What is a toner? -5 min read-

What is a toner? -5 min read-

In today’s densely populated cosmetic world where every drug and beauty store carries hundreds of brands, there are so many types of products out there with new ones rising each day. Of these, one of the more popular types of product is a toner. You probably heard about how awesome a toner is from a friend and you may even own a couple yourself. But do you know what a toner is? Do you know it’s functions, the different subtypes, and which is the right one for you? I think it’s important to go beyond trying different products until the perfect one finds you but instead to understand the product so that you can go find it!


Where do toners come from?

Toners were created to be used after the cleansing phase of your routine. Before pH balancing and cosmetic regulation, soaps and other cleansers were usually made and left at a high pH that would be unhealthy for the skin. So toners were recommended as a mean to neutralize the rising pH caused by the cleanser. However, with today’s regulations and technology, most soaps are so mild that pH neutralizing is unnecessary. Therefore, the function of the toner is now also different.

 ClearLee What is a Toner Soap cosmetics

Although soaps and cleansers are not pH damaging anymore, their function to clean is still the same. While this is good for the most part, they do have their downsides where they strip away the good oils, minerals, and other nutrients along with the “dirtiness”. So the role of a toner today is to provide the skin with all the nutrients it needs to restore and repair any damages. These nutrients can range anywhere from antioxidants to minerals and vitamins. With the right toner, your skin can feel and look healthier, more radiant, and younger.


The types

Toners can generally be categorized into 2 subcategories:

  1. Alcohol-based
  2. Water-based

Alcohol-based toners usually also have water in them but, we call them alcohol-based simply because they have alcohol. The benefits of an alcohol-based toner is that it does a great job killing infections if you have a lot of open blemishes like acne. They also help increase absorption of nutrients in the skin if you have a tougher skin that does not like to let anything in. Unfortunately, they do this by breaking down a bit of the protective layer of your skin. So your skin might receive and enjoy nutrients in the short term, but in the long term, its defenses will weaken.

Water-based toners are now the more popular choice of the two. You can think of them as humidifiers for your skin. They not only provide the nutrients your skin needs but also help maintain humidity so that your skin doesn’t dry out. Plus, they don’t break down the protective layer of your skin. Some water-based toners contain glycerin, which helps provide a protective layer on the skin to prevent it from drying out.

Although it depends on preference, most will use a glycerin-based toner for night time use only, especially if they do not moisturize at night or their moisturizer does not contain glycerin. This is because glycerin can make the toner heavy and also leave a sticky feeling especially when used on top of makeup. So those that like to use a toner as a ‘day mist’ will almost always choose a glycerin-free water-based toner.



What is the right toner for you? First of all, let’s cross out alcohol-based toners because usually, you can find water-based toners that have ingredients like witch hazel and specific essential oils known for their anti-microbial activity. While I have to agree alcohol is stronger at killing unwanted bacteria, water-based toners are a pretty close second and I don’t think it’s worth damaging the skin the long term. So no matter the skin type, I would suggest a water-based toner.

Next are you going for a night time use or all-day use? If you want to use it throughout the day as well as night, I would stick with a glycerin-free water-based toner. If you are going for nighttime use, you can go for either.

Finally, what in the skin are you looking to target? If it’s simply hydration, look for something with humectants like aloe vera, glycerin (for night time), and honey.  If you are trying to prevent wrinkles, look for toners with antioxidant qualities like retinoid and vitamin C or with plant extracts that provide vitamin A and C. If you are targeting acne prone skin, look for toners with witch hazel, tea tree, and aloe vera. If you have sensitive skin, toning with ingredients like aloe vera, green tea, glycerin, and chamomile can help greatly.


Additionally, also look for one that smells good! I am a huge believer in aroma therapy and know how a really nice smelling product can bring you joy and a better complexion from the inside!

So we now know more about the history, types, and choosing of the correct toners! What toners have you been using and what kind of skin type do you have? How has your experience been with it? I would love to hear your stories and your routines. Also, is there a toner you are looking for to target something else? I love seeing and responding to stories, comments, and questions so please join the conversation below!


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