Toner is the essential second step of the three-step ‘cleanse, tone, moisturise’ skincare routine. Sadly, toners have a bit of a bad reputation thanks to older models which contained a high alcohol content and dried skin.

However, we think modern toners are a beauty powerhouse. Toners contain rejuvenating ingredients which can exfoliate, minimise pores, calm redness, and boost glow all over.

Who should use a toner?

Anyone! Look at the label of each individual toner to choose one with ingredients that’ll compliment your skin type.

Benefits of toner

Historically, toners were used to remove excess soap after cleansing. Nowadays, toners can help to:
  • Cleanse the skin by removing dirt and oil that cleansing missed
  • Target specific skin concerns, from dullness to ageing
  • Hydrate

How to apply toner

Here’s our step-by-step guide to using a toner for the best results:

  1. Apply toner after cleansing and before moisturising, (or serum if you use one as part of a four-step skincare routine).
  2. Soak a cotton pad in toner, and then apply it to your face.
  3. Stroke upward from your nose to forehead, and then run the soaked cotton pad across each brow.
  4. Move the pad outward from the nose, across the cheeks toward the ears.
  5. Run the pad above the mouth and chin.
  6. Finally, take the cotton pad to the base of the neck, and rub upwards to increase blood flow to the face as you tone.

What to look for in toner?

Your skin type and specific skin concerns determine which toner is best for you. Look out for these ingredients to help with skin concerns:

  • Tea tree oil. Tea-tree oil is anti-bacterial 1 and can help promote skin clarity.

  • Aloe vera. Aloe vera can help relieve sensitivity2, and it’s soothing, redness-reducing properties are great for skin in general.

  • Chamomile. Chamomile is a natural anti-oxidant that helps soothe sensitive skin3.

  • Rosewater. Rosewater is a beneficial ingredient4 that can enhance skin tone and suppleness.

  • Vitamin E. Vitamin E is an excellent healthy-ageing ingredient that also reduces the appearance of dark eyes5

  • AHAs/BHAs. Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Beta Hydroxy Acids are powerful – but gentle – exfoliants that deep-cleanse pores without being too harsh on the skin like a traditional scrub.

When to avoid toner

Many people believe that they can’t use a toner after laser facial rejuvenation or hair removal treatments. Although using toners with potent ingredients, like AHAs or Vitamin C, is ill-advised after treatments which permeate pores. Toners with gentle ingredients are OK, as long as you always patch test before using new skin products to ensure you’re not sensitive to any of the ingredients.

However, those with particularly sensitive skin might find their usual toner drying after dermatological treatments. In which case, try a witch hazel toner. Witch hazel has natural healing benefits6 which can help calm skin.

If your skin’s sensitive and you’re concerned about using toner, do a patch test on your wrist 48 hours before you intend to use the product. That should give you an indication whether toner’s right for your skin, without exposing your face to needless discomfort.

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Last Updated: 4th December 2020


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Manisha Taggar

Author: Manisha Taggar, Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: May 2019

BSc Hons in Pharmaceutical & Cosmetic Science

Manisha started her career at a Cosmetics distributor as a Regulatory Technologist followed by a Regulatory Affairs Officer, ensuring the regulatory compliance of cosmetic products from colour cosmetics to skincare.

After 3 and half years in this role, Manisha joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.

Manisha specialises in Cosmetic products, both own-label and branded lines, ensuring that these products and all relating marketing material comply to the EU Cosmetics Regulation.