Toner helps clean and calm your skin — here's a guide for picking the right one
You should apply toner right after washing your face. bymuratdeniz / Getty Images
Toner removes excess residue, promotes moisture and balances the pH of your skin.
If you're having acne problems, try toner with rose water or salicylic acid.
If it is dry, select toner with glycerine or hyaluronic acid.
This article was written by Dr. Debra Jaliman, a board certified dermatologist with a private practice in New York City.
This story is part of the insider's guide to getting clearer skin.
As you stroll down the skincare aisle in a store, you'll quickly find that every cosmetic line sells a version of these products: cleansers, moisturizers, sunscreens, and toners. And while the other products can be self explanatory, what is toner? And do you really need that?
Here's what you need to know about this product and how to choose the best toner for your skin type.
What is toner
Toner is a liquid that you apply to your face after you wash and before you apply serum or moisturizer. And while each toner contains different ingredients, they are all supposed to do the same basic things:
Remove excess residue and impurities like dirt, makeup, oils, and dead skin cells
Boost the moisture and soothe your skin
Balance the pH of your skin to keep the skin hydrated and maintain a healthy microbiota.
And while toner can help some people get healthy skin, it may not work for others. Remember that toner is an additional, not an essential, step in your skin care routine.
Choosing the Right Toner for You
Your skin type will help you with this. Look at the ingredients on a bottle of toner. Here are some common ingredients you might see:
Rose water: helps with acne and has anti-aging and antimicrobial properties.
Chamomile: soothes and soothes the skin.
Hyaluronic Acid: Increases moisture and helps with skin aging.
Glycerin: Moisturizes and helps with dryness.
Vitamin E: An antioxidant that protects the skin from free radical damage.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) (glycolic, citric or lactic acid): peels, brightens and improves the appearance of fine lines.
Salicylic Acid: Fights acne and exfoliates skin cells.
Aloe Vera: Heals and soothes the skin due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
While alpha hydroxy acids can be great for people prone to acne and other skin problems, they can be too harsh for people with sensitive or dry skin. According to dermatologist Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, salicylic acid can also have this effect.
Toners that contain alcohol may also be too dry. "Alcohol-free toners, which are more moisturizing and soothing, can be used on all skin types," says Badreshia-Bansal.
Use of toner
"A gentle base toner can be used in the morning or in the evening," says Badreshia-Bansal.
How to use toner:
First wash your face. Make sure you have rinsed off the cleaner thoroughly.
Moisten a cotton ball or gauze pad with the toner.
Sweep it over your damp skin.
You don't have to use a lot of toner. If you use multiple swipes, you may be using too much product, Ilyas warns. Overuse also wastes product (and your money).
And again, you don't have to use any at all, says dermatologist Anne Chapas, MD, founder of Union Square Laser Dermatology.
"I usually advise people with dry skin not to use toner because it can dry them out," she says.
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