There has been long debates on whether or not using a toner in your skincare routine is necessary. First of all, there isn't really any necessity when it comes to skincare in general, there are people who have never used any skincare products their whole lives and have amazing skin, so instead of asking whether if toners are a necessary step in our skincare routine, we should ask ourselves if toners can maximize the benefit of a skincare routine. The answer most of the time?
A big YAS!
Here are 3 scientifically backed-up reasons
1. To Protect The Skin After Wash
Our skin is in its most vulnerable state right after face washing: skin hydration is at its lowest, the skin is more prone to losing water (TEWL increase), all the surface sebum (a natural skin moisturizer and protectant) is gone, and the skin pH level is altered, which all can result in dryness and irritation. The graph below shows that the skin will recover to its baseline state after 120 minutes of face cleansing!
A good toner contains moisturizing agents, anti-inflammatory ingredients, and a balanced pH to help speed up the skin's homeostasis recovery after cleansing. Additionally, toners help to calm the skin from irritation and dryness, which facial cleansing can inevitably cause.
2. To Aid Penetration Of Actives
Stratum corneum (the outer most layer of the skin) hydration affects how effective actives can penetrate the skin. Water molecules act on both inter and intracellular pathways to enhance permeation of both hydrophilic acid and lipophilic actives, in other words, both water-soluble actives like vitamin C or oil-soluble actives like retinoids can benefit increased penetration from a hydrated skin barrier.
A normal skincare routine follows: cleansing -> toning -> serum or treatment. So toning after cleansing can definitely retain and increase moisture level of the stratum corneum, prepping the skin for the next step and helping the actives in the serum to penetrate easier.
3. To "After" Cleanse
Makeup removers and cleansers, like household cleaners that kill 99.99% of the bacteria, can remove most of the dirt, impurities, and makeup from the skin, but not all. With the use of a toner, paired with a cotton pad, it can wipe away the residual makeup, sunscreen, hard water, and other impurities that cleansing will not be able to accomplish 100%, thus leaving the skin more refreshed and leaving less of a chance of breakouts from these residual impurities.
Although there are no studies showing the benefits of using a cotton pad to cleanse the skin with a toner vs. skipping toner (who would conduct such weird studies, lol), a cotton pad surely has some exfoliating and dirt-grabbing effects due to its natural texture. However, there are studies that prove cleaner skin = less breakout. For example, facial cleansing brush studies, and from our own experiences (like sleeping in our makeup and see what's up) . Therefore, we can theorize that using a cotton pad to apply toner can potentially help reduce breakouts by removing unwashed impurities and mechanically exfoliating the skin.