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What Is Toner + When Should I Use It?

By Shammara Lawrence, she/her

Whether you’re a skincare novice or aficionado, chances are you’ve probably heard about the importance of using toner in your routine. Still, so many people may be unaware of its true purpose. If you count yourself among that group, or just need a refresher, stick around—we’ll dive into the benefits of toner and when to use it. 

What is toner?

“A face toner is a liquid skincare product designed to be the first step on the skin after cleansing,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. “Traditional toners were alcohol based products used to remove excess oil from the skin and normalize the skin's pH,” Dr. Zeichner notes. They’ve evolved over the years, though—like YTTP’s Kombucha + 11% AHA Exfoliation Power Toner, which balances pH by supporting the skin’s natural microbiome. More on that later.

What does toner do for skin?

Your skin’s pH plays a vital role in the health and function of your skin. Essentially, pH refers to acidity levels, and it ranges from 1 (the acidic end of the spectrum) to 14 (the alkaline end of the spectrum) with 7 being neutral.

“A healthy level of pH [for your skin] is between a 4.5 and a 5.5 and just to give you a frame of reference, water has a pH of 7.0, which is completely neutral,” Youth To The People Regional Sales and Education Executive, Lauren Cummings explains.

When your skin’s pH balance is off, it can cause a range of issues like redness, breakouts, or irritation. This is where a pH-balancing toner steps in to recalibrate your skin to its optimal level.

I know what you’re thinking: isn’t the Superfood Cleanser pH-balanced? Yep—and you can feel it in action:

“Right after you wash your face, if your face feels clean and refreshed, as well as hydrated and cushioned, then the cleanser you used is pH-balanced for your skin health,” Cummings explains.

With a cleanser that does a lot of the leg work of balancing out the skin, it might seem like a pH-balancing toner would fall out of favor. But don’t get it twisted: toners still have an important role to play in the world of skincare. For starters, toners can be awesome at removing any leftover dirt, grime, and impurities stuck in your pores after you wash your face. They can also be beneficial in treating the skin for a host of issues like hyperpigmentation, acne, or dryness. One such product is the Kombucha + 11% AHA Exfoliation Power Toner

“It contains a powerful mix of ingredients like glycolic and lactic acid that gently and effectively exfoliates the skin, helps clear out pores, softens fine lines and texture, as well as brightens the skin,” Cummings says. 

When + how to use toner

You should always apply toner after cleansing your skin; Dr. Zeichner suggests “gently dab[bing] it onto the skin without rubbing it.” In the case of the Kombucha Toner, apply the product after cleansing your skin as part of your p.m. routine, then wait for the product to dry. It might feel tacky at first, but this is a good thing: that’s hydrating lactic acid and arginine at work. Follow it up with the Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask to help you wake up with a glow.

If you’re still unsure of exactly how to incorporate a toner into your own routine, book a free 15-minute Skin Session with one of YTTP’s elevated skincare experts. “We’ll help you assess what's the best for your skin and we'll point you in the right direction,” Cummings says. 

Written by Shammara Lawrence for Youth To The People

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