Complete Guide to Using Toners for Skincare with 5 FAQs

Complete Guide to Using Toners for Skincare
Complete Guide to Using Toners for Skincare

The Complete Guide to Using Toners for Skincare

Using a toner is an important step in any skincare routine. Toners help restore skin’s pH balance, remove residual dirt and oil, minimize pores, and prep skin for treatments like serums and moisturizers. However, with so many toners on the market making various claims, knowing exactly how to use them can get confusing. This comprehensive guide covers all your questions on toners – from how to use them day versus night to making your own homemade formulations.


Difference Between Toner and Serum

Though they sound similar and are both secondary treatment steps after cleansing, toners and serums perform different functions:

Toners prime and prep skin to optimize absorption of subsequent products. Most balance pH, remove residual dirt/oil, tighten pores, and deliver hydration.

Serums treat specific skincare concerns like dark spots, wrinkles, and dryness. They penetrate deeper to deliver concentrated doses of active ingredients.

So in a nutshell, Toners prep, serums treat!

Using a toner ensures your serum can penetrate optimally to treat targeted issues.


Do You Rinse Toner Off?

Like with most skincare products, toner instructions will specify whether rinsing is recommended. Traditional watery toners are designed to absorb quickly without needing removal. However, some thicker cream toners may warrant rinsing any residue off. Those with easily irritated complexions can also opt to gently rinse more lightweight toners after a few minutes of skin absorption time.


Exfoliate Before or After Toner

It’s best practice to exfoliate before applying toner. Exfoliation sloughs away dead skin cells and impurities from the very top layers of your complexion using scrubs or chemical alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids.

Using a toner right after exfoliating allows it to better penetrate freshly exposed skin and restore optimum pH levels post-exfoliation. Any treatment serums or moisturizers will then absorb even more effectively with the exfoliate-toner combo enhancing your overall regimen!


Do You Wash Toner Off?

Unlike cleansers which you always rinse off, toners are generally left on the skin. Their key function is to balance skin’s pH levels and provide an extra cleansing boost after washing. Leaving toners on allows your skin to continue benefiting from any skin-nourishing ingredients they contain.

However, some heavy lotion-style toners may leave a residue you want to rinse away. Check your toner’s instructions to see if rinsing is recommended based on its specific formulation. If you have sensitive skin prone to irritation from leave-on products, rinsing residue-free toners after 1-2 minutes can prevent sensitization.


Can Rose Water Be Used as Toner

Rose water makes an excellent natural toner option for those seeking a gentler, botanically-derived alternative to harsh alcohol-based formulations. Made from distilled rose petals, rose water offers mild astringent properties to balance pH, gently cleanse, and provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Those with dry skin will enjoy its inherent hydrating qualities as well. Spritz over a cotton pad after cleansing or apply straight to the face and neck in sweeping motions. Use morning and night before heavier creams.


When to Use Toner Day or Night

One of the beauties of toner lies in its versatility – it can be used effectively as part of both morning and evening routines. Here’s how:

AM: After cleansing, apply toner to prep skin for antioxidant serums that guard against daytime environmental aggressors. Follow with sunscreen.

PM: Use toner at night after removing makeup and washing as an extra cleansing boost before heavier creams. The nighttime allows deeper absorption whilst you sleep.

So in summary – yes to toner morning and night! Consider keeping separate day and night formulations if you use ingredients tailored for AM versus PM needs.


How to Make Toner at Home

Whip up homemade toner easily using simple kitchen ingredients:

Rosewater toner: Blend rose essential oil into distilled witch hazel or filtered water. Adjust ratios to suit – add more water to dilute for sensitive skin or extra rose oil for ultra-nourishing properties.

Green tea toner: Brew green tea leaves or bags in hot water. Once cooled, combine with aloe vera gel. The tea’s antioxidants combine beautifully with the soothing aloe.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) toner: Dilute raw ACV with purified water at a 1:3 – 1:5 ratio depending on your skin type. Sensitive skin warrants more dilution. Apply to face and neck with cotton pad. Rinse after 1-2 minutes if desired.

Shake your homemade toners vigorously before each use and store in the refrigerator between applications for enhanced freshness!


Do I Rinse Off Toner?

As mentioned earlier, most toners are meant to be left on the skin rather than rinsed away. However, some thick, lotion-style toners may warrant rinsing to avoid residue.

Check your toner’s instructions to see if the manufacturer recommends rinsing. If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, rinsing residue-free toners after 1-2 minutes can also prevent irritation and clogged pores.


Which Toner is Best for Oily Skin

Look for toners containing oil-absorbing ingredients like witch hazel, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar (ACV), sodium lactate, and glycolic or salicylic acid if you have an oily complexion. Avoid heavier emulsions or oils which can worsen sebum activity.

Also ensure your oily skin toner has decent hydration properties through aloe vera, glycerin etc. As counterintuitive as it sounds, overly stripping products can trigger increased oiliness over time!


How to Make Rice Water Toner

Rice water makes for an easy DIY toner that helps brighten, soften, and smooth skin. Here’s how to whip it up:


1⁄4 cup uncooked rice

2 cups water

Clean towel

Small bowl


Jar or bottle for storage


Rinse rice in water until it runs clear. This removes impurities.

