Admit it. You've always been a little bit mystified by toner. Really what does it do? I guess when you go to wipe your face after cleansing and you still see residue on the cotton pad, you are convinced of it's magical powers. But that could easily be solved by washing your face twice and making sure you use a wash cloth to wipe your face down. Toner does have a nice property of returning your face to a natural pH balance after you've disturbed it with cleanser. Skin is close to 4.5 on the pH scale and cleanser typically around 9. So toner helps calm your skin's alkalinity down.
But that's not the real reason you use toner. My reason? At least when I first tried using toner, it was because of Clinique. It was drilled into me from a very young age by the beauty magazines that in order to keep my skin looking perfect, I would need to do the three step approach: 1. Cleanse 2. Tone 3. Moisturize. Luckily Clinique had all the products that I needed! It didn't hurt that they had very simple, yet effective advertising. I was convinced so I asked my mom to take me to the Clinique counter and buy me their three step system. I was able to cleanse and moisturize on a regular basis. My beautiful Clinique toner sat there, day after day, mocking me for not using it. I didn't need to use it since my skin looked great just by cleansing and moisturizing. But I still felt bad.
My second failed attempt at using toner came when I broke out in my mid-twenties. This time it wasn't the beauty magazines but the late night infomercials that convinced me to give Proactiv's three-step system a try. 1. Cleanse 2. Tone 3. Medicate. After about three months my skin cleared up and has stayed clear to this day. Due only to the fact that I used 2.5% Benzoil Peroxide Cleanser and Treatment lotion and having nothing to do with their toner. Face 2, Toner 0.
Sometimes all it takes is a new way of looking at things. While I was in beauty school, I began spritzing toner on my clients at the end of the service, right before the moisturizer. I asked my teacher one day why, since I had such a negative experience with toner in the past. She told me that it's a great add on to your moisturizer, helping prep the skin to properly absorb any humectants. So I started trying it myself in my daily routine, giving my face a few spritzes before putting on my sunscreen. My face does feel more moisturized. Also, I like the smell (a very light, fruity, lavender) and the experience (it just makes me feel good whenever I spray it on, like a fancy face perfume!).
So toner has finally made it onto my face products shelf after almost twenty years of resisting. The one that I'm using is what I started using in school, Dermalogica's Multi-Active Toner (3.9 out of 5 stars on MUA).
It's got lavender, mint and arnica flower which makes it so yummy smelling. And it's got Aloe and Sodium PCA (a not so great sounding word for a humectant) for all your moisturizing needs. Plus it has a spray pump, which is something unique to most toner products that I've seen in the drugstore or tried over the years. You can buy it from me and get a discount (just give me a heads up before you come in for a service). Or you can always get Dermalogica products at Ulta.
Just one last thing: Multi-Active Toner is great for all skin types. Normal, Dry and even acneic. I know I just spent an entire paragraph talking about it's magical moisturizing properties. You would be surprised at the number of people with acneic skin that spend their life scrubbing, exfoliating and stripping their skin in the hopes that will cure their acne. What it really does is strip a much needed layer of oil from your skin. Then your skin gets angry and starts producing more oil and you get stuck in a downward spiral of breakouts that you can't control. So you scrub harder, strip more and make it worse. So for acenic skin, I would recommend a moisturizing toner and a great moisturizer so that you can put an end to the cycle. If you truly do have oily skin (without the acne), I mean really really oily skin, the kind that gets shiny an hour after you've powdered your nose, then I would recommend using an astringent to help get rid of the oil. Something like Kiehl's Herbal Blue Astringent (3.8 out of 5 stars on MUA).