What Is a Facial Toner? All You Need to Know Before You Get One

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A facial toner is a water-based skincare product that cleanses your face of oil, dirt, grime, and makeup residues.

You probably have seen one on the aisles at the cosmetic store and maybe you’re using one for the sake of it or because of the influence of your favorite beauty influencer. Whatever the case, you need to know the nuts and bolts of facial toners.

Back in the day, facial toners were made for post-bath cleansing. They helped to rid your skin of soap scum. They still maintain that purpose; however, they have found more uses than that and they all come post-bath.

Ahead, this post details everything you need to know about facial toner and why you need one in your skincare regimen.

What Is Facial Toner?

Facial toner is the first step of every skincare routine. It is appropriate to say that every other step down your routine depends on this cleansing for efficiency.

A facial toner is an alcohol-free product that lifts off excess oil, dirt, and any other impurity from your face. It preps your skin to take in the active ingredients contained in the skincare products down your routine.

A cosmetic dermatologist, Dr. Michele Green says, “facial toner is a water-based skincare product that’s used after cleansing to help hydrate the skin and prepare it for a moisturizer.”

Furthermore, this skin cleansing agent contains active ingredients that can penetrate your pores and refine them, minimizing their appearance. Consequently, your skin can regulate sebum production. This is why it is greatly lauded by people with oily or acne-prone skin types.

In addition, a facial toner enhances the efficacy of a face cleanser for skin types like oily and sensitive skin.

What Is Facial Toner Good For?

Dr. Green further adds that “when used consistently, toners offer a myriad of skin benefits and can contribute to the maintenance of a healthy, radiant complexion”.

While you use a facial toner to cleanse your skin, it loads your skin with nourishing ingredients. At the same time, it opens your pores to take in the ingredients of face serums and other products.

The clear liquid does more than is usually stated. It forms a protective layer over your skin that keeps out environmental irritants like dust and sun rays. However, it retains moisture and provides maximum hydration.

Moreover, a facial toner restores your skin’s pH balance which may have been altered by excess oil, beauty products, and environmental pollutants.

Facial toners have a light consistency and small molecules that easily penetrate your skin. It goes ahead to clear your pores of excess sebum and removes the dead skin cells you sloughed off during exfoliation.

It refines your pores, shrinks them, and reduces their prominence. This way you manage the occurrence of skin breakouts.

To sum it up, all these functions of a facial toner are targeted at improving the overall look, texture, and health of your skin.

Is Facial Toner Cleanser?

Although facial toner may work as a cleanser, it is not a cleanser. The main difference between these two skincare products is, while a cleanser cleanses your face, a toner doubles the action by balancing the pH of your skin.

Moreover, a toner minimizes the appearance of your pores and controls acne. Some cleansers may be too harsh for your skin and consequently cause more oil production. Facial toner, on the other hand, balances out this effect.

Another difference is in their consistencies. Cleansers may be foam, oil-based, gel, or cream but facial toners exist as only water-based formulas.

Furthermore, the harsh chemicals in cleansers may dry your skin and leave it totally dependent on moisturizing to prevent skin breakouts. Facial toners, on the other hand, soothe your skin while cleaning.

What Should You Look For in a Toner?

It is not enough to include a facial toner on your skincare shopping list. While you shop, you should read the ingredients list because there are things you need to look out for. And this does not include the expiration date (although it is important too).

A facial toner that contains glycerin, rosewater, and vitamin E is just what you need for a hydration boost. They are humectants that attract moisture to your skin and retain them.  

If you have sensitive skin, while you focus on getting an alcohol-free toner, you should also look for one that contains chamomile and aloe vera extracts to soothe your skin.

Oily and acne-prone skin types should look for one with an essential oil like tea tree oil to control sebum production. Moreover, it tames the frequency of skin breakouts.

For refined pores, look for toners that contain alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids like glycolic and salicylic acid respectively.  

The list of ingredients to avoid includes alcohol, fragrance, and parabens. These chemicals can dry out your skin, cause skin irritations and lead to premature aging.

If your skin has any special concerns, you should watch out for the ingredients you need to steer clear of. Additionally, you may consult your doctor if necessary.  

Types of Facial Toners

Unlike cleansers that have different consistencies like gel, foam, or cream; there is just one form of toner-water-based. But different formulas contain different ingredients.

