What Does Toner Do To Skin? All About Toners And The Best Ones To Pick!

Toners! Toners are everywhere on Instagram. The beauty market is flooded with tons and tons of toners. They are particularly popular among the western and Korean beauty markets. As a beginner, I have wondered if I needed one. If using one will prove to be beneficial or is it just a marketing gimmick for companies to sell yet another beauty product! That was what I was thinking. In the current scenario, there are days when I’m obsessed with my toner and there are days when I skip them because I’m too lazy for my skincare routine.

As far as I’ve noticed, using a toner does have some additional skin benefits. But using one really depends on your skin condition. If you have normal, non-problematic skin, you could go away without using one. I feel that toners are highly beneficial for those who want to target specific skin concerns, like acne, pigmentation, aging and so.
So is the question of do I need a toner or what does toner do have been lingering in your mind? Then here are the answers to all your unanswered woes. Let’s start with the most basic question.

What is Toner?

A toner is a leave-on product that goes after your cleansing step. This means, a toner is applied after cleansing your skin with a face wash or cleanser, but before applying your moisturizer or day cream. It is a bonus step that has its own benefits in your skincare routine. A toner is usually a colorless water-like liquid. Sometimes it could be slightly more viscous than water.


The terms Mists, Fresheners, Tonics, Clarifying Lotions, Skin Bracers, Astringents, all these falls under the Toner radar.

What Does Toner Do?

What a toner does really depends upon the type of toner you are using. Traditional there were only the astringent type toners, those alcohol smelling ones. But today, we have a variety of good-quality toners for various purposes.

Toners are broadly classified into

  1. Hydrating Toners
  2. Astringent Toners
  3. Exfoliating Toners.

A toner can do either one or two or all the following mentioned

1. Deep Cleansing

Toners, when swiped across your skin with a cotton pad, can help to clear out extra dirt left out by the cleanser. You might have noticed some cleansers leaving a slippery residue or failing to give a squeaky clean skin. In this case, toners will give you clearer skin by wiped off the excess. Typically astringent toners, exfoliating toners, and sometimes even hydrating toners can do that.

2. Balances skin’s pH

There is this thing called the acid mantle of our skin. Also, called the pH level, it is a protective layer on our skin. Disrupting it by using harsh products/cleansers can lead to dull and damaged skin. So if you are using a high pH Cleanser, it is ideal to use a pH balancing toner. Most modern hydrating toners are pH balanced as well. Some popular toners with an ideal pH balance of 5.5 are the Thayer’s Witch Hazel Rose Petal Toner and Etude House Soojung pH 5.5 Relief Toner.

3. Preps Skin for Better Absorption

Just like how a damp sponge absorbs better, so is our skin. Have you ever felt your skin dry even after applying your moisturizer? That’s because your skin lacks hydration (water content). Applying your moisturizer on damp skin will help your moisturizer (or the next product your applying) to lock in moisture into the skin, thereby plumping your skin. Klairs Supple Preparation Toner is the best example of a hydrating toner. This is also the type of toner that is used in the popular 7 Skin Method of Korean Skin Care Routine, wherein you layer your toner 7 times with few seconds time interval. (Don’t ever use other toners like the Astringent or Exfoliating one for the 7 Skin Method. That might be drying and harmful too).

4. Exfoliate 

There are special toners called exfoliating toners which contain active acids like AHA (Glycolic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Lactic Acid), BHA (Salicylic Acid), and many other skin-safe acids. These toners, each have specific benefits. The majority of them help you to get clear and flawless skin. Alcohol-Based Exfoliating Toners can work like Astringent Toners deeply cleansing the skin. This isn’t the type that is really recommended for its harshness. One example is the Clinique Clarifying Lotion 3 which is an alcohol and salicylic acid-based exfoliating toner. But present day exfoliating toners have advanced formulations without alcohol and with additional skin-soothing ingredients like the Pixi Glow Tonic and By Wishtrend Mandelic Acid Skin Prep Water. Keep in mind that for an exfoliating toner to exfoliate your skin, it should have a desirable low pH. Otherwise, the presence of an acid (say salicylic acid) as one of the ingredients will only have an anti-inflammatory effect. That is the reason why you can notice some active acids down in the ingredient label in some toners (Son & Park Beauty Water) which aren’t marketed as exfoliating toner.

5. Shrink Enlarged Pores

There is this debate about the myth of opening and closing of pores. As for me, I’ve noticed the pores on my inner cheeks appear smoothened when I use certain products. So I do believe in the pore shrinking concept. And toners (and clay masks) are the ones that give me a pore shrinking effect along with a tightening effect. Enlarged pores are usually either genetic or due to accumulation of impurities & oils. Typically exfoliating toner with salicylic acid like the Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid are the best ones to go deep into your pores and clean all the gunk out of it, thereby shrinking your enlarged pores. Those alcohol based astringent toners also give you a temporary pore shrinking & tightening effect.

