Toner is the step you'll regret skipping
Rewind to when you were 15 years old, rigorously applying toner with a ton of alcohol in it to rid your skin of spots. Remember how it stung and left your skin drier than the surface of a lasagne? Thankfully the best toner today looks a lot different.
What is facial toner?
Toner is basically the step in between your cleanser and moisturiser.
It removes any final traces of dirt, pollution and make-up that your cleanser might have missed. It also helps to smooth and prep the skin for serum, not to mention give it an enviable glow.
Swipe over just-washed skin with a cotton pad and you’ll see your complexion transform.
Also worth noting: skipping this step can seriously hamper your skincare effects.
You can slather on the best moisturiser for dry skin but unless you’re starting your skincare routine off right, all of this is null and void.
What are the benefits of using a toner?
‘Toners are products that don’t get much of a look in during our skincare regimes. But they can be used to clean your skin, remove excess oil and reduce pore size,’ says Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic. ‘They are also good for balancing the skin.’
The latter is important, especially if you have acne prone skin.
Due to the alkaline nature of soap and even the best face washes, the pH balance of our skin can get disturbed.
This makes your skin work overtime to find its sweet spot again – a slightly acidic pH, around 5.5 – which can result in excess oil and breakouts.
Toners will not only restore the skin’s pH after cleansing but do so much more, too.
They provide similar benefits to your serum because they are infused with similar ingredients. Think vitamins, prebiotics, glycolic and hyaluronic acids that can exfoliate, brighten, soothe and hydrate.
How to pick the right toner for your skin type?
Because they’re packed with extra skincare benefits, you need to pick a toner based on your biggest concern.
Combination and spot-prone skin will benefit from toners that have the word ‘balancing’ in the title.
Take Herbivore Jasmine Green Tea Balancing Toner, for example. It’s a clever mix of antioxidants to protect against free radicals, salicylic acid to control oil and jasmine water to calm angry skin.
So you get the best of both anti-ageing and pore-purging worlds.
Best Toner For Combination Skin:
Herbivore Jasmine Green Tea Balancing Toner, £20, Cult Beauty
Dry skin needs hero ingredients like avocado oil, squalene and vitamin E.
All three super hydrators can be found in Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Toner.
Best Toner For Dry Skin:
Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Toner, £17.50, Space NK
If you suffer from sensitivity and are worried about toner drying out your skin, choose a formula that is alcohol-free.
Aloe and prebiotics are other skin soothers to look out for.
Best Toner For Sensitive Skin:
Elemis Superfood Kefir-Tea Mist, £26, Lookfantastic
Likewise, excessively oily skin types may benefit from using witch hazel.
This plant extract sops up oil, fights acne-causing bacteria and reduces irritation. But it isn’t as eye-waveringly astringent as those teenage alcoholic toners.
Best Toner For Oily Skin:
Maria Badescu Witch Hazel and Rosewater Toner, £12, Liberty London
‘Other useful ingredients to look out for are brightening vitamin C, plus vitamin E and zinc, which are key for healthy skin,’ says Mahto.
Scroll through a few more of our favourite toners in the round up below. Your skin will thank you for it…
Intensely nourishing and plays nicely with sensitive skin, this is rich in panthenol to sooth irritation and hyaluronic acid for an intense moisture boost.
You might think applying your toner from a stick is strange, but Milk Makeup is all about making beauty easy for women on the go. So while you may prefer to use this when you travel, it also makes for a great everyday essential if you have an oily complexion with blemishes. The matcha tea, witch hazel and kombucha detoxify and control excess oiliness. Just swipe all over your face and tap it in with your fingers.
In Japan, toners are referred to as ‘softeners’. The idea being that they soften skin in preparation for serum, which it then drinks up more readily. This one is packed with hyaluronic acid for all-day hydration and mineral-rich spring water. We rate its non-sticky texture.
This toner sold out in Boots in four days and since then they've struggled to keep it in stock. Why? Because it promises to reduce the appearance of dark spots after seven days. What are you waiting for?
This toner harnesses the power of natural salicylic acid to fight breakouts. Used twice daily, this cleared our fashion editor's blemishes.
Sanoflore is the latest French pharmacy brand that we are going loco for. And this right here is their hero product. It is chock-full of salicylic acid to unclog pores and no fewer than nine refreshing essential oils. When skin is looking dull, feels a bit rough and is basically having a 'meh' day, trust this to turn things around.
It might be on the spenny side, but this Sisley toner works especially well on sensitive and dry skin types. It's super gentle and contains active ingredients like rose and cornflower. Both are known to soften and soothe, getting your complexion ready for the next skincare steps.
Gentle and alcohol-free, this floral-scented skin tonic adds a fine layer of moisture to skin while refreshing, soothing and brightening. It's a great addition for any skin type.
Glycolic and salicylic acid work together here, which means this medicated formula gets right down into the pores to break apart dirt, bacteria and dead skin. The entire Effaclar range is praised by people with acne-prone skin for its ability to calm and clear a congested complexion and prevent spots from reappearing,
It’s described as being like a 'power-magnet for your moisturiser', preparing your skin for optimum hydration. Grape extracts work to give your skin's moisture levels a boost, while yeast extract calms stressed-out skin. Your face looks satisfyingly glowy once you've swept this lotion over it.
Face looking dull or congested? Look for an exfoliating toner like this one, which contains alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). These will lift away dead cells and smooth the surface texture for skin that looks lit from within.