Recently, a facialist suggested that I add toners to my routine. Since I was looking to clarify my skin, she recommended cult-favorite toner P50V from Biologique Recherche. Although toner has a reputation of leaving skin dewy and pores closed, within a week my skin was dull and super dry – the opposite of my glow goal. I did some research and found that there is little clarity or consensus about toners lets talk about myth vs the truth. See here, here, and here vs. here and here. Below you can find a few demystifying points to help you decide if you should add them to your routine.

 toner danidk


Help skin absorb ingredients in serums or moisturizers applied afterwards


  • Products not properly absorbed can lead to irritation, breakouts, dehydration, or other skin problems because they just sit on top of the skin.
  • Although some chemicals can penetrate skin, generally speaking getting skincare ingredients beyond the top layer of skin requires a more sophisticated delivery system than a water-based solution.
  • The delivery of ingredients is much easier when those ingredients are oil soluble as opposed to water soluble. Why? Because the skin is essentially water proof.
  • A basic water-based formula (i.e., toner) won’t help get ingredients deep enough to help.
  • The science of delivery systems


Tighten and shrink pores


  • Large pores cannot shrink. Pore size is a result of genetics, age, and gender.
  • A toner would have to be magic to combat those factors.
  • Pores clogged with make-up and dirt exacerbating the problem. You can do something about that!
  • Make sure you cleanse your skin twice a day, don’t sleep in make-up, and apply a cream with Alpha hydroxy acids to help speed up cell turnover and prevent skin cells from clogging the pores.


Rebalance the pH of the skin after cleansing


  • Skin has a natural acidic pH factor but cleansers and harsh water can strip away the skin’s acid mantle (i.e., the protective barrier on the surface of your skin responsible for keeping in lipids and moisture while blocking germs, pollution, toxins, and bacteria) leaving the skin dry and sensitive.
  • Most cleansers are no longer harsh enough to strip the skin and skin will naturally regain its pH factor within a few hours anyway.
  • By using a toner when you don’t have excessively oily skin you may be actually stripping away your skin’s necessary oils.



The experts don’t agree on this issue.

Toners often just irritate the skin.

Ignore most claims about toners. Why? We live in a capitalist society!

Unless you have very oily skin (it remains sticky or oily after washing) and/or acne-prone skin, you can skip it.

Know which alcohols to avoid



Clinique Clarifying Lotion 2

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Toner

Simple Soothing Facial Toner

Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner

Origins Zero Oil Pore Purifying Toner



If you don’t have oily skin, but still want a toner, buy something with Hyaluronic Acid or another humectant as one of the first 5 ingredients listed on the ingredient list.


Paula’s Choice Moisture Boost Essential Hydrating Toner


And if you prefer a simple natural formulation from a brand that is recommended by dermatologists, try:

SW Basics Toner



An interesting read on the history of the product category that includes toners.

Until next time, when I get into exfoliation.


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