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What Is the Purpose of Facial Toner?

It may feel like water but it does so much for the skin.
December 15, 2023

With a myriad of skin care products at your disposal, it may seem like your skin care routine is constantly growing and evolving. Despite this, you may be overlooking one skin care product that’s been around for quite some time — face toner. You probably remember using the stuff in middle school, but since then, what we remember as harsh toner that often dried out our skin has had an impressive transformation.

Shifting towards gentle, hydrating ingredients and alcohol-free formulas, toner is a necessary skin care step that only elevates your routine. Whether you have dry skin or oily skin, toner’s quick benefits make a strong case for adding it to your fall and winter skin care routines. So, take notes as we break down the purpose of toner, exactly what toner does for your skin, how to use it and most importantly, which toners deserve a spot on your shelf. 

What Is Face Toner?

The toner that you used in middle school is nothing like the toner that beauty lovers and K-Beauty loyalists are reaching for today. What used to be a harsh, alcohol or witch hazel-based astringent liquid is now mostly alcohol-free, hydrating and used to target issues such as dark spots, large pores and dull skin. Toner may look like water to the naked eye, but don’t underestimate this quick-absorbing liquid’s power to boost hydration and plump skin while gently addressing your skin’s concerns. 

What Does Toner Do for the Skin?

Some toner formulas strictly hydrate the skin, while others can also refresh, brighten and leave skin feeling soft and smooth. Some also claim to tighten and shrink the appearance of pores, remove dead skin cells (exfoliate) and even out skin tone. Many of today’s formulas are developed without alcohol and therefore, won’t dry out your skin or increase sensitivity.

Overall, toner is versatile and this skin care step can be customized to suit your ever-changing skin care needs. One thing that many toners have in common is the way they boost hydration and improve absorption for your serums, active ingredients and moisturizer. 

When Should I Use Toner?

Consider toner a wonderful addition to both your morning and night routines. You may want to limit use to once a day if you’re using a formula with active ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids

Always reach for toner after cleansing your skin, and before applying serums. Applying your serums and moisturizers onto a damp complexion will help to draw in moisture, allowing you to get the most benefits out of your skin care. Thankfully, due to toner’s watery texture, it doesn’t feel heavy or sticky on the skin, and it layers well with the rest of your routine. 

Can You Apply Toner with Your Hands?

Toner can be applied with clean hands or with a cotton pad. Lightly press toner onto the skin with clean hands using light patting motions, or swipe it across the skin on a saturated cotton pad. While a liquid formula is most popular, toner may also come in spray, gel or cream forms, which are best applied with clean hands.

When Should You Use Toner?

Toner should always be used on clean skin after cleansing and before serums or moisturizers. With the logic of applying your skin care from thinnest to thickest, toner should be applied first because it has a water-like consistency. 

How Often Should You Use Toner?

Gentle and hydrating toner can be used twice a day, in your morning and evening skin care routines. However, if you’re using a toner with active ingredients, like an exfoliating toner, save application for once a day to avoid irritation. 

Can You Use Toner Everyday?

For the most part, toner can be used everyday. Check the instructions on your toner’s packaging because depending on the ingredients in yit, it may be recommended to use it every few days if it includes a higher concentration of active ingredients. 

The Best Toners for Your Skin Concerns

The best toner for your skin is the one that can satisfy your needs. Whether that’s to boost hydration, remove dead skin cells from your skin’s surface or fade dark spots, your skin care routine is better when you add one into the mix. Check out our favorite toners to consider.

The Best Toner for Dark Spots and Dull Skin

Address pesky dark spots with L’Oréal Paris RevitaLift Derm Intensives 5% Glycolic Acid Peeling Toner. Formulated with glycolic acid and aloe vera, this alcohol-free facial toner is gentle for daily use and aims to remove dead skin, unclog pores, brighten the skin and fade dark spots. With consistent use, skin texture is smoother and your complexion is brighter.

