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How to Work a Toner Into Your Routine
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How to Work a Toner Into Your Routine

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Of all the beauty products out there, toner might be the most cryptic. What does it do? Isn't it just fancy water? Do I really need it? Raise your hand if you've ever asked yourself one of these questions. (We sympathize!) To help demystify toner, we chatted with two skincare experts to get the truth about toner and how to incorporate it into your daily routine.

What is it?: "A toner is a water-based solution—generally alcohol-free—that uses humectants to keep the moisture in the upper layers of the skin to prevent skin dehydration," explains celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau. And don't let fancy words fool you; there are many types of toners masking under the essence, water, fuid, and mist name. Typically, treatment-based toners contain stronger ingredients designed specificlaly for a skin issue (think pH-balancing or exfoliating toners); whereas hydration-based toners focus on nourishing and moisture retention. Bottom line, it's a little more than fancy water.

What does it do?: The simple answer: more than you think. "Soap or a foaming face wash might have a low pH balance and thus dry out skin," says Rouleau. A toner helps balance the pH level and counteracts the dryness that occurs from this. And depending on the ingredients found in your toner, it can help enhance your skincare routine by calming the skin, controlling oil, stimulating blood circulation, destroying acne-causing bacteria, and providing antioxidant benefits, she says. Lastly, toners can support your skin's barrier by adding in hydration and nutrients and removing drying chlorine and minerals found in water.

How to use it?: A toner typically should typically be the second step in your skincare routine and should follow your facial cleanser. To use, apply an alcohol-free toner by wiping skin with a toning cloth or cotton ball, so as to remove the cleanser residue, salts, chlorines, and chemicals found in tap water, explains Rouleau. "Be sure to leave toner damp on the skin before applying serum or moisturizer to give skin a much-needed drink of water and seal in all the hydrating and nourishing properties of the toner," she adds. Follow with your favorite moisturizer.

Who should use it?: Anyone! Although any skin type can benefit from a toner, Dr. Howard Sobel, Founder of DDF Skincare recommends it for those with combination skin.  "I particularly like to use a toner if you have an oily T-zone but [have] drier skin on the cheeks ," he says. Lastly, don't forget to check the back of the label! "The ingredients to keep an eye out for depend on what you are using toner to complement," explains Dr. Sobel. "An aloe-based toner [is best] for sensitive, drier areas and a glycolic-based toner [is best] for oilier skin," he adds.

What to try

Dickinson's Enhanced Witch Hazel Hydrating Toner$5.97 at Walmart 

Formulated with hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and witch hazel, this alcohol-free toner hydrates and refreshes skin all while maintaining skin's natural balance. It's no wonder this toner rates so highly among Influensters!

Fresh Umbrian Clay Purifying Facial Toner$35 at Sephora

Umbrian clay is the star ingredient in Fresh's formula. The clay works to balance, purify, and clarify skin's complexion. In addition, it combats skin congestion and absorbs excess oil so pores and shine don't stand a chance.

Kate Somerville KateCeuticals Replenishing Toner$58 at Sephora

Ideal for balancing uneven skin tones, diminishing the appearance of fine lines, and improving skin firmness, this toner is actually more like an anti-aging treatment. Count hyaluronic acid, soy lipid extracts, and botanical extracts as powerhouses in this treatment.

Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Mist Intense Deluxe Edition$65 at Sephora

Although not labeled a toner, this facial mists retains all of the beneficial properties of a traditional toner. This limited-edition formula contains five different rose types (and aloe vera!) to hydrate dry skin. But it's marshmallow extract that's the true star: its humectant ability ensures maximum moisture retention. 

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