Megan Dominion

When they were first marketed, skin toners were used to remove any remaining traces of cleanser, makeup, oil, or other products from the skin after cleansing. They were also used to balance the skin’s PH level when skin cleansers were usually a lot harsher than today’s range of cleansers. In other words, they were used as final step in the cleansing process.

However, over time, the skin care industry has changed a LOT, and skin toners are now used for much more than just cleansing the skin.

What exactly WAS a skin toner?

Facial toner was a liquid that helped to cleanse the skin and remove any dirt, makeup, or other products that may be remaining on the skin after cleansing.

Facial toners were also used to help restore the skin’s pH balance, which can be disturbed by harsh cleansers or other products. In addition, facial toners were also often used to help control excess oil production. It was often every oily-skinned teenager’s go-to product to help remove excess oil and minimize acne.

You might have heard the term “astringent“ associated with ‘old-school’ toners. This was because astringents were very good at removing residue from the skin. Modern toners are much gentler on the skin than astringents. However, there are still some toners that are specifically designed for oily skin types that may be more astringent in nature.

Peptides in Skincare

What is a Skin Toner TODAY?

The skincare industry has gone through massive changes over the last couple of decades, and toner was no less affected by certain trends, fads, and new research and techniques of developing skincare.

Three big changes happened that affected the popularity of toners:

1. Double Cleansing

Double cleansing is the method of thoroughly washing your face with two different cleansers. This first cleanser is usually oil based, as oil dissolves oil. The second cleanser is water-based, and can penetrate the skin much better once the excess oils have been washed off your skin.

This double cleansing method meant that toners became a bit redundant. The benefits of double cleansing meant that your skin was already clean enough and the use of a toner was not necessary.

2. Enter the “7 skins method”

The “7 skins movement” is a Korean Beauty trend of applying toner to your skin 7 times. It hit peak popularity back in 2017 and is said to increase the amount of hydration your skin absorbs from the use of a toner, and was to simplify the many, many steps of a full Korean Beauty routine.

With this new K Beauty trend, came a resurgence of the toner’s popularity within a skincare routine, especially sue to the next trend skincare has seen over the last few years…

3. A massive move towards ingredient focused skincare

In today’s markets, skincare is generally being marketed more often for their popular ingredients, rather than their benefits due to the fact the people are educating themselves on skincare ingredients and their benefits. It’s becoming more likely for people to purchase a hyaluronic acid serum, or a ceramide toner than a ‘hydrating’ one.

The emphasis on popular ingredients means that toners now come with an amazing range of ingredients and benefits. It has become less of a cleansing step, and more of a fabulous way to incorporate an additionally beneficial ingredient into your skincare routine.

“I personally love having toners in my routine. I’m combo oily, so being able to give my skin a variety of ingredients and the added hydration without thick, tacky products is a big bonus for me”


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Should you use a skin toner?

The short answer is YES! Why would you not use this as an easy to apply vessel for some incredible ingredients with amazing benefits. While skin toners are not necessary per say, they can be very beneficial to the health and appearance of your skin. If you have never used a skin toner before, you may want to consider these benefits of using it:

Cleanse in depth

There is a known fact that make-up cleaners often don`t clean your face in depth, as they don`t have the necessary ingredients to reach the bottom of your pores and eliminate all the impurities. Consequently, a skin toner with deep cleansing properties is a great solution to achieving clean skin.

If you are not double-cleansing, consider picking a toner that has cleansing properties. Your toner of choice could also double up with additional nourishing ingredients for your skin other than cleansing. Try look for toners with the following ingredients to really get these cleansing benefits:

  • Salicylic acid: this ingredient is amazing at breaking through oil barriers and penetrates deep into the pores for a good cleanse.
  • Witch Hazel: also great at cleansing deep into pours, and is an astringent so can benefit oily skin by removing excess oil from the skin.

As a result of removing dirt from your skin’s surface, toners help to prevent the development of various skin problems, such as acne, blackheads, or whiteheads.

