A Complete Guide On How to Use Face Toners Effectively

I used to wonder why branded water sat on shelves in the skincare aisle at the drugstore. After a closer look, I realized they weren’t just water. They are face toners, the moisturized skin’s secret. Extra steps, I bought one for myself and got some information.

At the time, acne breakouts were my skin concern. And just like I was told, this “branded water” made its signature on my face. Then, I realized how much a jewel it is to women.

Face toners are not for just women with oily or acne-prone skin. There are different formulas to suit any skin type, so, if moisture is your skin concern, this is certainly for you.

Dermatologists and beauty experts have commented on this skincare product- why you need one in your skincare kit, what it does for you, and how you should use it. Keep scrolling to learn everything you need to know about face toners. 

What is a face toner?

what is a face toner

Face toners are very important to women’s skincare routine. Women, especially those with oily or acne-prone skin, can testify about the importance of the water-based skincare product.

Lucy Chen, a board-certified dermatologist says, “toners act as another level of cleansing, deep cleaning pores and effectively removing dirt, oil, makeup, and other pollutants”.

Toners come in after a face wash and prepare your skin for a face serum, moisturizer, or any other skincare product. You can as well call them the “middle man” in the skincare routine.

In addition, face toners contain skin-soothing ingredients like eucalyptus, peppermint, and aloe. They keep your skin moisturized, refreshed and do not strip away your skin’s natural oils or moisture.

Benefits of face toners

how to use face toner

You may be wondering whether face toners are really worth the hype. Yes, they are. Face toners load your skin with a lot of benefits. They include:

1. Return skin pH balance

Charlotte Cho, a licensed esthetician says, “It brings your skin back to its natural acidic state”. The skin is naturally acidic with a pH range of 5.0-6.0. Alkaline substances like soaps, makeup, and other pollutants can alter this pH balance.

As a result, the skin responds by trying to restore its normal pH level. This process produces a lot of oil which consequently leads to acne breakout. Facial toners correct this consequence by cutting off the restoration process.

Additionally, facial toners mimic the skin’s pH when applied after face wash. As a result, the skin automatically returns to its balanced pH, keeping it soft and healthy.

2. Keeps the skin hydrated

Certain cleansers and soaps dehydrate the skin after use. If the skin stays dehydrated, it won’t get the best of the subsequent skincare products. So, face toners help to hydrate the skin in preparation for the application of the other products.

3. Makeup removal

Cleansers do not totally clear off the dirt and impurities from makeup. That is to say, after using a cleanser, some makeup may still be left behind. This is where toners save the day. They perform extra cleaning and leave your face squeaky clean.

See also: Get Your Acne-Free Skin With a Facial Steamer

4. Skin protector

During the day, the skin is exposed to the harsh effects of pollutants and the elements. Facial toner acts as an additional protective layer on your skin. It helps to keep pores clean and reduce the penetration of impurities and contaminants into your skin.

5. Gets rid of excess oil

Blackheads are a result of pores that are clogged with oils. Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi advises that “if you have oily or acne-prone skin, look for a toner that contains glycolic or salicylic acid, as it will cut down on oil and shine”.

Glycolic and salicylic acids are some of the key ingredients in face toners. These acids get rid of the excess oil and cut down on shine, keeping your skin healthy. Also, facial toners can serve as a quick wash for oily and dirty skin.

6. Shrinks pores and tightens the skin

Facial toners can go beyond the superficial layer of the skin down to the pores. It works from underneath, clearing your skin pores. As a result, your face appears smoother and impenetrable for debris.

This benefit makes it highly appreciated by people with oily or acne-prone skin.  Also, people with aging skin can enjoy this benefit because it rejuvenates the skin. Frequent use of face toners makes the skin appear tighter and firmer.

7. Prevents skin breakouts

Pores clogged by sweat, oil, and dirt cause skin breakouts. Toners have soothing and anti-inflammatory properties that prevent infections and skin breakouts. They also help to reduce existing acne.

8. Moisturizing

Some face toners contain humectants, so, they can attract moisture from the air to the skin. Face toners keep your skin refreshed and helps to still retain its natural moisture.

9. Detoxification

Environmental toxins like smoke, smog, and chemical residues affect the skin’s appearance and health. Face toners function to remove these toxins, keeping the skin brighter and healthier.

How to use face toners

how to use face toner

To get the best of face toners, the right application is necessary. Appropriate use of this skincare product includes understanding the types, the application, how often you apply it, and what face toner is good for your skin type.

1. Types of face toners

Face toners are classified into three types based on their functions and alcohol or acid concentrations.

Skin bracers or refreshers

Refreshers, as they are called, are the mildest and gentlest face toners. They contain little or alcohol (0-10%), a lot of water, and glycerine. Glycerine helps to retain moisture in the epidermis, keeping the skin calm and hydrated.

Skin bracers are most suitable for dry, sensitive, and normal skin. However, they may cause a burning sensation on sensitive skin.

Skin Tonics

These tonics best suit normal, oily, and combination skin. Skin tonics contain about 20% alcohol, water, and a humectant ingredient. Skin tonics largely contain natural orange extracts and chamomile.

Also, these toners even out skin tone and enhance collagen production.


Astringents have the highest alcohol concentration of about 20-60%. They also contain antiseptics, water, and a humectant ingredient. They are well prescribed for people with oily or acne-prone skin.

However, astringents can cause skin irritations that may damage the skin. This is because they have strong abilities to rid the skin of its protective lipids and denature skin proteins.

