Should I be using a toner?

Once shunned in the beauty world, modern toners are re-establishing their importance in skincare routines. Our experts explain why.

Toners were once integral skin care routine step.

But in recent years they’ve been overlooked in favour of other super-charged skin products like serums and micellar water.

So, what happened?

Dermatologist Dr Leona Yip says the alcohol-based toners of yesteryear earnt a justifiably bad rap.

“The astringent properties of these toners caused significant problems with skin dryness and irritation,” says Dr Yip.

But present-day toners have evolved, says The Wellness Group aesthetic nurse practitioner Madeline Calfas.

“Formulators have realised that the goal of a toner shouldn’t be to strip away oil,” says Madeline.

“Instead, a toner is now used more like a skin primer to prepare the skin for the application of active ingredients, serums and moisturisers.”

And it seems that toner’s comeback has already begun, with a recent study predicting the worldwide toner market will be worth $900.6M by 2025.

How do toners help skin?

Madeline explains that sweeping a toner across the face should achieve three key skin objectives.

“Firstly, toners remove any residual impurities such as dirt or make-up that may have been left on the skin. Second, they remove excess oil and rebalance the skin’s pH,” she says.

“Finally, toner prepares the face for subsequent application of serums or moisturiser, so that it can better penetrate to the skin.”

Madeline says toner should be applied “after your cleanser, but before your serums and moisturiser”.

“Toners are recommended for use once or twice a day in your skin care routine – but they are also not necessarily essential for every person,” adds Dr Yip.

What are the types of toner?

New-gen toners have not only improved their formulations, but Dr Yip says they’re often better targeted to “address common skin concerns like dryness, irritation and dullness”.

“There are hydrating toners with hyaluronic acid, glycerine or ceramides designed to restore skin,” says Dr Yip.

These types are ideal for after long-haul flights or for those working long hours in air-conditioned spaces, she says.

“There’s also exfoliating or clarifying astringent toners, which contain ingredients like glycolic acids, lactic acid or salicylic acid, which all help reduce the appearance of dull skin by removing surface skin debris, re-balancing skin pH, reducing skin pore size and brightening the skin,” she says.

Toners vs micellar water vs serums

The rising popularity of micellar water and active serums has undoubtedly impacted the toner market.

Dr Yip notes that micellar water has honed squarely in on toner’s territory for “effectively removing final residue of make-up and cleansing the skin”.

She says serums offer targeted skin results because they “contain more highly concentrated active ingredients compared with a watery toner”.

But rather than relegating toners to the skin care wasteland, Dr Yip suggests reconsidering their purpose.

“Toners should function to improve skin hydration, clarity and restore the skin’s pH balance,” she says.

“For those with specific or targeted skin concerns, better results can be achieved when serums are applied after toners.”

Written by Sharon Hunt.