Toners: Why they’re Still Important for Great Skin

Written by Malini Fowler, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on June 30, 2020 No Comments


Toners are among the more misunderstood type of skincare products. Many cosmetics experts actually advise people to skip toners because they are an “optional step” of any good skincare regimen.

This is disappointing because a good toner can work wonders on this skin, providing a truly healthy and radiant glow that many people desire. In this post we’ll cover what toners are, why using a toner should still be an integral part of your routine, and how to pick a good toner for your skin type.

What are toners?

Toners are a category of product meant to be used directly after cleansing to reinfuse the skin with ingredients that will restore and repair its surface. Skin toners were extremely popular years ago as most cleansers used to be harsher and alter the pH balance of the skin. Toners offered a way to help the skin recover.

Today, however, there are a variety of great mild cleansers that are gentle on the skin (and do not alter pH levels). This is the main reason some skincare professionals began rendering toners as “unessential”.

However, there are many ingredients in good toners, including antioxidants, fatty acids, and ceramides, that are always good for the skin. Delivering these ingredients post-cleanse is often the perfect time, as pores are open and ready for absorption. As such, using the right toner on a consistent basis can really help the skin look smooth and radiant.

Good toners vs. bad toners

One of the reasons toners have gotten a bad rap is due to the fact that some toners (“bad” toners) are made from truly terrible ingredients. This group has ruined everything for “good” toners which can be helpful for most people.

Bad Toners – Steer Clear!

  • Alcohol-based formulas: These toners (commonly labeled “astringents”) include ingredients like witch hazel and alcohol, both of which should be avoided as they can cause damage and irritation to the skin. This type of formula may also hinder the ability of the skin to produce collagen or heal itself. Even oily skin types may notice that alcohol-based toners overly dry their skin.
  • Glycerin or glycol-based formulas: This type of formula, often called “fresheners”, contains rose water or citrus extracts and is completely ineffective. They do little more than make your face smell nice. Worse, some versions of these toners are overly fragrant to the point where some people can experience damaging skin reactions.

Good Toners – Beneficial ingredients

Water-based formulas: This type of toner is typically formulated with beneficial ingredients like antioxidants and skin-repairing minerals like niacinamide (which can help with acne as well), without drying the skin out. This is the type of toner you want to use.

Currently our favorite toner is the EltaMD Skin Recovery Toner.

Give toners a try!

Overall, a well formulated toner should be part of your daily routine. Toners with the right ingredients will deliver beneficial ingredients to make your skin calm, smooth, and youthful in appearance. So do your research! Skip toners with harsh or synthetic ingredients (like alcohol, fragrance, or citrus).

Malini Fowler, MD

Dr. Malini Fowler is a Board Certified Dermatologist that completed her undergraduate studies and graduated summa cum laude from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and member of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. Dr. Fowler enjoys providing medical, cosmetic and surgical dermatology at our new San Antonio office.

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