While cleansers and moisturizers are fairly straightforward, toners are a bit more mysterious. Most women use them, but not everyone actually knows what they do, or if they should even be using them.
I don't necessarily consider a toner an 'essential' part of the skincare regime - in my opinion, at a basic level your skin needs to be washed (cleanser) and hydrated (moisturizer). Anything above that is helpful to be sure....and for some skin types or issues, definitely bordering on 'essential'. There are lots of different types of skincare products that can go a long way to beautify your skin - it really just depends on your budget and your skin care wants & needs.
It's also important to note that toners have really evolved in recent years - for the most part they used to be really drying with a goal of completely removing all face oils (which we now know is detrimental to your skin); I'd say that most of them were more harmful than useful, but thankfully that's no longer the case these days.
Before delving more into toners I need to explain this term (which I'll definitely elaborate on in another blog) - for now just know that it refers to the lovely eco-system of bacteria that lives on our skin. Yup...all those micro critters and things that we can't see are actually helping keep our skin clear, lovely, and youthful.
Old style toners used to be too strong with the wrong ingredients - they'd strip the skin of those necessary bacteria and hinder the ph balance of the skin. Luckily there are many great toners on the market now that not only keep the skin's balance in check, but even help to improve damaged skin.
Some toners are primarily for adding moisture (sometimes also called Mists); they can also 'set' makeup and/or add a dewy glow to your skin.
Other toners are ideal for depositing certain necessary ingredients into the skin - for example a toner with salicylic acid is a great way to get that ingredient into acne-prone skin, while a toner with licorice root will be helpful to get that ingredient into the skin of someone who has pigmentation issues.
Toners help adjust the ph level of the skin (which helps that precious eco-system work better); by using a toner after cleansing it helps the serums and moisturizers that get applied after it to be much better absorbed into the skin (think of how hard it is to get something to absorb into a dry sponge...it's much easier to absorb something into a wet sponge - same kind of concept!).
Lastly a toner also acts an additional cleanser - it helps to remove any impurities in the skin your cleanser may have missed...which of course aids your skin and also gives way for your products to work more effectively.
This is a matter of personal preference as well as what you're using the toner for. If you're using a toner for hydration or for the benefit of the ingredients in it then using a spray (or your clean hands) works for sure...but if you're using a toner as an additional cleanser (often for someone who wears makeup regularly) then a cotton ball is definitely best.
Not sure? Just try using a cotton ball with your toner after the next time you cleanse....and then look at it. If it's pretty dirty then you that the toner is a really helpful part of the cleansing process for you and using a cotton ball is important - but if this isn't an issue then it's your choice whether to use a toner with a spray, with your hands, or with a cotton ball.
Hopefully that explains toners a bit more for you - if you still have questions then let me know! And while I don't always recommend a toner for everyone, I do for most people and it can be a really helpful part of a skin routine for anyone with a skin issue....I find it most helpful for anyone with acne-prone skin, redness, dull skin, etc.
Read product descriptions carefully; each brand will specify what type of toner it is and for what skin type or condition.
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