What's a Toner and Why Use It?

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First and foremost, I'm not a dermatologist or esthetician. This is based on what I have learned. Be sure and consult with your doctor and have regular skin checks. Also, wear sunscreen!

Towards the end of last year, I attended a media night at a local beauty/esthetician office. I really wanted to call it a skin store, but that sounded weird – LOL ...I guess you could call it a med spa of sorts? Clearly new to this. (And no, not where I currently get my facials.) ANYWAY, one of the reps was walking me through their products and asked about my current skincare routine. She asked if I used a toner, and I responded “I use a serum”? She snidely replied “yeah, that’s not the same thing as a toner…”. In my head I was like WHAT IS A TONER?! WHAT DOES IT DO?! So many words and definitions -sometimes I still forget an essential part to my skincare/makeup routine. How the heck am I supposed to remember all of these words if I can’t even remember something I do everyday?! I digress.

The point is that now I use a toner and I think it is probably more important than the other things I put on my face  – I will get into WHY in a moment. When I visited Amanda at Eleven Wellness (where I currently go to get facials – read the recent post I did after I got dermaplaning, here) I asked her a ton of questions about products and such, one being about toner. She said that toners are so underrated and that it would be beneficial if I added it to my routine, so I did. She recommended Thayers Witch Hazel Alcohol Free Toner, so I purchased the Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel Alcohol Free Toner. (there are several scents, including the original, no extra scent)

Okay so what the heck is toner and what does it do? From a high level it is a water based (usually) liquid that is used as step in the cleansing process, but it is SO much more than just a step😉  Here’s a basic overview of what a toner is supposed to do.

  •         CLEANSE – The first time I used my toner, I was SO surprised at how much dirt and grime was still on my face, even after I *washed it*. Remember, a face free of that crap is a step in the clear complexion direction! It also works as a great makeup remover. I like to use it to touch up my eye area if I smudge mascara or around my lips, when applying lipstick, as well.
  •         SHRINK PORES – Part of a toner’s job is to obviously clean out pores, but also tighten them in the process! These lessens the chance of dirt and oil creeping in and causing acne or other irritations…not to mention small pores are aesthetically pleasing! (coming from the person who has pores the size of Machu Picchu on her nose)
  •        RESTORE BALANCE – Honestly, toner can be used instead of washing your face, if you’d like. It leaves your skin refreshed through hydration, in addition restoring the pH level. (you know that thing you did tested with litmus paper in chemistry?) Though cleansers are good, they also haeve the ability to strip the skin of its natural goodness, in addition to making the skin's pH level higher/more basic. The skin’s pH is lower, meaning it is more acidic. If it goes more basic, the chance of infection and such is higher. Think of it as Zen for your face! (or body while you’re at it - it can be used all over! )

Does this sound familiar at all?? As a teenager, I'm pretty sure I used a "toner", but it had alcohol / other chemicals in it, otherwise known as an astringent. This is NOT what today's toners are about. Yes toners with alcohol and chemicals still exist, but that's not what I'm talking about. They can be good, but for the most part tend to be pretty harsh and not a good idea. On that same note, different toners are good for different skin types. Have oily skin? You don't want to add a ton of extra moisture to your skin, whereas with dry skin, you want that hydration. If you want to focus on anti-aging properties, your buzz word for finding a toner would be "antioxidants". Sensitive skin? Search for one that has the soothing properties of aloe. I have pretty normal/combination skin and I love Thayer's Rose Petal Witch Hazel Alcohol Free Toner! It is cruelty-free,  Sulfate-free, phthalate-free, dye-free, paraben-free, formaldehyde-free. All good things, all good things!

Before I wrap this post up, let's dial back into the question I asked in the first paragraph about toner vs serum... So what is the difference? If it helps you, this is the order you'd most likely use the products in + what the do and what the differences are. Here goes!

wash (I use Juice Beauty Cleansing Milk in the morning and night. When I want to double cleanse at night, I use One Love Organics Vitamin B Cleansing oil before the cleansing milk.)

toner (Extra cleanser, described more above. I use Thayer's Rose Petal Witch Hazel Alcohol Free Toner)

essence (Sometimes confused with a toner, but not as watery and more concentrated than a toner, but less than a serum...it typically is used to boost hydration and usually provides extra nutrients. It is very popular in Korean skincare. It is not to be used INSTEAD of a serum. I currently do not use any essences, but I know Juice Beauty and  Tata Harper has some.)

serum (Typically thicker, almost oil like, with only a few key ingredient to troubleshoot certain things. I'm obsessed with Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum, which is used for brightening, tightening, and anti-aging properties.)

oil (Just what it sounds like...oil! Usually a carrier oil with some essential oil goodies mixed in. Usually has very few ingredients and no water. I currently alternate between Pai Bioreginerate Rosehip Oil and Herbivore Botanicals Lapis Oil)

ampoule (The thickest of what I've mentioned! A general rule of thumb is to apply from thinnest to thickest of products and this is the mother load. It's basically a shot of goodness for your face. I don't currently use any ampoules. If you have any suggestions, send them my way!)

moisturizer (Basically does what it says in the name...moisturize your skin and lock it in! I currently use Juice Beauty Antioxidant Moisturizer or Osea Malibu Atmosphere Protection and Juice Beauty Green Apple Age Defy Moisturizer at night)

Some things I didn't mention? Balms (water free and very moisturizing, can be cleansers - One Love Organics has a balm I want to try! E.L.F. has a hydrating balm I have - I like to use it pre-plane ride -  it's not a normal routine for me.), potions (something between a serum or oil) and elixirs (can be substitute for certain creams)  ... Honestly it's just a lot and some of it just marketing ploys. How rude! A good way to remember it is:

serum, essence, elixir, ampoule: WATER, oil, actives, peptides

oil: OIL, essential oils

moisturizer: WATER, oil, actives

 

Got it?! Good! JK I know it's a lot. Just make sure you read labels and know what you are getting into and you'll be golden. Also, listen to your skin!! Do you like these posts? If so, let me know. I love doing these, because it's information that I've found myself looking for. They take me a while, but I geek out on them. Tip, download the app THINK DIRTY. It tells you if items have toxic ingredients and other cool things. It's awesome! P.S. If you liked this post, chances are you'll enjoy:

Dermaplaning:  What is it and How does it help your skin?

4 Cruelty-free and Nontoxic Face Masks

Current Skincare Routine for Skiing and Winter Elements

Winter and Dry Skin Pick-Me-Ups

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