients such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid also help exfoliate your skin.
They do this by gently dissolving away the biological super glue sticking one skin cell to another. While all skin needs superglue, very often the use of moisturisers and the slowing of skin’s metabolism mean skin cells aren’t able to shed as efficiently as they normally would. A slowing which can lead to dull, lack-lustre looking skin. See, normally, naturally (and kind of like a snake) your skin sheds in a 30-day cycle. However there are lots of factors which can slow and uneven this process.
What does face toner do? Face toners containing ingredients such as salicylic (best for oily skin) or glycolic (best for normal to dry skin) help rebalance your skin’s pH levels while also mildly exfoliating away dead skin cells to reveal a skin tone that is bright, even and youthful.
Skin Toner Benefits
You absolutely do not need a face toner to design a skincare routine that works, however it is a nice add-on if you’re looking for a little more pizzaz from your skincare routine.
If for example you wanted to;
- Brighten your skin tone
- Even out rough, dry, dull patches of skin (…and stop them from taking hold in the first place)
- Gently and in a non scrubby way (great for a gentle and sensitive skincare routine) exfoliate your skin
- Rebalance your skin pH
- Care for your skin’s microflora. Remember the concept of happy gut bacteria? Well your skin has the exact same thing and if your skin’s pH is out of whack, your skin’s microflora is too.
- Protect against dry, tight, uncomfortable feeling skin
- Help prevent back heads and spots
- Minimise the appearance of pores by clearing them out (to do this choose a face toner with salicylic acid)
You can also choose toners with almost serum like benefits i.e. if you wanted to design an anti-ageing routine, you could add in an exfoliating face toner such as Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment 2% BHA (£27/88ml) which also features anti-aging extras. This is when the benefits of a toner and serum start to over lap and when if you choose the right toner, you could easily slim line your routine to include one and not the other.
Skin Toner Uses
Choose the right face toner and if you have an oily/combination skin type, it will also help you prevent spots and blackheads. Choose the right face toner and if you have a dry, prone-to-flaky-patches skin type, it will also help gently exfoliate away areas of roughness. Choose the right face toner and if you have a mature skin type, it will also help you fight against the signs of ageing.
Bottom line: Face toners will not shrink your pores, but they will minimise them, while also brightening, evening, exfoliating, pH balancing… insert fading echo of listed skincare benefits here.
p.s. yes you read that right. Face toners will not shrink your pores. If you read the opposite through an advice site or even on the decryption of a skincare product, back away quickly. It is just not true. However what is true, is this: Skin toners help to minimize the appearance of your pores by clearing dead skin and debris from them, it also stops them from getting bigger for the same reason. Not bad ‘eh.
Choosing the right face toner will have great effects on your skin. So how do you choose the right face toner? How do you know it’s pH balancing? How do you make sure it’s designed for your skin type? The easy-peasy version? Take your pick from the skin type reviewed face toners below;
Best Toner for Oily Skin and Large Pores
- The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (4.20/30ml), pH 3.2 to 3.5
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant (£8/30ml), pH 3.2 to 3.8
Best Toner for Combination Skin
- COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner (£17/150ml), pH around 4
Best Toner for Normal to Dry skin
- The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution (£6.80/240ml), pH 3.5 to 3.7
- COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner (£17/150ml), pH around 4, great for normal to dry skin types also prone to spots and blackheads
Best Toner for Sensitive Skin
- NIOD Non-Acid Acid Precursor 15% (£35/30ml), pH 4 to 5
- January Labs Restorative Tonic Mist (£18/118ml), great for sensitive, dry skin types
- First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads (£14/28 pads), pH 4 to 5, great for dry, dull, dehydrated sensitive skin,
Best Toner for Mature Skin
- Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment 2% BHA (£27/88ml), pH 3.2 to 3.8
Which face toner will you choose? Let me know dear friend… have any more toner related skincare questions? Like what these beauties can and cannot do? Lets chat in the comments below…
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.