Are Toner’s Necessary?

The toners of the past have been considered too astringent and somewhat an unnecessary step for many years, especially for those who don’t suffer with acne prone skin. This was due to the high concentrations of alcohol present in them. Formulators used alcohol to remove oil from the skin, leaving the skin feeling dry and irritated. Along with this, the reality is sweeping a cotton soaked with witch hazel all over your face isn’t really conducive to achieving a radiant and healthy complexion. But with time the formulations have improved to include a variety of ingredients, but the question still remains – are toner’s necessary?

How do you define a toner?

To put it simply a toner is a fast-penetrating liquid that delivers skin a quick hit of hydration and helps remove some dead cells off the surface of the skin. But to confidently grasp the idea of toners we can categorize them:

  • Alcohol-based toners. Often these also contain ingredients that tighten the skin, such as witch hazel. These toners can damage your skin and cause irritation. Using them makes it more difficult for your skin to heal itself and produce healthy collagen.

  • Water, glycerine or glycol-based toners containing scents such as rosewater or citrus. These products are often labelled ‘refreshing’ or ‘purifying’ but they are actually little more than cologne for your face. Strongly-scented toners like these may cause reactions that are damaging to your skin.

  • Water-based toners that only contain healing ingredients, substances that replenish the skin (for example, glycerine, fatty acids and ceramides), antioxidants, and ingredients that help skin cells communicate such as niacinamide.

They are essentially prepping your skin for other hydrating factors like serums, oils and moisturizes, aiming to wipe away dead cells, lubricating the skin and in some cases balancing out your skin’s pH, ready for your next steps. The last step one is especially important to note if you are using cleanser’s that are particularly acidic.

Over time it has become increasingly obvious that they cause to a lot of skin problem’s is hydration. I.e both dry and oily skin are both symptoms of dehydrated skin that is in desperate need of hydration.

The Korean beauty revolution

The change in the toner industry can partly be attributed to the Korean beauty revolution. Even, smooth and silky skin has always been a aesthetic hallmark of Korean Beauty (shortened to K-beauty) and has driven the industry into becoming a booming success in the western market in the past decade. Along with it’s ten steps, following a K-beauty regiment requires you to properly double cleanse, to thoroughly rid the skin of dead cells and use a toner as a first leave-on step that hydrates and treats. This not only makes perfect sense but inadvertently forces the follower to scrutinize the ingredient’s list and look for active ingredient’s that suits the applicant’s skin type.

Hydration is the foundation of the perfect K-beauty routine and has revolutionized next generation toners into becoming a useful step for all skin types, rather than an astringent one aimed at acne prone skins and were incredibly irritating.


They may not have always been as necessary as they are now but toners, like all good things, have changed over the years to become better and provide us with more use. They are no longer here to strip your skin but provide it with an extra layer of hydration or to discard dead skin cells. Both reasons will provide your skin with benefit. However, alcohol based toners still exist and are something I would not recommend for anyone, especially those with sensitive skin.

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