Skincare 101: Toners

I went to bed at 8pm last night and woke up at 3am. So I decided to make a post!

Purpose of toners: cleansing can change the pH of your skin and if over 25 hours of chemistry coursework has taught me anything is that pH is incredibly important.  The pH of your skin a slightly acidic ranging between 4.5 and 5.5, some people have a pH as high as 6.5.  Many toners are around 5.5 since more acidic can cause irritation to sensitive skin and conservative is better when playing around with skincare that’s mass produced.

Toners come in 3 forms from weakest to strongest: fresheners, skin tonics, and astringents.  Astringents are the strongest form and have the highest concentration of alcohol, skin tonics have less than 10% alcohol, while fresheners have none or less than 1%. Astringents are also the most likely to destroy the lipids in your skin thereby destroying your moisture barrier.  Astringents also have a tendency to be targeted for acne solutions because of their antiseptic (read as antibacterial) properties. I’m a 90s kid so we ALL grew up with Stridex pads. They simply irritated my skin and did zero things for my acne.

Astringents: There are so many other products to use to treat acne effectively than using astringents.  If you can only afford drugstore products please stay away from products like this.  There are other toners that are affordable at the drug store that can work really well and balance the skin without further irritating your skin resulting in more oil production and more acne. For those who are have a darker complexion definitely stay away from astringents. I have seen ashy skin on the face and it isn’t pretty. I really didn’t think it was possible until I saw it. If you have a foreign grocer/market especially middle eastern you may be able to find straight rose water.  That can make a great toner that’s inexpensive. It’s been used in the Middle East and parts of Africa of millennia as a toner. As skincare moved towards being more ‘natural’ Rose water/Rose anything is huge in skincare right now.  I just bought some new toner from Fresh to try, pretty sure it’s just insanely expensive rose water with Glycerin and Vitamin E.

I just don’t like astringents. I’ve never had good luck with them. Since I haven’t had good luck with them ever, I’m just not going to recommend any of them. If you have oily skin it’s really best to shop around for a good toner that will help to balance oily skin.

Skin tonics: this is where a lot of the toner market is focused. These products have around 10% or less alcohol and can have some really good effects on the skin in balancing. Although I hate alcohol in my skincare, 10% or less doesn’t seem to negatively affect too many people. If you open the package and it smells of alcohol, put it away. One of the major toners I used this summer was the Acwell Licorice pH Balancing Cleansing Toner. That’s a non-affiliate link too, that’s how much I love it. It’s ingredients list doesn’t have any of the bad alcohols and contains a lot of plant extracts to help balance the skin pH and decrease redness and inflammation. And it does actually cleanse a little; however IT IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR MICELLULAR WATER. I was shocked. The 2,000 person wait list story Allure came out with wasn’t a joke either. I had to wait till it was restocked. Totally worth it.

Fresheners: the least amount of alcohol, skin fresheners are great for those with extremely irritated or sensitive skin. This is where straight rose water would site. Mostly packaged as sprays. These are very gentle solutions that I’ve ever little luck with myself. Not in that they don’t work, I love to use them throughout the day to refresh my skin and give it a little moisture boost.

Other toners I’ve used and really like are:

InnisFree Brocolli Clear Toner:

D’Alba No Sebum Balancing Toner:

CosRX Galactomyces Alcohol Free Toner:

Misscha Time Revolution Clear Toner:

Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner:

MAMONDE Hydrating Beauty Water

Importance of toner for Acne sufferers:

Recall your skin has a pH that is slightly acidic.  This naturally inhibits bacterial growth.  So keeping your skin at its ideal pH is paramount to keeping your skin free of new acne.  The other two major areas of this include proper exfoliation and appropriate moisturization. I’m also a huge fan of using acne patches for highly targeted acne treatment like the CosRX Acne Pimple Master Patch or Skyn Iceland Blemish Dots

My rant: Clinique.  You have such wonderful products.  In general, you really do.  HOWEVER, you toner is an embarrassment to your skincare line. There are so many great things your skincare line delivers and I’ve used most of it over the years. But PLEASE reformulate your toner. It’s water and alcohol with a touch of glycerin and dye. That’s it. With the advances, we’ve seen in toners, especially since the Kbeauty and Jbeauty routine hit the US hard everyone else has stepped up. Your toner formula hasn’t changed significantly in over 20 years. Time to step it up. For a massive explanation why I don’t like Clinique’s toners read my previous post Ingredient Review: Denatured alcohol.


One thing to note is that note all toners have to be a runny liquid. Exuvience Soothing Toning Lotion ( is a slightly thicker product with zero alcohol. Lancôme’s Tonique Confort is a thick toner that really shouldn’t be put on a cotton pad at all. It’s so thick, it doesn’t absorb into the pad at all. Not all toners need to be applied to the skin using a cotton pad.

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