Cleanse, tone, moisturize…we’ve all heard it before. But be honest: If you were in a rush, which step would you skip? Pressed for time, you would likely skip the toner—or maybe you skip it altogether, thinking that it would just dry out your skin.
But the toners of today are very different from the toners of the past. You might recall the stinging sensation you felt as soon as your astringent toner came in contact with your acne-prone teenaged skin. Maybe you’ve gotten over the pimple phase and you now don’t feel the need for toner’s oil-sopping properties. However, you’ll be missing out on the other beauty benefits of using toner.
The good news is that you can now easily find a toner that gives your skin some love—without the sting.
A Primer on Toner
Toner is like a supercharged version of water, containing more hydrogen and oxygen, plus other good-for-your-skin ingredients like antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. According to Allure magazine, it’s a fast-penetrating liquid that hydrates skin and removes some dead skin cells.
Toner is best used after cleansing and before moisturizing, as it can sweep away any stubborn makeup residue, balance out the skin’s pH, and prime skin to absorb other products like serums and moisturizers. As licensed esthetician Charlotte Cho explains in an interview with Allure, “Your skin is like a dried-up sponge. If you put a thick cream on a brittle dry sponge, it won’t accept it and it isn’t ‘prepped’ for moisture. But if you wet the sponge, the cream will sink in more easily.”
You can use toner in one of three ways: Use a cotton pad to soak it up and swipe it all over your face, neck, and décolletage; spritz it onto your face as a mist; or place some of it onto your hands and tap it onto your skin. Just make sure you apply it immediately after cleansing as moist skin more easily absorbs the product.
Picking the Right Toner
There are so many different formulations of toner and you should choose one based on your skin type. There is no one-product-fits-all toner, so consider the skin issues you want to address: Is it oiliness? Acne? Fine lines? Dark spots? Dryness? You can find a suitable toner from there.
A no-alcohol toner is best as it is non-drying and works on a wide range of skin types. One ingredient to keep an eye out for is witch hazel, a flowering plant that has natural astringent properties. Other toner ingredients that can be beneficial, depending on your skin issues are:
Aloe vera. A popular treatment for sunburns, aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it ideal for treating acne. It can also moisturize dry skin—but make sure not to overdo it, as too much of it can exacerbate dryness.
Aloe vera’s anti-aging properties mean that it can help prevent lines and wrinkles from appearing more prominent.
Cucumber. Imagine a spa day at home and you might conjure up an image of you with cucumber slices over your eyes. Cucumbers are a great ingredient in toners as they contain flavonoids and antioxidants that can address puffiness and redness. They’ve also got a lot of water and nutrients to help soothe sunburns and other skin conditions, and antioxidants like Vitamin C and caffeic acid that also help keep signs of skin aging at bay.
Lavender. Lavender may be soothing to your senses in more ways than one: While its scent is often associated with feelings of relaxation, lavender has been used as far back as ancient Egyptian times for its cleansing and healing powers. One of its lesser-known benefits is that it has antiseptic, antibacterial, noncomedogenic properties, making it a great treatment for acne.
You can find these ingredients in Thayers Witch Hazel Toners. This trusted brand has been around since the mid-1800s. It was created by a doctor named Henry Thayers, who experimented with better ways to get herbal extracts. Today, the brand’s popular line of toners is made using organic witch hazel, still produced the old-fashioned way to help preserve the antioxidants and other beneficial components of the plant.
Aside from containing witch hazel, Thayers Witch Hazel Toner is also infused with aloe vera, adding to its skin-saving powers. It’s available in different varieties, including Thayers Witch Hazel Cucumber and Thayers Witch Hazel Lavender.