The Beginner’s Guide to Toner


By Nica Dobles from THREAD PH

You’ve probably been using a toner ever since you started using an actual cleanser to wash your face, but you might not really know what it does, or how it works.

The first toner my mom gave me to use in my pre-teen years was one of those old-school ones: alcohol-filled and very drying, it was supposed to clean my oily face better, but probably ended up making my skin worse.

Luckily, we’ve come a long way since then — now, we understand that skincare is all about hydrationregardless of your skin typeand today’s generation of toners are formulated to reflect this. The Korean beauty wave has made toners even more exciting.

Here’s what you need to know about this essential skincare step:

What is toner, anyway?

Toner is a liquid that looks and feels similar to water, designed to refresh and hydrate your skin, acting as a primer for the rest of your skincare routine. It’s often also packed with oils and extracts to target specific skin concerns.

When do you apply toner?

Right after you cleanse (or double cleanse). Your facial cleanser might not get every bit of dirt on your face, and can sometimes even leave a thin layer of film behind. The stronger cleansers can even alter the natural pH balance of your skin, so think of toner as resetting your skin after cleansing. It restores the pH balance, making your skin more receptive to the active ingredients of the rest of your skincare products.

For most toners, use them in both your day and night routines, but if you’re using an especially drying one, it might be best to use it once a day.

How do you apply toner?

You can soak a cotton pad or ball with the toner and gently swipe your face with it, but it’s gentler on your skin to apply with your hands (plus it saves you some product). Pour or spritz the toner on your fingers and tap or pat onto your skin.

What toner should I use?

Oily and Acne-Prone Skin

You’ll want a toner with ingredients that can control oil and clear out your pores without drying your skin, such as salicylic acid, aloe vera, and tea tree oil.

Dry or Sensitive Skin

Look for a toner that gives you extra hydration with gentle, soothing, calming ingredients. Avoid products with alcohol/denatured alcohol, fragrances, and menthol.

Aging Skin

Get younger-looking skin by boosting your skin cell turnover — look for a toner with skin-refining ingredients and antioxidants like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and rose water. This will help brighten up and smoothen dull skin with fine lines for a fresher face.