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Do You Actually Need a Toner?

Do You Actually Need a Toner?



You’ve heard about them. You’ve probably seen your friends or mom using them. You may even own one or two bottles of toner yourself. 

Toner is a member of what I’d like to call “the big three” trio in skincare, the other two being cleanser and moisturizer. However, while cleansers and moisturizers should be staples in everyone’s skincare routine, the role of toners is a bit more debatable. Some people believe that toners are completely unnecessary, while others think that they’re crucial.

So are toners really necessary, or not? Well, that’s what we’re here to discuss.

The history of toners

To begin discussing toners and their functions, we must first talk about the history of toners.

Back in the day, cleansers used to be really harsh on the skin. In fact, they were soap-based and extremely alkaline. Since your skin is slightly acidic (5.5 on the pH scale) this would disrupt the pH balance of your skin. And over time, this pH disruption would lead to some long-term damage to the skin. Not to mention, after cleansing with these soap-based cleansers, these products would leave a ‘film’ on your skin. 

As a result, astringent toners were invented to remove this residue and rebalance the skin’s pH back to its normal level. They were also used to remove excess sebum on the skin.

But the skincare industry has come a long way since then. Cleansers aren’t as harsh now and the original purpose of toners is obsolete.

What is the purpose of toners now?

Nowadays, toners are lightweight, water-based products that are infused with helpful ingredients that are beneficial to your skin. It’s important to mention that not all toners are formulated the same. There are typically two main types of toners and each of them has a different purpose. 

Hydrating toners: True to the name, the main purpose of hydrating toners is to provide your skin with extra hydration. These toners include humectants like glycerin or hyaluronic acid to draw water into your skin. This is really beneficial if your skin is super dry and can use that extra boost of hydration.

Active-infused toners: As the name suggests, these toners are formulated with actives like AHA/BHA exfoliating acids, niacinamide or vitamin C. They’re really beneficial if you want some extra active ingredients in your skincare routine, without having to add a super-strong serum. 

Here’s one important thing to note: toners aren’t meant to be cleansers.

Confused? Let me explain.

There’s a prevalent idea that a toner is meant to be used after cleansing in order to remove any leftover impurities that you weren’t able to fully get rid of.

However, that is a total misconception and not at all the purpose of toners!

Here’s why: If there are any residues or impurities left behind after you've finished cleansing, that simply means that your cleanser isn’t doing its job properly. In which case, you can either replace your cleanser with another that can do a proper job, or you can do a double cleanse. Personally, I’m a huge advocate of the double cleanse because it’s an effective way of getting rid of all skin impurities, while being gentle and nourishing enough to not harm your skin barrier function.

Pro tip: If you’re looking to invest in a double cleanse duo, give our Aloe Milk Cleanser and Face Foam a try. Together, they make a great pair to help you double cleanse your skin properly. No more wondering if you’re doing a good job at cleansing!

Bottles of Face Foam and Aloe Milk Cleanser on white background

Are toners the same as micellar waters?

This is a common question, and for good reason. There are similarities between toners and micellar water: both are liquidy, water-based products and are typically used with cotton rounds. However, that’s as far as the similarities go. In practice, they are two completely different products and have completely different uses.

As explained previously, toners are often formulated with hydrating ingredients to provide an extra hydration boost to the skin, and/or other active ingredients to give your skin some extra benefits depending on what you’re looking to achieve.

On the other hand, micellar waters are formulated with micelles—a ball-shaped cluster of surfactants—to help you break down impurities like dirt, oil and makeup. Essentially, they are just very mild soapy water that some people use as the first step in their double cleansing routine.

I think the confusion between the two stems from the misconception that toners are meant to be used for cleansing purposes. However, we’ve already talked about that myth!

Are toners the same as facial mists? 

This is another common question and it has a very simple answer.


Basically, mists are just toners that are packaged in spray bottles for ease of use. In essence, a mist should be able to perform the same functions as toners, including increasing hydration and providing extra benefits such as pore-tightening or skin brightening.

