Do Toners Actually Do Anything In Your Skincare Routine? A Doctor Explains

Having an optimal skincare routine includes using products that target your specific needs, and knowing your skin and how it reacts to certain products and ingredients is essential to understanding these needs. What's more, some products are often called into question, and this includes toners. "Most toners don't do anything," one Twitter user wrote in response to a call for "unpopular skincare[-related] opinion[s]," though we're unsure how unpopular this claim really is.

Nevertheless, people often add toners to their skincare routines without actually knowing whether they're necessary. A complete skincare routine will cover all of the bases and cleanse, hydrate, and moisturize your skin, with a good toner aiding the cleansing portion of the routine by supposedly ridding the skin of excess dirt and oils before the rest of your routine. However, many believe that this isn't necessary and can simply be handled as part of the popular double-cleansing routine. 

To settle the debate, we turned to Alternative Clinic's Dr. Bassam Zeina, a senior doctor with membership to The Royal Society of Medicine and the British Association of Dermatologists, to learn about the real importance of toner.

Do we need to use toner?

Thankfully for toner fans, it's officially an essential step for achieving clear skin. "Toners are a crucial component of any skincare or makeup routine, providing numerous benefits for the skin," Dr. Zeina explains. Toners rid your face of leftover products that your makeup remover may have missed and bring calmness to your skin after a harsh cleanser. "One of the primary functions of toners is to help balance the pH levels of our skin after cleansing," adds Dr. Zeina. "This is essential, as our skin can become too acidic or alkaline depending on the products we use, leading to irritation and breakouts." While it may not seem like it, a toner can balance the skin, giving you an even surface with which to work.

Besides cleansing your skin, a toner has many properties that can help get you closer to your skincare goals. "[Toners] can help tighten pores and reduce their appearance by removing excess oil from them. Some toners contain ingredients like glycolic acid or salicylic acid, which aid in exfoliating dead skin cells and promoting cell turnover, resulting in brighter and smoother-looking skin," Dr. Zeina continues. Furthermore, toners can help prepare your skin for the rest of your skincare routine, making it easier for your skin to absorb the products. We love the sound of not wasting precious products!

How to use toner

The only way to get the most out of your toner is to apply it correctly. To use toner, you'll need to pick your preferred method of application. Certain toners come in sprays, while others come in liquid form. You can either spritz the toner onto your face or use a cotton pad to wipe the product upwards on your skin. While using a cotton pad or spritzing it, you want to ensure to pat the product into your skin to ensure it's being thoroughly absorbed.

Most toners are suitable for daily use, such that you can even apply them twice a day. Depending on your skin type, you may need to adjust the frequency to best suit your skin needs. Those with oily skin may want to use the product lightly to avoid drying out the skin. Always apply your toner after cleansing to get any leftover product or to clean your pores of the minerals in your tap water. Apply it before the rest of your skincare routine to ensure it helps give you a clean base for the rest of your products.