Add 2 cups water and rice to small bowl and let sit 30 mins. Agitate/stir occasionally allowing rice to release milk.

Strain through towel into storage jar, squeezing towel to release excess liquid.

Apply the collected rice water to clean skin via saturated cotton pad morning and night pre-moisturizer.

Store toner in fridge between uses, shaking well before each application. The fermented rice water keeps for up to a week refrigerated.


How to Use Toner and Moisturizer

Using a toner together with your moisturizer properly optimizes both products’ performance:

After cleansing face, pour a small amount of toner onto a cotton pad or your palms. Sweep evenly over skin.

While toner is still damp, apply your choice of moisturizer cream or lotion on top, gently massaging into skin until absorbed. This “wet-on-wet” method enhances hydration.

Follow with serum and eye cream as desired before final sun protection steps like SPF.

The toner allows better moisture absorption whilst the moisturizer seals in all those lovely toner ingredients!


How to Use Toner and Serum

Serums deliver targeted skin solutions. Using toner beforehand optimizes a serum’s penetration and performance. Here’s how to apply them in tandem:

Cleanse as normal then sweep toner across face and neck with hands or cotton pad. Avoid rubbing eyes.

With skin still damp from toner, smooth 3-5 drops of chosen serum between palms to warm product. Apply to face and neck with light sweeping and patting motions until absorbed.

Mist face lightly with toner again to reinforce penetration. While skin is slightly tacky, follow immediately with moisturizer.

Apply eye cream and sun protection as needed to seal in all that lovely serum goodness!


Which Toner is Best for Combination Skin

Look for an alcohol-free, balancing toner formula if you have combination skin prone to oiliness in some areas and dryness in others. Ingredients like witch hazel, ACV, glycolic acid or salicylic acid gently cleanse oilier t-zones without over-stripping drier cheeks.

Meanwhile, hydrators like aloe vera, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidant botanical extracts like green tea nourish where needed without greasiness. pH-balancing toners containing ingredients like orange flower water also prep skin beautifully for optimal moisturizer absorption later.


Can We Use Toner at Night

Yes, you can and should use a toner at night as part of your evening skincare routine. Here are some of the key benefits of using a toner at night:

Removes Leftover Impurities: Toner provides an extra cleansing step at night to remove any leftover makeup, dirt, oil or impurities left behind after washing your face. This prevents buildup and clogged pores while you sleep.

Preps for Better Absorption: Using toner preps your skin to better absorb any serums, moisturizers or night creams you apply afterwards. At night, your skin rebuilds and absorbs products more effectively.

Controls Excess Oil/Sebum: If you have oily skin or large pores, a toner containing ingredients like salicylic acid or niacinamide can help gently cleanse congested pores and control excess sebum production overnight.

Hydrates Skin: Many toners hydrate using humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid to impart a hydration boost at night. Your skin soaks this moisture in while you sleep.

Soothes and Calms: Some toners contain soothing chamomile, aloe vera, rose water and other botanicals to calm inflammation and gently exfoliate. This allows skin to renew itself faster overnight.

So yes, make use of toners as part of your regular evening skincare ritual! Just remember to select one suitable for your skin type. Stay away from anything too harsh or stripping. A nourishing toner that removes impurities while imparting hydration makes an ideal nighttime formula.



Q: How long should I wait between applying toner and serum or moisturizer?

A: For best absorption and performance, apply serums and moisturizers to skin while it’s still slightly damp from toner application – within around 15-30 seconds. The “wet-on-wet” method enhances hydration and nutrient penetration.

Q: Does toner help shrink pores?

A: Yes! Many toners contain gentle acids and ingredients like witch hazel that can temporarily tighten pores by constricting blood vessels and removing grime lodged deep within. With continued use, toners may help pores appear smaller over time.

Q: Can I just use a toner without following with other products?

A: While finishing with a toner is fine occasionally, relying solely on it long term likely won’t meet all your skincare needs. Follow toner with treatments like serums and nutrient-rich creams for optimal protection and hydration based on your skin type.

Q: Is it necessary to use cotton pads to apply toner?

A: Not at all! Many prefer applying toner with clean hands as cotton can soak up excess product. Either method works fine as long as you avoid rubbing toner forcefully. Be extra gentle around the delicate eye region.

Q: Can I use the same toner morning and night?

A: You absolutely can, as long as the toner formula aligns with both AM and PM needs. Some prefer using slightly different toners for day and night – for example, one with antioxidants to protect against daylight pollution and another with calming ingredients to repair skin overnight. See what works best for you!



Toners are too often overlooked, but they serve incredibly important functions in both morning and evening skincare routines. Acting as skin primers that help balance pH, enhance cleansing, minimize pores, and boost the effectiveness of subsequent treatments, a good toner optimizes your entire regimen. Select one tailor-made for your skin type and concerns. Gently sweeping over clean skin daily helps restore radiance and a healthy glow. For an alternative customizable to your exact needs, creating homemade toners is simple, affordable, and rewarding. With this thorough guidance under your belt, unleash the power of toner to take your skincare to the next level!

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