6. Soothe Irritated Skin

Except for astringent and exfoliating toners, most toners have a soothing effect on the skin. This is where most mist-type toners come into play. They can be sprayed whenever one wants and doesn’t necessarily have to go as a second step. Skin soothing toners are a blessing for irritation and redness prone skin. They are the mildest and help to calm the skin nicely. Some of them can be as plain as the Organic Rose Waters or the Thermal Spring Waters from La Roche & Avene. All of these are sensitive skin friendly skin soothers. Such toners aren’t limited to just these. Most hydrating toners like the Klairs Supple Preparation Toner also have a calming effect on the skin. Today’s toners are formulated to have at least one skin-soothing ingredient. Some popular ones you will find are the Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola) and Hyaluronic Acid (promotes wound healing).


These are the most general things a toner does. You can very well use more than one toner in a single routine, depending upon your preference and skin needs. It is ideal to use a hydrating toner after using an exfoliating toner to calm down the skin as some exfoliators tend to sting a bit.

How to use toner?

There are different ways to use toners.

  • Using a cotton pad or ball – pour a few drops of the toner on a cotton pad and swipe across your skin gently, all over the face and neck. This method is great if you like to get rid of every bits of dirt from your skin.
  • By spritzing – Some toners come with a spray type nozzle. Those toner have to be sprayed directly onto your skin keeping it away from a distance of at least 10 cms. Spraying adds a thin layer of toner on the top of your skin providing hydration.
  • Using fingers – pour a few drops on your palm, use fingers of the other hand, take the product, and swipe across your skin until it gets absorbed. In this way, there isn’t much wastage of the product
  • Using hands – pour a few drops of toner on your palm, gently rub once in between both palms and pat the toner on your skin. The warmth between your palm helps the product absorb better.
  • Using 7 Skin Method – follow the cotton pad method for the first time. From the second layer onwards, apply the toner using your hands after rubbing between your palms. Repeat this again while the second layer is still slightly damp. Repeat this 4 more times making a total of 7 times applying the toner. (Don’t ask me why 7 times. I don’t know either. It’s a Korean trend!)

When to use toner day or night?

So we have seen the uses of toners and how to use them. But do you know when to use a toner. Day or Night? Let me tell you.

  • Some toners can be used at any time of day. Even on top of sunscreen. Mist types toners and organic hydrosols fall in this category.
  • Exfoliating Toners are best used in the nights as some of them cause sun sensitivity. Also, it is recommended to introduce your exfoliating toner slowly, starting with once a week and then increasing upto 4 times a week. If your skin isn’t sensitive it can be used every night as well depending upon the activity you choose.
  • Hydrating Toners can be used in both Day and Night Routine without any issues.

5 Easy DIY Toner For Face Homemade

If you are still skeptical about using toners, why not try homemade ones and see if you like the idea of using a toner. Some common DIY Toner Recipes are

1. Floral Waters

These are the common toners made at home. Usually rose petals is chosen. But you can also use hibiscus petals, lavender buds, chamomile, calendula or a combination of any of them. Each flower has its own properties, choose the one’s you like. To make a simple toner, just boil the flower petals/buds in filtered or distilled water for 20 minutes. Strain the residue and use the remaining water as your toner.

2. Herb Infused Waters

This is pretty much similar to floral waters. Instead of flowers, you are going to use herbs. Just pick the one’s you like. Some skin beneficial Herbs include Holy Basil, Mint, Lemon Balm. Boil the herbs or soak the herbs overnight in distilled water. After the herb infusion is ready, strain and use it. Please do your research and experiment based on your skin type & concern. Some flowers and Herbs don’t suit everybody.

3. Aloe Vera Toner

I don’t have to tell you about Aloe Vera. It is a great ingredient for the skin as well as hair. For making aloe toner, just scrape a fresh aloe vera leaf extract and grind it until smooth. Add necessary water to make it runny while blending. Strain the residue and use the remaining as a toner. Too lazy? Just mix a tablespoon of your store-bought good quality aloe gel in 100 ml water. Mix well until combined.


Who said homemade toners can’t have exfoliating action. Here are two such easy toners. Both of these toners are acidic, having a low pH providing gentle exfoliation.

4. Apple Cider Vinegar Toner

To make ACV toner, mix 1 part ACV to 3 parts Distilled Water. Mix well and use a cotton pad to apply this toner. Depending upon your skin tolerance you can adjust the ratio, but it should never be in equal proportions. ACV should be lesser in any case.

5. Fermented Rice Toner

This is easy to make if you are a rice eater. While rinsing your rice before cooking, just take the second rinse of the rice and store it overnight until it ferment. You can very well use the fresh rice water, but the fermented one has a much exfoliating and brightening effect due to the presence of natural lactic acid.

These are some of the easiest toner recipes that can be made at home.

Well, that’s a wrap. We’ve come to the end of this post. I hope this post was useful in some ways. If you have any inputs for this post, please drop it in the comments section below.

2 thoughts on “What Does Toner Do To Skin? All About Toners And The Best Ones To Pick!”

  1. Very useful post. I love using hydrosols as toners as they are beneficial to skin in many ways. BlendItRawbeauty has great collection of different hydrosols…

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