Acids and Bases and Toner, Oh My!

Your skin has an acid mantle made up of sweat and oil that you naturally produce. After using a cleanser, you often strip away these oils, which can change your skin's pH balance. However, your skin will recreate these oils within a few hours, whether or not you use toner. If you have very oily skin, a toner might help keep shiny skin in check. A little oil is actually a good thing, though: The acids help prevent bacteria build-up.

What Skin Toner Does

You might have heard that skin toner can do a number of things. Most confusion about toner stems from the fact that the term "toner" can be used to refer to several different types of beauty aids, including traditional toners, astringents and fresheners.

Traditional toners consist of moisturizers, oils and extracts that help soothe your skin. Astringents, which are generally alcohol-based, tighten the skin and pores and remove oil. Fresheners work similarly to astringents by tightening the skin, but they are made of ingredients like caffeine and green tea instead of alcohol. Because all of these different products can fall under the toner umbrella, it's easy to see why toner is touted for tightening and moisturizing the skin -- as well as maligned for drying it out. You may have heard a lot about toner working to balance the skin, particularly after using a cleanser that can throw off your pH balance. In all actuality, toner is not really necessary here, and your skin should balance itself out.

Depending on what product you're actually using, it can do any of these things. In order to choose the right toner for your skin, look at the product ingredients carefully. Alcohol, for example, is a dead giveaway that you're dealing with an astringent. To get the results you want from your toner, you've got to know how to use it properly. Read on to learn how.