The three main steps in just about every basic daily skincare regimen are cleanse, tone, and moisturize.  However, many people skip the toning step completely. If they are crunched for time, or have a tight skincare budget, facial toner is the product people are least likely to buy or use. Most aestheticians and herbalists do recommend a facial toner, and it is a key in between step in most professional skincare treatment room protocols. We also recommend facial toner, and listed it as one of our top 4 most under-appreciated skincare products in this blog post.

Is facial toner really necessary? Does it provide any actual benefits to the skin? Or are aestheticians and skincare product manufacturers just recommending toner as something extra?

What is facial toner?

Toners are water-based liquids that are used after cleansing. They are usually applied using cotton balls or pads but can also be sometimes be sprayed directly onto the face. They go by many names: facial toner, astringent, freshener, energizer, preparation, etc., but they are all virtually the same thing. The main difference used to be how much alcohol the product contained (fresheners contained the least, toners had a little more, and astringents had the most), but many natural skincare companies now sell low alcohol or alcohol-free formulations, to avoid the potentially drying and irritant effects of the formerly high levels. They have replaced the alcohol with herbal infusions, extracts, or hydrosols with inherent cooling and astringent properties.

What does toner actually do?

Most cleansers, even the highest quality ones, can leave a residue or film on the skin even if you think you did a good job washing it off. This residue can interfere with the ability of your treatment products and moisturizers to penetrate into the skin. This residue may also lead to a dull appearance, or contribute to clogged pores and breakouts. Other products, such as certain exfoliants and masks, also leave a residue that cannot be easily removed by water alone. A good facial toner removes that residue, and in turn, prepares the skin for further product application.

Toners help further cleanse the skin. Sometimes cleansers can miss areas of the face, especially if you are removing makeup. Toners will remove any debris missed by a cleanser, and (depending on the ingredients) may also clean deeper into the pores.

Often, facial soaps and cleansers, even pH balanced ones, have the ability to disrupt the skin’s naturally slightly acidic pH if they are used too frequently or aggressively. Most facial toners tend to be slightly acidic as well, with an ideal pH around 4-4.5, which can help restore the skin’s natural pH after cleansing with water or an alkaline soap or cleanser. Maintaining a proper skin pH is key to support a healthy barrier function.

That being said, too much toner is not always a good thing, even if it is an all natural, alcohol-free version. While some toners are very light emulsions, such as micellar waters, which do contain some lipids, overuse can still strip the skin’s lipids and promote dehydration.

What’s the verdict on facial toner?

We think facial toner benefits most people, when used appropriately both in the treatment room and in the daily skincare regimen. That being said, it is very important that the ingredients in the toner are the right ones for the person, and it’s a step that should never be overdone.

Leave a comment about aromatherapy in the spa!Share your thoughts!

We’d love to know what you think about facial toner. Is it something you use personally and/or professionally? Is it something you recommend to your clients? If you are a skincare customer, is it something you enjoy purchasing and using in your daily skincare regimen, or do you walk right past it on the shelf? Tell us your experience in the comments below!