Toner (Cosmetics): What do they do?

In addition to simply eating healthy and getting enough rest, the basic skin-care regime to keep your skin healthy in the long-term can be boiled down to (1) keep it clean (2) use sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection religiously (3) keep it moisturised, and (4) don’t sleep with make-up on.

I’ve noticed products called Toners on the market. Most of these contain significant amounts of alcohol which is actually a skin irritant, so I’ve been quite dismissive of them. A friend suggested I check out Paula’s Choice toners. Well, her formulations look good enough and a sample I used feels pretty nice, but I’d like to know if toners actually have an impact on the skin.

So, do skin toners make any difference to your skin besides feeling vaguely pleasant when you apply them? I notice that Paula Begoun consider them an essential part of her daily regime. That’s great for selling products, but what does the toner actually accomplish?


Could a mod please move this to a more appropriate forum? Thank you.

Reported for you.

Moderator’s Note: Moving from Great Debates to General Questions.

Toners are mild astringents used to clean the skin and shrink pores (that produces a tightening sensation that some folks like). Yes, it’s drying, which is why moisturizer is recommended afterward.

It’s debateable if pores actually are able to shrink or if they just appear smaller after you’ve washed away the surface sebum from your skin. The toner’s job is reputedly to remove the last bits of dirt, soap scum, grease and (if your water is hard) minerals. And as the Makeup Diva states here, if your cleanser leaves all that behind, you need a better cleanser.

I think it’s safe to say that toner is the least important part in a facial regime. Personally, I left out this step years ago and only came back to it because of extreme circumstances (stayed three weeks with friends, with a giant unheated attic next door. Using a toner saved me from having to bundle up in socks and a warm robe for a chilly sprint to the likewise unheated upstairs bathroom, or downstairs to the chief bathroom.) Now that I’m warmly situated again, I use it if I need to freshen up between washes.

I use it twice a day, in the morning before I put on my makeup, and in the evening before I put on the moisturizer. I have a non-alcohol one…Neutrogena.

I don’t think it’s the cleanser that’s the problem, it’s just that I don’t want to scrub my face that hard and irritate it. I find the toner does a good job getting the final bits the soap doesn’t.

So they are milder cleansers and may possibly be able to shrink pores.

That makes them sound like a very optional part of a skin-care regime, then.

They do work amazingly well as an emergency antidote to razor burn.

I wear verrry light moisturizer and mineral powder as my only face makeup. In the evening, I take it off with a medicated toner. It’s probably not a recommended usage, but I find my acne-prone skin does better on this regimen than using my facial cleanser again in the evening. My skin is very balanced in the morning when it’s time to put on my makeup again.