What Does a Toner Do? Experts Explain How to Use It


So here’s something I didn’t realize was a hot topic in the skincare community: whether you really need a toner in your routine or not. It seems that the experts are divided on this topic. Says Rachel Maiman, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist at Marmur Medical, “The question as to whether toners are necessary or recommended is one that continues to be up for debate in the dermatology community. You will get a different opinion depending on who you ask.”

How can you decide if it’s right for you or not? Well, it helps to look at what a toner actually does for your skin. “Toner is a liquid formulation that quickly absorbs and penetrates the skin and depending on the specific ingredients may also have additional antioxidant, hydrating, anti-inflammatory, or exfoliating benefits,” says Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD. “It is designed to be used after cleanser to help prep the skin for the subsequent steps in the skincare routine, in many cases helping to better absorb your skincare products. Because toners often help to restore the skin’s natural pH, it can help to support the skin barrier.”

SkinSpirit lead aesthetician Karen Fernandez believes not everyone needs a toner, as most cleansers now have the capacity to break down oil and dirt—they are supplemental and can be used as needed. “If you use heavier mineral makeup and SPFs, the extra cleaning power of toner will help skin feel and be cleaner, getting more of the buildup out of the pores,” she says. “People who exercise on the go and can’t get a shower or face-washing after a workout or practice will benefit from using a toner after sweating. For this use, I like pre-moistened ‘toner pads’ that have deep-cleaning ingredients.”

Now, you’re probably wondering, “What’s the verdict?” Most of the experts I spoke to for this story said that toners are not exactly necessary, but if you want some extra help with certain skin issues or conditions, they’re worth a try since many toners are formulated for specific needs nowadays. It’s all about finding the right one for you.


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