Toner as part of skincare routines has been around for decades (via Byrdie). Particularly for those who had acne as a teen, they probably used it. Perhaps you still use it today even though it’s not the skincare must-have it used to be. Toner is applied after cleansing your face and before using serum and moisturizer. Depending on how long you’ve been using toner, you may feel incredibly attached to it and the way it makes your skin feel. Dr. Alicia Zalka, a Yale-affiliated dermatologist, told Huffington Post that toner is the second step in the cleansing process. “When used correctly, it can help remove excess oils and dead skin cells that may lurk on the face after washing,” she said. “To some extent, a toner can help other skin applications penetrate more rapidly. However, this can be the case when one puts a product on moist skin (water can do this).”
Ultimately, Dr. Zalka noted that toners are unnecessary but may benefit some people with acne or clogged pores (via Huffington Post). Mario Badescu’s head aesthetician, Elena Arboleda, told Teen Vogue, “In the States and many other areas around the world, toners were also known as astringents, tonics, or lotions. Those are traditionally alcohol-based preparations.” For some, using the product could be wreaking havoc on your complexion, however, which is the opposite of what you want from your skincare routine.
Here's who shouldn't use a face toner
If your toner contains alcohol and works as an astringent, it could be drying out your skin. Megumi Setoguchi, the director of Koh Gen Do cosmetics, said, “Alcohol can potentially be more aggravating to acne-prone skin types” (via Teen Vogue). Elena Arboleda also noted that sensitive skin doesn’t react well to products with alcohol combined with other ingredients like glycol acid or AHAs.
According to Dr. Jennifer MacGregor, at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York, “every person needs an individualized skincare regimen. Using a toner can be a nice way to add active ingredients like retinoids, antioxidants, and exfoliants to your existing products” via (Huffington Post).
Ultimately, experts agree that if you have oily skin, a toner with alcohol may be the key to controlling the oil production, but only if it doesn’t contain too much alcohol. However, if you happen to have acne caused by stress or dryness, then a toner could worsen the entire situation. Being too aggressive with products could also lead to poor outcomes. If you love a second step but can’t use toner, Byrdie recommended trying micellar water, which helps remove other makeup and grime. It’s essential to know your skin and what does and doesn’t help. If you’re struggling, check in with your dermatologist to get some personalized recommendations, which may or may not include a face toner.
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