“Do I really need a toner?”, a question we all ask ourselves when our skincare budget starts to climb. The long and short of it in our nerdie eyes is no, you probably don’t, regardless of how much the 90s and 00s told you that you did.
Not to toot our own horn, but we have taken it upon ourselves to challenge the ingrained opinions that can dominate when it comes to skincare routines, toners being a particular point of contention. Many hoomans not only think they need a toner, they want one.
What is a toner?
Before we get into the nitty gritty as to why we don’t think you need a toner, we need to define what a toner is. Toners, in the most traditional sense, are a liquid that you apply to your face post-cleansing to rebalance your skin’s pH and remove any residue post-cleansing.
More modern toners are usually one of two things: exfoliants, toners that include acids or enzymes to encourage the skin’s own exfoliating process, and hydrators, toners that feature rosewater, aloe vera juice and other humectant (water-binding) ingredients for the purpose of moisturising the skin.
The toner that we have a problem with is the traditional toner. This form of toner tends to be incredibly drying, serving the purpose of temporarily mattifying the skin with drying alcohol and sensitising astringent ingredients, yet doing it damage long term.
Do I need a toner to balance my skin’s pH?
To be honest, your skin manages its own pH balance for the most part, even when we purposefully disrupt it. When we talk about the pH of your skin, we’re actually talking about the acid mantle. Never heard of it? We’re more fond of calling it your barrier.
It’s a very tricky topic, we’re going to be upfront about that. But essentially, your skin wants to be in and around 5.5 on the pH scale, meaning just ever so slightly acidic. This is key because this acidity is what halts contaminants from getting further into your skin, because contaminants are basic (ha).
If your cleanser is formulated well, it will either not affect your pH balance at all or only minimally, or it will only do so for the purpose of having benefits such as allowing ingredients to penetrate better.
Why you don’t really need one
If you were using your pH-disrupting cleanser alone with nothing after it, maybe you would need something to neutralise that acidity afterwards. But you’re not, are you? You’re following it up with serums, creams and SPFs that are either pH neutral, your skin’s pH, or slightly alkaline, which will help to balance it back out.
But what about exfoliation and hydration? Our verdict is that other products can do just that.
Take, for instance, Sally Cleanse. Sally Cleanse is an exfoliating cleanser that cleanses AND exfoliates with 2% salicylic acid to prompt the skin to increase skin cell turnover, whilst helping to regulate oil control. Skin Protein assists in the skin’s own exfoliation process whilst hydrating the skin. Skin Veg hydrates the skin whilst prepping the skin for optimal absorption of products, another purported benefit of toners. See what we mean? Why duplicate what you’re using?
Can toners tighten pores?
When you’re asking about tightening pores, “closing” pores and clearing pores, remember that pores aren’t a muscle or a mechanism. They’re just the opening for the hair follicle and allow sebum and sweat to come out.
For long-term tightening of pores, you need to actually improve the structure and tone of the skin, defined largely by your skin’s main proteins, collagen and elastin. We call on vitamin A for this job, and using Skin Protein AM + PM will help your pores to appear smaller and healthier due to skin that is plumper.
Astringent toners can temporarily reduce the appearance of pores by essentially annoying the skin, swelling it so the pores aren’t as visible. As you hopefully can tell, this isn’t a good thing for your skin. A good makeup primer will make pores less visible because it is a breathable covering that creates a smooth base without causing the same type of damage as a toner will.
Is a Spritz O’Clock a toner?
We’re excited that you may not have been introduced to Spritz O’Clock (this link goes to our other website, The Skin Nerd) because it makes our hearts pound. Spritz O’Clock, to put it simply, is using a hydrating facial mist whenever you need it or feel like it.
Although many suggest that spritzes are pointless, we strongly disagree. Air-conditioned offices and cars sap our skin of hydration and your Spritz O’Clock instantly pops it back into your skin, refreshing your face and your makeup.
Technically, Spritz O’Clocks are toners, but in a different form with a benefit we adore so they get a tick from us. There you go, toner lovers, go mad.