What's The Point of Toner?

May 5, 2022

This post may contain affiliate links. This does not change the price for you, but I will receive a commission. All opinions are still my own.

Welcome back to The Youth Amplified Blog. I’m LaDonna, writing from cozy upstate New York where we are finally seeing sun and 60-degree days. Hello SPRING! 😎

We've already discussed skincare changes to make in preparation for spring and summer, but ya know- it’s my job to keep up with all the skincare buzz so that I can pop over here on the YA! Blog and chat about it with you. I’m noticing so many people lately asking ‘do I really need a toner in my skincare routine?’ Anytime I’m perusing the internet, one of the biggest things I notice is that there are always a ton of conflicting viewpoints all over the place... About everything! So today, for anyone who may be looking at a half-empty bottle of toner collecting dust on their vanity and wondering ‘does anyone really need a facial toner?... What does toner do anyway?’ I’m offering up my two cents on toners.

For starters, I’ve seen some blogs out there and videos with people who say, flat-out, toner is no longer necessary. Here’s why they say that:

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Back in the day, cleansers were very harsh on the skin. They stripped skin of its natural oils, screwed up the skin’s pH, and often left skin dry, unbalanced, and unhappy. Toners were created to combat the negative symptoms of those old cleansers. They deactivated the soap in the solution, brought skin back into balance, and added a little moisture back into the pores.

Nowadays, there are a plethora of gentle cleansers on the market that don’t totally strip oils, alter pH, or do any of the negative stuff associated with cleansers of old.

So, does that mean you don’t need a toner in your routine?

No. That’s not what it means. Cleansers evolved, right? Toners have evolved right alongside cleansers. Cleanser and toner are like Thelma and Louise, Sonny and Cher- peanut butter and jelly! Before, there may have been several companies producing toner, but they all, pretty much, served the same function.

Let’s conquer the basics because toners got an upgrade!

There are 4 types of toners - pH balancing, hydrating, exfoliating, and anti-acne.

Note: Sometimes anti-acne toners are also exfoliating toners.

Toners that are meant to balance pH are good for every skin type and do exactly what it sounds like they do. They restore skin to its natural pH level after cleansing. The benefit of pH balancing is that it keeps the skin’s microbiome happy and healthy, which can help keep early signs of aging and blemishes at bay. My absolute favorite pH balancing toner is the Artistry Skin Nutrition™ Balancing Fresh Shake Toner, which is my regular daily toner. My former ride-or-die and close second fave is ZERO OIL™ Pore Purifying Toner with Saw Palmetto & Mint from Origins.

Hydrating toners add hydration back to the skin following a cleanse. No matter how gentle the cleanser, there’s generally always going to be some level of moisture loss in the process of cleansing. The point of cleansing is to remove excess oil and debris from the skin. Well, whatever is on the surface of the skin that can be washed away, will be washed away. Sometimes it’s needed moisture; that’s why hydrating toners like Artistry Skin Nutrition™ Hydrating Smoothing Toner, or Rose & Hyaluronic Acid Deep Hydration Toner by Fresh can be great.

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Exfoliating toners. Those are the AHAs and the BHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids, respectively), which gently chemically exfoliate the skin to help open and unclog pores. Once pores are unclogged, the skin has a greater ability to benefit from the other products in your routine. If you have issues with large pores, exfoliating toners could be useful for you, because once the clog is removed, the pore can be minimized. Ren - Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic, and the award-winning, Squalane + BHA Pore-Minimizing Toner from Biossance are both great options for exfoliating toners. I'm partial to just about anything coming from Biossance 😇, but I recently started using CosRX- AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner and I'm quite a fan of it as well - you can find it in the Youth Amplified Shop.

Remember when I said that anti-acne toners can also be exfoliating toners?

Here’s the scoop: a few of the active ingredients that we recognize as acne-fighting ingredients are also AHA and BHA exfoliators. For example, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are both BHAs. These common acne fighters can help slough off dead skin while penetrating and clearing pores.

Hey, I say double-duty is your best friend!

The best way to tell the difference between an exfoliating toner and an acne-fighting toner is to check the ingredients. Usually, an exfoliating toner will have more than just salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. However, an anti-acne toner will generally contain only one active ingredient for acne. I CANNOT say enough good things about the Artistry Studio™ Rosé All Day Anti-Acne Toner + Pore Refresher 1% Salicylic Acid Treatment! Before I got my hormonal acne under control, this toner reduced the number of breakouts I was having and helped control my oil production. If for some reason I couldn't get my hands on Rosé All Day if I needed it, then I'd grab my second fave from Paula's Choice, the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. They have both worked extremely well for my combo to oily skin!

On top of the categorical functions of toners, most toners still have O.G. functionality.

On top of the categorical functions of toners, most toners still have O.G. functionality:

1) Finalizing the cleanse and helping remove any dead skin that didn’t rinse down the drain.
2) Balancing skin’s pH level - keeping the microbiome happy.
3) Preparing the skin to soak up all the actives in your serums and next steps.
Side note: the skin barrier's purpose is to keep foreign objects and substances out. Without toner to prep the skin to allow skincare ingredients in, your other steps are less effective.
4) Adding a little hydration back to the skin.

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So, my 2 cents on toners: Don’t sleep on toner! Toners are an excellent way to remove residual dead skin cells, dirt, oil, and makeup. They are super beneficial and easy to love once you find your fave!

Final thoughts-

Pro-Tip: During the summer months, try keeping your toner in your refrigerator -it will help keep skin calm, give an immediate cooling effect, preserve organic products longer, and encourage greater absorption of the next steps in your skincare routine. I love the convenience of my YA! Qosmetix Fridge because it conveniently fits on my desk (where I make all my videos and do my nighttime routine). I didn't realize how much I needed a cosmetics fridge in my life, but it's amazing that I no longer have to go running to the kitchen in a towel after my shower to grab my toner from the refrigerator-, which inevitably smells like last night’s leftovers. You could even apply chilled toner to your neck, inside your wrists, and inner ankles for a quick cool-down when you come inside on a hot summer day.

Tell me your thoughts on toners. Love ‘em? Hate ‘em? Still don’t see the point? Join the discussion below.

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