I think toners are one of the most confusing skincare products out there. Not because they themselves are complicated, but because of general widespread disagreement over their purpose as well as vague or misleading marketing. I don’t have a background in chemistry or dermatology but this is a subject I’ve spent a lot of time with, and my research has included reading professionals’ opinions, speaking with sales associates, and trying different products.
Toners are intended to be used after a cleanser but before any serums or moisturizers are applied. There appear to be basically two different schools of thought regarding what a toner is supposed to do:
1. A cleansing step that removes lingering dirt and makeup, dries up oil, and minimizes pores
2. A balancing step that lowers pH, soothes irritation, and prepares skin for absorbing moisture
Let’s talk through these two different notions for a moment.