let’s talk: toner

Welcome to a new series on the blog that will cover all things beauty and answers questions about products, ingredients and the best trends out there! Let’s get started shall we?


After working in the beauty industry in product development and marketing, you get to know a thing or two about products- how they work and what goes into making some of the best stuff out there. Working with chemists, fragrance houses, and even packaging engineers, there’s more to making this beauty stuff than we think.

Toner is an astringent used to prep the skin for all the goodness that comes afterwards, i.e. makeup. It’s usually applied after cleansing and before moisturizer.

There are a ton of varieties with a mixture of ingredients to soothe, clean and treat skin. Ingredients such as tea tree oil and witch hazel are used for their natural astringent properties. Aloe vera, lavender and chamomile are commonly used to soothe and calm irritated skin. There are also those alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic and salicylic acid) that actually treat the skin in the case of acne, blackheads and overall congestion.

We have tons of products that keep us beautiful each day: cleansers, moisturizers, serums, oils, balms, etc. We may think that’s a lot, but did you know women in Korea use up to 14 beauty products a day? Dermatologists are calling toners a “second step in the cleansing process”. Which makes me wonder- shouldn’t a cleanser do that??

I use a toner for two things: re-hydration and removing excess makeup for those “night on the town” occasions that my gentle cleanser may not have gotten rid of. My skin tends to go towards the oily side, but it is also very sensitive and reacts to harsh ingredients (I run from chemical peels and anything with benzoyl peroxide). I’ve been using this spray after I wash my face at night instead of a moisturizer in the summer.

So think of toner as the lemon in your water. You don’t really need it, but it’s nice to have.

If you want to try a toner, here are my picks by skin type:

Skin that is acne prone, super oily and congested could benefit from a toner with an alpha hydroxy acid. Use it after cleansing if you think you need an extra step to clean your pores from the daily grime. Good ones include these from DDF, Dermalogica and Murad.

Sensitive skin would benefit from a facial mist that contains natural astringents like witch hazel and tea tree oil as well as soothing ingredients like lavender and aloe vera. Some good ones are from Jurlique, Juice Beauty and Mario Badescu (the last one I personally use and love. Plus you can’t beat the $7 price tag).

Dry/Normal skin can benefit from a toner when skin feels super, super dry and would want a hydrator to mist on during the day. I recommend these from Boscia, Yonka and Kiehl’s.

p.s here are some great summer facial mists now that the weather is getting pool worthy.

p.p.s this stuff is the BEST when it comes to clearing ingrown hairs, or razor bumps.

I hope this “clears” (get it?) up any questions about using a facial toner. So let me ask you- do you use toner? Why?