It’s obvious what other skin care products do for you. Cleansers clean, moisturizers moisturize and sunscreens screen the sun. But what do Toners do? They don’t really ‘tone’ anything, and your skin can survive without them. However, a well-chosen toner does so much to balance your skin’s oil content that it should be a part of your regular beauty regimen.
Most toners are designed to follow your cleansing regimen and precede your moisturizer or sunscreen. They’re typically fluid enough to apply with a cotton ball, but some toners skip the cotton and come in a spray pump. Their original intent was to remove residue that washing left on your face; old-fashioned cosmetics were tenacious, while bar soaps often left a film. While you shouldn’t need a toner to cleanse your skin — if you’re seeing excess makeup on your cotton ball, you may want to switch facial cleansers — the right toner adjusts the amount of oil on your skin’s surface.
Perennially oily skin loves mildly astringent, drying toners. A quick swipe of a toner-soaked cotton ball leaves skin feeling clean and looking de-greased. Removing excess oil helps your makeup stay in place and limits shine. Choose the mildest toner that’s still effective for cutting the oil. A too-strong toner will simply strip your skin and parch it. Trading oily skin for flayed, flaky skin is no bargain.
Dry skin takes an entirely different kind of toner. Instead of choosing something with alcohol, witch hazel or other drying agents, pick something with a moisturizing component. Glycerin-based toners draw moisture from the surrounding atmosphere to your skin, hydrating it. These toners may also help your makeup glide on more evenly.
One important note about toners: they do not affect pores. They don’t shrink, minimize, clean or otherwise change them. Pore size is genetic, and a few drops of liquid on a cotton ball can no more shrink pores than it can make you an inch taller. Toner is a wonderful addition to your facial skin care regimen, but it isn’t magic. Use toner for the right reasons, not the one manufacturer’s hype.