If you’ve read any sort of skincare guide in the last, oh, 15 years or so, there’s usually always one product occupying the position of step 2: toner. But how many of us know why it’s always there, and what it’s really doing for our skin?
When I first started wearing makeup, I – and I’m sure many of you out there, too! – learned how to do a “proper” skincare routine at the department store makeup counter. While the woman behind the counter was very good at convincing my younger self that she definitely needed to buy the whole set of products, she was less skilled at explaining what each step did. When I became both older and more penny-wise, I eventually cut out the toner, because it seemed to me it was just an extra, unnecessary step.
Friends, how wrong I was! Those of you with more knowledge and skill in cosmetology are probably rolling your eyes right now, but for those of you out there who also have always skipped the toner step because it felt more like redundant face washing, come along with me on a journey of toner discovery. You’ll never believe all the different things this underappreciated skincare product actually does!
- It tightens your pores.
If there’s one thing you might already know about toners, it’s probably this one. No matter what kind of toner you use – there’s more variety than you might think! – what all of them share is an ability to shrink those annoyingly-large pores. Not only does this ability help from a cosmetic standpoint, it also makes it more difficult for acne-causing bacteria to build up in them.
- It balances your pH.
Your skin should not only be clean, but balanced, too, and toner helps it restore that beautiful equilibrium. Soap actually disrupts that balance when we wash our face, and our skin often responds by overproducing oil to try to get back to its preferred level. Toner corrects that process!
- It removes oil and helps oily skin.
Another component of toner’s balancing powers? It removes excess oil, too! Specifically, it absorbs the oil deep in our pores that surface-level cleaning can’t get. Plus, that pH-balancing ability we mentioned helps if your skin’s oil production is linked to an imbalance. Even otherwise-dry skin occasionally has excess oil, and toner can help with it, too; just use the toner only once a day, instead of twice.
- It exfoliates.
We all know that exfoliating and ridding our faces of excess, flaky cells is essential to skin health, but too often, popular exfoliating scrubs are too harsh for our faces, leaving them red and sensitive. Toners are actually one of the most gentle ways to exfoliate without irritating your skin! (Just take a look at your cotton swab after using it to see what we mean!)
- It prevents ingrown hairs.
If your toner-of-choice contains glycolic or other alpha hydroxy acids, it can help prevent ingrown hairs and/or razor bumps. Whether they’re from plucking your eyebrows or curtailing facial hair – yes, women get it, too! – these types of alpha hydroxy acids help improve skin’s elasticity and firmness, and increase collagen production. All of those factors help your skin prevent and recover from hair-removal damage.
- It removes makeup and/or dirt . . .
Your face might not be as clean as you think it is. Sometimes, your regular cleanser misses things, leaving behind traces of makeup, dirt, and other evidence of your day or night. Toner catches and cleans up the rest, making sure your skin looks and feels as clean as it should.
- . . . making your moisturizers and serums more effective.
There’s a reason toner is usually step 2 in a skincare regimen! Not only does it act as back-up for your step 1 cleanser, it acts as preparation and foundation for whatever you’re using in step 3, be it moisturizer in the morning or anti-aging serums at night. All that cleaning, ph-balancing, and oil-removing means that your skin is ready to receive and benefit from your creams and moisturizers in a way it wouldn’t be without toner.
I’m ready to go buy some new toner, aren’t you? Did you know that toner could do all of these things? Have you always had toner in your skincare regimen, or did it always seem superfluous before now? Are you convinced, or do you still remain skeptical of adding it to your routine? Let us know what you think, and share your toner experiences with us and your fellow readers!