While the word ‘toner’ may frighten those of us who grew up using Sea Breeze toner and burning the everloving sh*t out of our faces, it is an important part of your regimen. Toner has two important functions for your skin: 1) it hydrates skin; and 2) it restores skin to its slightly acidic resting pH.
When you apply a cleanser to your skin, regardless of how mild it is, that cleanser will be at a higher pH than your skin, as cleansers are more neutral/basic. The toner step is what restores skin to its slightly acidic pH. This acidic pH is part of your protective moisture barrier that protects your skin from environmental irritants and infections. Another benefit of restoring skin to its resting pH after cleansing is that it will improve the delivery of the product’s active ingredients to your skin. Active delivery to skin cells is highly pH dependent, so skipping the toner step means your skin will not receive the benefits of the active ingredients in the product you apply to your untoned face. With serums and moisturizers costing hundreds of dollars these days, you don’t want to waste all that money you spent by not using toner.
In general, I am not a fan of toners that are astringent, and I am 100% opposed to toners that contain glycolic acid or too many active ingredients. Astringent toners dry out the skin, so if your skin type is dry, normal, or sensitive, astringents like witch hazel, etc are a really terrible idea. Toners with glycolic acid make it way too easy to overdo it with the exfoliation; plus, glycolic acid makes you more sun sensitive for up to a week after applying it. Your toner doesn’t need to be overly complicated. It should only have the two jobs of hydrating and restoring skin to resting pH.
My toners are all functionally equivalent, in that they are all anti-inflammatory. Each one contains a hydrosol (the water portion of an essential oil purification process), some aloe, an anti-inflammatory active, and a super mild preservative to keep anything from growing in there. I suggest choosing your toner based on which smell you prefer. NOTE: for those fragrance-sensitive people who have trouble with hydrosols, I can create one without them for you.
Fun fact: these toners are AMAZING at cooling you off when it’s hot. I keep one in the fridge in the summer, and spritz myself with it whenever I get too warm. It really helps!