So don’t fret over whether you should get a toner or a mist or both. Just listen to your own skin. Figure out what your skin needs and get the products that suit those needs.

Woman spritzing her face with Face Food Mineral Mist

Can toners and facial mists be used as setting sprays?

The answer to this common question is... 

No. Facial mists and toners are not the same as setting sprays.

Understandably, the line between the two is often blurred. Some makeup artists prep their face with a mist and set their makeup with a setting spray, or some prefer to use facial mists for both purposes.

However, they are actually formulated differently.

Toners and facial mists are mainly formulated with hydrating ingredients and can give you the appearance of plump, dewy, juicy skin.

Setting sprays are mainly formulated with polymers (AKA: long molecules like plastics) that can effectively form a film to hold your makeup in place and also provide some waterproofing properties. As a result, your makeup looks more blended and less cakey. They can also shield your makeup against sweat, rubbing and clumping.

There are setting sprays that are only formulated with beneficial skincare ingredients to reduce the matte, dry look and moisturize the skin between applications.

What type of toner should you use?

That totally depends on your skin needs and what you want to achieve with your skincare routine. In a skincare routine, a toner is a great supplement to serums and moisturizers. 

Here are three common skin concerns and which type of toner is beneficial for each:

Pro-aging: If you’re hoping to help your skin age as well as possible, or if you’re looking to improve your skin’s overall resistance against the elements, choose an antioxidant-rich toner. 

Dryness: If your skin tends to get flaky, or if it typically feels tight and dry, select a toner that increases the hydration level within your skin. In this case, a hydrating toner packed with humectants might be a good choice.

Oiliness: If your skin gets shiny and oily as you go about your day, then what you could do is wipe your face with a cotton pad soaked with toner. This helps to get rid of the excess sebum while still keeping your skin hydrated.

If you’re looking for a truly versatile toner that has multiple uses, then check out our Face Food Mineral Mist. This water-based pick-me-up acts as both a toner and a hydrating face mist. Formulated with antioxidant white tea and a mineral complex of oil-controlling zinc, magnesium, copper and malachite, it forms a weightless protective shield against environmental stressors. Experience an instant glow-up with every spritz!

Bottle of Face Food Mineral Mist in front of greenery

When and how should you use a toner?

As a rule of thumb, you should apply your toner after cleansing while your skin is still slightly damp. When your skin is dry, active ingredients aren’t able to penetrate your skin as well. The stratum corneum (AKA: the outermost layer of your skin) can’t alter its structure and increase permeability when it’s dry. However, when your skin is damp, the stratum corneum’s structure becomes more relaxed, allowing for substances to be better absorbed by the skin.

You can apply your toner by patting it onto your face (with clean hands) or swiping it on with a reusable cotton pad. After you’ve applied your toner, you can go in with your serums and creams.

When creating our Face Food Mineral Mist, I wanted to make a versatile, multipurpose product that can be used at any moment during the day when you feel like you need some extra TLC. That's why I decided to turn it into a mist. This makes it super convenient to use. No need for cotton pads or putting it in an unclean hand. Just spray and go! In fact, if you walk by my desk in the office, at any given moment, you’ll be guaranteed to find me spraying my face with this skincare goodness.

So, do you really need a toner in your skincare routine?

Now that you know what toners are and what they do, it’s time to answer the big question: Do you actually need a toner? 

Well, truthfully, no you don’t.

But gosh, doesn’t it make your skincare routine so much more fun? 

I mean, there are many things in life that aren’t deemed as necessities but without them your life would be a total bore. And if adding a toner to your skincare routine gives you an extra 5 seconds of joy and the feeling of self-love, then who can say no to that?

So while it’s not a must-have product like cleansers or moisturizers, toners can be a great addition to your skincare regimen. Having the right toner that complements the other products in your routine can be the difference between good skin and great skin!

Anyways, I’m just gonna mist myself with Face Food for the 36th time today.

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Proper facial cleansing is the foundation of a good skincare routine. Click here to learn about different cleansers and the purpose of double cleansing.

Credit for main image: AnSyvanych

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