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What Does Face Toner Do?

woman using witch hazel brightening & ph balancing toner

When creating a skincare routine, certain products stand out as non-negotiables.

Things like a good cleanser for your skin type, a daytime light-but-still-luxurious moisturizer, SPF, and even an exfoliator or serum to go the extra mile come immediately to mind.

You may step back and look at the line-up of products you’ve assembled and think you have everything you need to ward off impurities and excess oil… and then you’re talking to your friend, and they mention toner, and you’re like… wait, did I miss something?

The answer is yes! While facial toner isn’t the first product on everybody’s lips when they’re talking skincare, it’s low-key a huge part of keeping your skin healthy and getting the most out of all of your other products. It’s sort of like a secret weapon. But if you’re the star of this action film, and someone hands you the “secret weapon,” your first question is going to be…

What Does Face Toner Do?

While you may be familiar with putting in time at the gym to tone other parts of your body, you may be wondering what toner for your face does. Luckily, it’s not going to add time to your workout or require you to break a sweat.

Face toner is a great step to take after cleansing your face because it’s a helping hand when it comes to removing any remaining traces of dirt, dead skin cells, or grime that might have lingered after washing your face. This helps keep your pores clear, which is key when it comes to avoiding breakouts.

Toner can also help to maintain your skin’s pH balance. If “pH level” is giving you confusing flashbacks to your high school chemistry class, we’ll break it down for you.

Your skin has its own pH level, and part of keeping your skin healthy is maintaining the right balance between alkaline and acidic so that your skin is best equipped to fight off any germs or microbes that might otherwise nestle into your pores and cause infections or acne.

Maintaining a good pH level is also crucial for keeping your skin healthy in the face of potentially harmful free radicals. Anything from the type of tap water where you live to air pollution to seasonal changes can affect your skin’s pH level, so adding toner to your skincare routine to help level it out can be crucial.

Face toner can also reduce the appearance of pores, which will help keep your skin looking brighter and younger. This is why toner is such a slept-on product but an all-important part of your skincare routine. It goes a long way toward keeping your skin clean, clear and healthy-looking.

What Makes a Good Face Toner?

The best type of toner for you does depend to a certain extent on your skin type (more on that later!), but overall, we’re all looking for the same basic things.

Face toner should be water-based, and in general, toner tends to be clear — that’s not to say there might not be some amazing toner out there that comes in a thicker or more colored form, but if you come across one, definitely do a bit of reading on that label to make sure you’re not putting something on your face that’s packed with all kinds of additional ingredients that you don’t really need.


Face toners should be soothing for your skin, so look for ingredients like aloe vera, antioxidants like Vitamin E or Vitamin C, tea tree oil, peppermint or eucalyptus — nothing too harsh, because you’re applying toner after cleansing, so it should be gentle on your skin and skin barrier.

Although you should always finish up your morning skincare with a high-quality moisturizer and SPF that suits your skin type, you want to avoid any toner with ingredients that may be drying your skin— especially if you have dry skin or sensitive skin. Toner should be a prep step that encourages your skin to absorb the moisturizer you use, not create more work for it!

It’s also worth noting; there’s some general confusion out there between astringents and toners. Toners and astringents aren’t worlds away, and if you have oily or acne-prone skin, an astringent product might be better for you to use than a toner because they help with excess sebum production. Often, astringents and toners are used interchangeably, but if your skin is super sensitive or super dry, you’ll want to stick with a toner.


If your skin is oily, acne-prone or even combination, you should be fine to use an astringent or a toner with astringent properties. Ingredients like these include Witch Hazel, Citric Acid and Salicylic Acid.

If you’re not sure what kind of toner to use or if you’d be better off with something more astringent, it’s always a good idea to speak with your dermatologist first. While toner is great for creating a truly blank canvas for your next steps and helping your skin absorb moisturizers and serums better, a professional always knows best and can help guide you to the best product for your skin.

Is Toner Right for Your Skin Type?

If you have sensitive or oily skin and are worried about adding another product to your lineup, don’t worry!

Toner is super safe and gentle for almost any skin type. As we mentioned, if you’re prone to acne and breakouts, a toner such as our Witch Hazel Brightening & pH Balancing Toner with astringent properties removes traces of dirt, makeup and impurities from the skin, leaving pores deeply cleansed.

Toner isn’t going to be a miracle product that suddenly changes the appearance of your skin, and it shouldn’t tingle or burn slightly like some other products. This might make you feel like it isn’t really doing anything, but it simply isn’t the case. Think of toner like the super charming sidekick to your other superhero skincare products.

As long as it’s always around, it’s a key part of saving the day and getting your skin glowing, even if it’s not necessarily the star of the show.

How Do You Use Face Toner?

Another great thing about face toner is that it’s super simple to use and incorporate into your routine. It’s going to add virtually no time to your morning regimen, which is ideal if you value getting in those extra zzz’s.

All you need is your toner of choice and some cotton rounds. Or, if you’re looking to be environmentally friendly (hint: you should be!), something like our reusable sponges can be a great addition to your makeup bag. That way, you can use your products as often as you need without worrying you’re creating your own personal landfill somewhere.

First, you’ll want to start off your morning skincare routine like you always do — by washing your face thoroughly with lukewarm water. If you exfoliate, you’ll want to do that before applying your toner, too. Once your face is feeling clean and fresh, but before you’ve applied any product, you’ll want to pour a generous amount of toner onto your cotton round or sponge.

Gently sweep the sponge across your skin, avoiding getting too close to your eyes, but covering as much area as possible… and that’s it! You don’t need to wash it off or worry about it after it’s on. Because toner should be water-based, it shouldn’t leave any noticeable residue.

Overall, toner can help get rid of any remaining dirt that may have accumulated on your skin; it’s the perfect step to create a blank canvas and get your skin primed for absorbing the serums you apply. It also helps your skin better absorb daily moisturizer.

You can use a toner in the evening as well in the exact same way — after cleansing and exfoliating, but before applying any serums or night creams. Because toner is so easy to use and can be gentle on your skin, it’s definitely worth working into your routine twice daily. With consistent use, toner can go a long way toward evening out your skin tone and smooth over any rough patches you may have.

In Conclusion

While face toner isn’t the first thing most people think of when they think about the part of their skincare routine they couldn’t live without, it is a crucial part of keeping your skin clean and healthy-looking.

Using toner twice daily after you wash your face can help keep your face fresh and free of breakouts, and it also gives a much-appreciated boost to any other products you use, like serums and moisturizers.

If you’re happy with your skincare routine but are always looking to go the extra mile — especially when it takes so little time and effort — a toner may be exactly what you need to take your glow game to the next level.

By: Ivey Rogers Aesthetician Educator & Community
Engagement Manager