Is toner necessary?

...and how to use a toner?
Lu Li,
December 15th, 2020
Hyram vs James Welsh on whether toner is necessary.
Recently two famous skinfluencers went head-to-head in their Youtube videos on this million dollar question: Is toner necessary? This is definitely a controversial topic in the skincare communities and we often see different opinions even among experts. Today we're going to dissect the views on each side.
Why is a toner not necessary in your skincare routine?
  • Toners were first introduced to offset the ph change caused by harsh cleansing soaps in the early days. Skincare has evolved a lot since then and better formulations have brought us gentle cleansers that don't require normalizing the PH.
  • The argument to use a toner as an extra step for cleansing is also dubious. If you don't want to leave the cleanser on your face, why do you want to leave a cleansing toner on your face? If there is still residue after your cleanser, you need a better cleansing mechanism.
  • The argument to use a toner as extra hydration can also be challenged. If you need hydration, find a richer moisturizer. Compared to hydrating toner, moisturizers have occlusive agents to lock the hydration in. Without the occlusive agents, it can even cause transepidermal water loss and therefore prone to dryness when using a toner.
  • A lot of toners are mostly water. If you're looking for active ingredients, they're more concentrated in serums and therefore more potent.
Why should you use a toner?
  • Nowadays the lines are more and more blurred among toner, essence, and serum. Contrary to the alcohol-heavy, astringent toners in the past, toners now are packed with beneficial ingredients.
  • The Toner step is a perfect stage for some extra hydration boost.
  • Toners balance the skin and allow skincare products layered on top to penetrate better. No matter how gentle the cleanser is, it affects the skin's ph somewhat. Toners normalize the ph and dampen the skin, leaving it a good environment for product absorption later.
After reviewing the arguments on both sides, we think: toner is definitely not a necessity if you want a basic routine with a minimum number of products. However, good toners can have added benefits if used correctly.
So how to use a toner?
Though the opposite views, we can see some common grounds shared by both sides. Here are some tips based on these shared beliefs if you're going to add toner in your routine:

  1. It's not toners' job to cleanse. If you see dirt/debris coming off when using a toner, you should definitely look into a better cleansing method - double cleansing or a better cleanser.
  2. Alcohol heavy, astringent toners are harmful to your skin and should be avoided.
  3. Treatment toner/essence are good choices if you do decide to incorporate a toner. You can reap the benefits of great ingredients at an affordable price.
  4. Always use a moisturizer after a toner. The occlusive agents in moisturizers help lock in the hydration and prevent water in the skin permeate out causing dryness.
  5. Toners enhance penetration, which means both beneficial active ingredients and potential irritants will penetrate better. It can potentially cause problems for sensitive skin.
There is no one size fits all in skincare. Connect with a curated skincare expert in Glowism to see whether toner is the right choice for you and what toners would work the best for YOUR skin.
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