Skin Toner Basics

open jar of face cream.
What's missing from this skin care regimen? Toner, of course. See more pictures of getting beautiful skin.
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You've got your daily skin care routine: wash, dry and you're done. You might throw on some lotion if your face is really dry. But that's just not enough. Maybe your skin still feels oily after you wash it, or you wish your skin and pores could be a little tighter. Adding a skin toner to your daily regimen might be the perfect solution.

Chances are that you've seen skin toner on the shelves at your beauty supply store, sitting next to the bottles of cleanser and moisturizer that you buy. If you're not sure what exactly skin toner does or how to choose the right one, then this article is for you. First, you should know that the term "toner" is often loosely used. You might have shied away from toner in the past because you've heard of it drying out skin in some cases and moisturizing it in others. The confusion can be attributed to the fact that the toner label has been applied to a few different kinds of products.


This article will show you the differences among the products and explain how to choose the right kind of toner for your skin. You don't want to dry out your skin; you want to make it look beautiful. Based on what kind of skin you have -- and thus, what kind of toner you should be using -- you'll also learn how to use skin toner to bring out the best in your face.

So, you're still a little leery about toner (especially after hearing that it can refer to several different products), but you're ready to take the plunge. Read on to discover more about the skin care formulas that fall under toner's umbrella term and what each of them can do to enhance your skin.


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.

Using Skin Toner

After learning about skin toner's benefits, you might think using it is a bit of a no-brainer; however, depending on your existing skin care regimen, incorporating skin toner requires a bit of thought.

No matter what, you'll want to start by washing your face with a cleanser. This cleanser should work with your particular skin type, so pay attention to whether your skin is dry, oily or a combination of both. Also, if your skin is particularly sensitive, you should be sure to use only products marked for sensitive skin. You should also stay away from bar soap (the kind you use on your body) because it can be too harsh for the soft skin of the face.


Use a towel that's soft and clean to dry your face. It's a good idea to have a particular towel devoted just to your face, as bacteria can thrive in towels. Next, you'll want to have some cotton balls, cotton rounds or facial tissues on hand to apply your astringent or liquid-based toner. Start swiping toner across your t-zone, or your forehead and nose. These are the oiliest spots and will benefit most from the astringent. You can then lightly brush it on your cheeks as well as other areas that may be oily. Stay away from any dry areas, as the alcohol in astringent can dry them out even further. (If you find your skin very dry, stay away from astringent-type toners all together.) Let your skin dry before applying any lotion or makeup. If you're using a creamy moisturizing toner, you can apply it with your fingers. Start with your cheeks, and gently massage it in throughout your face. Concentrate on any dry areas and only lightly cover your t-zone.

You're now an expert on the various types of toner and how to use it, so you can bring the spa to your own bathroom. To learn more, check out the links on the following page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • The Beauty Brains. "The Truth About Skin Toners." July 30, 2008. (July 21, 2009).
  • Cote, Ryan. "How to Use an Astringent Skin Toner." Free Library. 2007. (July 21, 2009).
  • Jenkins, John. "How to Use an Astringent Skin Toner in Your Skin Care Routine." Ezine Articles. Nov. 15, 2006. (July 21, 2009).
  • Kaylor, Annalise. "How to Tone Your Skin." Suite 101. Jan. 17, 2008. (July 21, 2009).
  • Madison School District. "Staph Skin Infections Fact Sheet." (July 21, 2009).
  • Makeup Diva. "What is a toner, what does it do and when should I use it?" (July 21, 2009).
  • Smart Skin Care. "Basic steps of facial skin care routine: Toning." (July 21, 2009).
  • WiseGeek. "What is Skin Toner?" (July 21, 2009).