The different formulas create diversity in the skincare product such that, there is a formula that perfectly suits every skin type and its concerns. The types include:

Skin bracers

Skin bracers are the mildest toners. They contain the least alcohol concentration which is about 10% or less. The little alcohol, more water ratio is why they are sometimes referred to as refreshers.

Additionally, they contain glycerin and rose water which soothes your skin and helps to keep it hydrated. Refreshers address almost every skin type. But dermatologists advise that people with sensitive skin should use it cautiously and only when the skin demands it.

Skin tonics

Based on alcohol level concentrations, skin tonics are the next on the list. They contain about 20% alcohol, water, and a humectant ingredient like glycerin. This type of toner is great for normal, oily, and combination skin.


Astringents used to be called toners until skincare experts discovered that the alcohol concentration (20-60%) was too drying to the skin. They also contain antiseptics, water, and a humectant ingredient that are good for acne and oily skin.

However, the alcohol content can cause skin irritations that may damage the skin’s protective natural lipid barrier.

How to Use Facial Toner

Although the formula looks simple and easy to use, there is the right way to go about using a facial toner to get results. To apply facial toner, all you need is cotton balls and your bottle of toner.

  • Facial toner comes post-bath. And, if you have a cleanser as part of your regimen, it should come before your toner
  • Use a mild face soap and cleanser to clean your face of oil, dirt, and makeup
  • Afterward, dampen a cotton pad or balls with the facial toner and gently wipe your face and neck
  • When you wipe, avoid getting toner around your eyes and lips. Clean the corners and edges of your face well. These include your hairline, the sides of your nose, and around your ears
  • If you like to follow up with a misted toner, you can spritz some and enjoy the refreshing feeling
  • Do not dry your face. Allow your skin to soak up the ingredients and enjoy moisture
  • Thereafter, you can continue with the other products in your routine
  • Follow these steps in your AM and PM routine

Side Effects of Using Facial Toner

Facial toner is not necessarily bad for your face unless you use one that contains high concentrations of alcohol and fragrance. Although, there are reports that people with sensitive skin should use it sparingly and as the skin demands.

Other than that, facial toners are completely safe for you and are highly recommended by skin experts and beauticians.


How often should you use a facial toner?

You should use a facial toner twice a day, it is advised that you do not go beyond that. It should come after your cleansing your face in the morning and evening.

Use toner in your morning routine to clean the oil that was produced while you slept. In the evening, facial toner helps to remove oil, dirt, and makeup.

Above all, you should use toner according to the demands of your skin. If you have exceptionally dry skin, the once-a-day application is enough. If you have oily skin, twice a day is necessary.

Should you use facial toner without moisturizer?

No, you should not. While you may find a toner moisturizing enough, it is not enough to use it without a moisturizer.

Facial toner seeps into your skin while moisturizers stay on your skin. Moreover, it preps your skin for moisturizer, so treat your skin to a moisturizer that is perfect for your skin type.

Can you leave facial toner on your face overnight?

Yes, you can. Facial toner is a lightweight alcohol-free liquid that you do not need to rinse off after application.

While it cleanses your face of oil, dirt, makeup, and impurities, the active ingredients seep into your skin and nourish your skin from within. Besides, while you sleep, your body enters a state where it makes maximum use of skincare products for self-repair.

Is rose water facial toner?

Yes, it is. Rosewater is a natural all-skin toner that dates far back as history. It has mild astringent properties and tones your skin.

Rosewater is gotten from distilling Damask rose petals with steam. The method of application of rose water is the same as a toner. Also, it provides your skin with the same benefits.


On first contact, you can mistake facial toners for ordinary water but they are so many things far from water. Facial toners are also often mistaken to be cleansers. Although they work like cleansers, they do more than cleansers.

A facial toner is an alcohol-free liquid that cleanses your skin and restores pH balance to your skin, minimizing the appearance of your pores at the same time. Moreover, every skin type can enjoy the benefits of using face toner.

However, you only need to watch out for the formulation and the ingredients your skin certainly needs. Another amazing benefit of using a facial toner is that it supports a minimal skincare routine.

It is portable and you can use it anywhere and anytime, even on the go. One important thing to note is, if you have sensitive skin, you may find toners soothing but you need to watch it. If it causes skin irritations, you should discontinue the use and see a dermatologist.

Thanks for reading.

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