Use a Toner as a Chemical Exfoliant

If you want to add in a gentle chemical exfoliant into your routine, a toner is a great way to do this. You can incorporate a toner with a chemical exfoliant a few times a week to get exfoliating benefits for your skin, leaving it brighter and removing dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. Popular and effective chemical exfoliant ingredients are. AHA’s are a great option as a chemical exfoliant.

  • Glycolic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Salicylic acid

AHA’s also have the added benefit of balancing the moisture in you skin, leaving you gently exfoliated and hydrated.

Toners for added moisture & hydration

If you have dry skin and are looking to add more moisture and hydration into your routine, here are some ingredients to look out for in a toner:

  • Glycerin
  • Hyaluronic acid: both glycerin and hyaluronic acid are humectants and are great at adding in moisture to your skin
  • Ceramides: these work a little differently, and help create a healthy skin barrier to prevent moisture loss, keeping your skin looking plump and healthy

Toners for Oily Skin

If you are struggling with excess oil make sure to choose a toner that is speifically for this skin type – you dont want to be adding the wrong kind of additional oils to your skin and making the situation worse! AHA’s are also great for this skin type, to provide exfoliation. Atringents are often marketed for oily skin, but be wary of using these as they can be very stripping and cause your skin to compensate and create even more oil. You can read more about ingredients to use or avoid if you have oily skin.



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“I love a toner! I find they add some hydration after cleansing. A toner is my preferred way of using exfoliants as well, so I have a hydrating toner, a BHA toner and an AHA toner that I use at different steps or on different days in my routine.”

As you can see, there are many different reasons to start using a skin toner depending on what you would like to achieve with your skincare routine. If you have never used one before, you may want to start with a basic, gentle toner and see how your skin responds.

How to choose a toner for your skin?

With so many facial toners on the market, it can be difficult to choose the right one for your skin type. Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a facial toner:

  • Skin type: Not all facial toners are created equal. If you have sensitive skin, look for a facial toner that is alcohol-free and specifically designed for sensitive skin. If you have oily skin, look for a facial toner that is designed to control oil production. Find more about what Ingredients to look out for (and avoid) if you have oily skin
  • Ingredients: Look at the ingredients list on the facial toner bottle, and make sure that they are suitable for your skin type as well as target any skin concerns you are currently focusing on (that’s the point at the end of the day really).
  • Price: Facial toners can range in price from $5 to $50 or more. Choose a facial toner that fits your budget, but also keep in mind that you usually get what you pay for. In other words, a more expensive facial toner is likely to be a better-quality product than a cheaper one.

When Should You Apply Toner in Your Skincare Routine?

The short answer is right after cleansing, while your skin is still damp. Before your serums (if you are using any) and moisturizer.

How to apply a skin toner

The traditional way of applying toner has been to dab some on a cotton pad and gently apply to your face. Many people have realized that you lose a lot of product this way as the cotton pad absorbs most of the product and it ends up going in the bin. Many people are also looking for a more sustainable way than using cotton pads. Here are our top alternative suggestions to applying toner:

  • Moisten the cotton pad with a bit of water before adding the toner, so you don’t need to add as much.
  • Apply your toner with gauze as opposed to a cotton pad, again you’ll need to add less toner to the gauze to get the same damp effect.
  • Pour it directly onto your face – this could take some practice but if you manage to get the hang of it, then it’s a great way to minimize toner loss in applying it to something else first
  • Pour a small amount into the palm of your hand, and using the tips of your fingers apply to your face as needed.
  • Put your toner in a clean spritz bottle and spray on your face. You can do this throughout the day if you like for an added moisture boost


How Often Should You Use Face Toner?

Most dermatologists recommend using face toner once or twice a day, after cleansing. But how often you use it will likely be determined by the product itself and the active ingredients in it. For example, if you are using a toner as a chemical exfoliant, it might be a better idea to use it a couple of times a week as opposed to every day to avoid over-exfoliating.

Remember, when it comes to skin care, less is usually more. Start slowly and see how your skin responds. If you find that your skin is reacting negatively to the facial toner, reduce the frequency of use or switch to a different product.

Megan Dominion

Megan Dominion is SILKUP's Managing Editor. She's been down both the curly hair and skincare rabbit holes many times and loves that there's always something new to learn; a new science, method, product or personal experience.