IS TONER A LIE?
A deep dive into the most profound beauty question of our times.
Most women have used toner at some point. Perhaps you read about it in a magazine as a teenager, or watched your mum apply one at her dressing table, or were just obediently adhering to the instructions on the back of those three-step beauty packs in the cosmetics section of department stores.
But ask most women what it does exactly, and you’ll find that there are as many answers as there are products on the market.
Removing makeup residue; balancing ph; restricting the skin’s natural oil production; replacing the natural oils lost in cleansing and delivering a potent cocktail of nutrients, are all common, seemingly contradictory reasons you’ll hear for embracing the beauty routine’s puzzling middle child.
If you’re anything like me, you probably concluded that the answer was far simpler: toner exists to sell consumers an additional product.
As it turns out, there is a reason for the myriad of explanations – different toners are designed to do different things. In fact, often the only thing they have in common is that they go on after cleansing and before moisturising.
Here, we break down the toner family to help find the one that’s right for you.
This is the OG toner and the one you most likely grew up using. It’s designed to contract the skin’s tissue (hence the “pore-refining” claims) and often contains anti-bacterial ingredients like alcohol or witch hazel to treat acne-prone skin.
While this can restrict sebum production in the short term, proceed with caution. Anything that strips the skin of too much moisture may lead to an excess of oil later.
The skin’s natural ph sits at around 5, so most toners aim to restore the natural acidity that’s lost when we cleanse our faces.
In addition to returning moisture to the skin, humectants have the added benefit of priming skin to better absorb the ingredients in your moisturiser or serum and prepping it for smoother makeup application.
If your skin skews dry, look for toners containing low-ph
ingredients such as rose water and hyaluronic acid.
These are the products that do everything else, from delivering a concoction of ingredients direct to the skin (almost like a serum) to exfoliating formulations that leave behind a fresher, brighter complexion.