2. How to apply face toners

  • Wash your face with a mild cleanser or soap
  • If you’re using a cotton ball, apply toner to the cotton ball – dampen not soak
  • Gently wipe the cotton ball across your face. Be mindful to avoid your lips and the delicate areas around your eyes
  • Allow your skin to dry and absorb the toner for about 5 minutes. Afterward, you can carry on with the rest of your skincare regimen
  • If you are using a spray bottle, it can be quite difficult to wipe away residues and impurities. Misting is best for refreshing the skin
  • You can use your face toner as an activator for other skincare products; replacing water

3. How often to use face toners

Generally, how much or often you use face toners depends on what you plan to achieve. But, experts advise that you use toner after your morning and evening cleansing.

In the mornings, toners remove excess oils that have built up overnight. The evening application helps to get rid of makeup oils, grime, and impurities.

Most importantly, the knowledge of your skin type, skin concerns, and the type of toner you are using will dictate how much toner you should use. That is to say, using some toners once a day can be sufficient and some require more than once-a-day application.

Pros of face toners

1. Skin breakout control

Most of the skin issues are a result of open pores. When pores are clogged with sweat or oil, they become open and make the skin prone to acne. Face toners help to reduce the appearance of these pores.

2. Hydrating ingredients

Toners contain aloe and lavender, nutrients that cannot be gotten through diet. These ingredients have a strong hydrating effect. Hence, toners leave your skin refreshed even after the day’s work.

3. Skincare routine prep

Toners can add extra moisture to your skin and even open up your skin to bask in the ingredients of the subsequent skincare products. Some have antioxidants that help to keep your skin rejuvenated.

4. Good for minimalists

Face toners benefit people who love to get their skincare routine done with minimal ingredients and in less time. You do not need running water to apply a face toner and it can be easily carried about.

See also: How to Exfoliate Your Face Without Hurting Your Skin [Pro Tips]

Cons of face toners

1. Alcohol content

Most toners contain alcohol. This alcohol content has great tendencies to make your skin dry and flaky. Also, they can cause skin irritations accompanied by redness and swelling.

2. Astringents and fragrances

Sensitive skins do not do well with astringents and fragrances. They can cause skin aggravations and eventually lead to skin damage.

Best face toners based on skin types

As mentioned earlier, there are different face toners for different skin types. To the question of who can use a toner, Dr. Rebecca Kazin M.D, a dermatologist answered, “Really anyone. It is just based on the benefits of a particular toner”.

In other words, you need to first identify your skin type and its concerns before you make a choice. Here are face toners suggestions for each skin type.

1. Best face toner for dry skin

If you have dry skin, you should look for a toner with niacinamide, hydrating and soothing ingredients.

Fresh Rose & Hyaluronic Acid Deep Hydration Toner uses rose fruit extract for toning rather than astringent ingredients. This toner contains rosewater and rose flower oil that works to hydrate, soothe, and nourish dry skin.

2. Best face toner for oily skin

Alpha- and beta- hydroxyl acids (AHA & BHA) help to dissolve oil. So, you should choose an alcohol-free face toner that contains these ingredients.

Neutrogena Pore Refining Toner contains AHAs and BHAs. It also functions to reduce pores appearances and gently exfoliates the skin.

3. Best face toner for combination skin

A toner choice for combination skin should take into account that, some parts of the skin are dry and some parts are slightly oily, the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin).

Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner keeps the skin hydrated and protected from antioxidants which can lead to acne breakouts. Also, it is unscented and this makes it a perfect fit for combination skin.

4. Best face toner for sensitive skin

Sensitive skins need face toners that contain skin-calming botanicals. Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Calming Toner is unscented. This makes it perfect for sensitive skins.

This toner contains antioxidants that guard the skin against the effects of free radicals and environmental stressors.

5. Best face toner for normal skin

Clear and hydrated skin does not need to get worse. Although clear and hydrated, it can also be sensitive to skin breakouts, dryness, and oiliness. Generally, face toners should contain little or no alcohol.

Thayers Facial Toner performs every basic function of a facial toner. It is gluten, alcohol, and paraben-free. This formula helps to keep your skin healthy, prevent skin irritations and inhibit excess oil production. Also, it maintains the natural skin moisture barrier.


1. Why should I use face toner?

It’s almost impossible to stop dirt, grime, and impurities from coming in contact with the skin, especially the face. Toners help to get rid of these pollutants and also relieve the skin of the effect of the harsh chemicals from soaps and makeup.

2. Can face toner replace moisturizer?

Face toners contain humectants, which means, they can attract moisture. But, they cannot always replace moisturizers. Different skin types come with different concerns.

To sum it up, if you feel your skin is moisturized enough with just a face toner, you may not use a moisturizer but if not, you should go on ahead with the moisturizer.

3. Is rose water a toner?

Yes, rose water is a toner, a natural toner. Research shows that it comes from Rosa damascena flower, commonly known as Damask rose, and it is created by distilling rose petals with steam.

Experts advise that you use face toners that contain rose water because it is calming to the skin. Also, it is suitable for every skin type.


Toners are the skincare regimen’s middleman. Regular use of face toners can have a great impact on your skin’s appearance. You should however note that for every unique skin type and its concerns, there’s a different toner.

So, you need to first understand the needs of your skin. Also, you need to take into account the ingredients of the toner you want to buy. Then, you’re all set to incorporate toners into your skincare routine.

Thanks for reading.

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