“In the past, toners were harsh astringents. Now, they are ways to cleanse the skin,” explains board-certified dermatologist Ife Rodney, MD, FAAD, of Eternal Dermatology and Aesthetics. “These are water-based formulas that contain any combination of acids, antioxidants, and other effective, natural ingredients. Toners benefit the skin as a way to deliver low concentrations of these ingredients to the skin while balancing the pH. They also help in hydrating the skin and removing dead skin cells left behind after washing and cleansing your face. Some people use a toner as part of their makeup routine, cleaning the face before any further products are applied.”
As for whether you need a toner in your skincare routine, Corey Hartman, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology, says they can be beneficial for oily skin types because they help control breakouts and oil and improve discoloration and scarring. However, Rodney says they aren’t necessary to maintain healthy skin and can be an optional, additional step. “With their antioxidant and exfoliating ingredients, toners may serve as a refreshing primer to help other products go deeper into your skin. If you wear makeup all day long and have acne-prone skin, you’ll be a good candidate for the extra toner step,” she adds.