The Best Hydrating Toner

L’Oréal Paris HydraFresh Toner has an alcohol-free, gentle and non-drying formula. Made with beta hydroxy acid and pro-vitamin B5, the formula gently sweeps away dead skin to curb dullness, protects against moisture loss and brightens the skin for a soft and smooth finish. 

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How to Use Toner

Once you decide which toner is the best fit for your skin’s concerns, adding it to your routine is simple. Here’s a routine to follow for easy introduction.  

1. Start With Your First Cleanse

The first cleanse is supposed to remove makeup, dirt, excess oils and impurities. We recommend L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Radiant Smoothing Wet Cleansing Towelettes, which removes makeup and gently exfoliates the skin.

2. Follow Up With a Rinse-Off Facial Cleanser

After you’ve done an initial cleanse, reach for a rinse-off facial cleanser to remove any leftover impurities. Try L’Oréal Paris RevitaLift Radiant Smoothing Cream Cleanser to gently cleanse, nourish the skin and boost radiance. 

3. Apply Toner

Post-cleansing means it’s finally time to reach for your toner. Saturate a cotton pad with toner and gently sweep it across your complexion. Those with dry skin may find it beneficial to pour the toner onto clean hands and lightly pat it into the skin to absorb.  

4. Layer on a Facial Serum

Facial serums are highly concentrated formulas that address specific issues, like fine lines and wrinkles, dryness or dark spots. Facial serums can also help improve the overall appearance of your skin. 

To lock in moisture and boost hydration, use L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum after your toner. Perfect for dry skin, this powerful serum works to visibly plump and nourish skin with continued use over time.

5. Apply an Eye Cream or Serum

The skin around your eyes is very delicate, so naturally, it requires special care. We recommend  an eye serum to address the appearance of dark circles, crow’s feet and puffiness, like L’Oréal Paris RevitaLift 1.5% Hyaluronic Acid + 1% Caffeine Eye Serum. Formulated with hyaluronic acid and caffeine to tackle puffiness and dark under-eyes, this serum offers a soothing, well-deserved treat for your delicate under-eyes. 

6. Apply Moisturizer

Regardless of your skin type, moisturizer is always essential. L’Oréal Paris RevitaLift Micro Hyaluronic Acid + Ceramides Line-Plumping Water Cream is a water-based moisturizer, formulated with hyaluronic acid and ceramides to lock in hydration and strengthen the skin barrier. It’s lightweight and suitable for all skin types.

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7. Apply SPF

In the morning, after moisturizer, apply SPF, like L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Daily UV Lotion, to protect your skin against UVA and UVB rays that cause aging and burning.  Spending time in the sun sans protection can lead to damage, which can show up down the road as visible signs of aging. This moisturizer-sunscreen-hybrid ensures you never forget to apply your SPF, and it’s packed with hyaluronic acid, Pro-retinol and vitamin C to firm and brighten skin over time.


Toner FAQs

Do You Apply Toner to Wet or Dry Skin?

It’s best to apply toner to slightly damp skin for aided absorption. 

Do You Wash Toner Off?

Toner does not need to be washed off. In order to get all the benefits, it needs to sink into the skin. 

Does Toner Close Pores?

Pores do not open and close, however they can look bigger if they are filled with sebum (oil) and dead skin cells. Depending on the ingredients in your toner, it may help minimize pore size if it contains an oil minimizing ingredient like niacinamide or salicylic acid. 

Does Toner Help Acne?

A toner with active ingredients like salicylic acid may help address acne. Talk to your dermatologist before adding something new to your routine, especially if you’re dealing with an active breakout. 

Does Toner Remove Blackheads?

Toner can help minimize blackheads and reduce their appearance if it contains the right active ingredients but it won’t remove current ones that you’re dealing with. Consult with your dermatologist for more guidance. It may also be beneficial to see a dermatologist or esthetician for removal.

Next: Niacinamide and Blemishes: Does Niacinamide Help With Acne?

Photo Courtesy of L'Oréal Paris

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