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Toners. What do they do and do you need one?

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One of the most common skin care questions that I am asked is "What does a toner do and do I need one?".  My professional opinion is that toners are a "nice to have, not a need to have." 

Up until a few decades ago, skin care tended to be more alkaline. This is a problem because your skin is actually slightly acidic (it should have a pH of around 5.5). This acidity is known as the skin's acid mantle. The acid mantle is made up of sebum (oil and fat) excreted from the skin's sebaceous glands, which mixes with lactic and amino acids from sweat.  When the acid mantle is disturbed, the body becomes more susceptible to environmental stressors, bacteria, viral invaders, etc. It used to be that washing your face would absolutely destroy this layer of protection. The body does rebuild it, but it takes around a half an hour. 

Enter toners. Toners were slightly acidic, so spraying them onto your skin instantly restored the acid mantle, thus restoring skin's protective coating.

These days, skin care tends to be pH balanced. This means it won't destroy the acid mantle. As a result, the toner is unnecessary from a therapeutic standpoint.

That said, toners can be a great pick me up mid day. They can help add additional biologics and active ingredients to the skin. They can also help remove any traces of make-up that your cleanser missed.


If you are interested in including toners into your daily regimen, there are a few things to look for:

1) Alcohol-free - Alcohol is terrible for the skin as it dries it out and can cause cracking and peeling. Avoid it at all costs.

2) Hyaluronic Acid - This is a great ingredient to include in your toner. Hyaluronic Acid is a humectant. Each molecule holds 1000x its weight in water. A great time to use this would be on a flight.

3) Hydrasols - Floral and herbal waters that are created from plants. They have some of the properties of essential oils but are not nearly as strong. But the right ones can be a nice addition to your skin care routine. Use rose if you are dry or concerned with aging, witch hazel if you're oily,  cornflower if you're oily, jasmine if you're sensitive.

Please come and see Liz with any questions you might have regarding toners and whether one would be right for your regimen!

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  • Elizabeth Quesnelle
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