Most of us could use a little toning in the rear end department, but what about our skin? I have to admit, I've always erred on the side of minimalism when it comes to my skin care regimen, opting to cleanse and moisturize but skip the middle step of toning. Since I can attribute that to laziness more than anything else, I decided to do a little digging about the purpose of toners.
So what is a toner? In general, toners are said to eliminate oil, tighten pores, and prep the skin to absorb moisturizer. They fall into two broad categories: those intended to remove excess dirt, oil, or makeup missed by your cleanser (called astringents), and those that impart vitamins, minerals, and hydrators to nourish the skin (called fresheners or balancers). Seems pretty win/win, all in all.
If you have oily or combination skin, you might want to consider an astringent toner. Good astringents help clean the pores and reduce oil using alcohol or witch hazel. Pangea Organics French Rosemary with Sweet Orange Toner or Italian Mandarin with Sweet Lime Toner are great options. If you're rather go alcohol-free, Suki Concentrated Balancing Toner is specially formulated for acneic, rosacea, eczema, and dermatitis-prone skin; and Pai Rice Plant & Rosemary BioAffinity Toner contains pure "living waters" that have the exact pH and biochemical balance of healthy skin.
Those with dry or mature skin should definitely avoid alcohol (at least in your toner!), as it can be too drying and may even cause breakouts by disturbing your skin's natural oil balance. Look for a humectant such as rose water, which can help lock moisture into the upper layers of the epidermis by preventing evaporation. Pai Lotus & Orange BioAffinity Toner hydrates and protects dry and sensitive skin and helps calm visible redness.
If maintaining your youthful glow is your skin-care goal, check ingredient listings for antioxidants such as white tea, natural salicylates such as aspen bark extract, or rose or chamomile extract to seal in moisture. John Masters Organics Rose & Aloe Toning Mist has all three.
Toners come in especially handy during the (sweltering!) summer months when your skin feels more oily and you don't need intensive moisturizing treatments. When the sun goes down tonight on Toronto's 43-degree-celsius skyline, I'll be reaching for a toner (and an ice-cold Corona!) rather than my usual night cream.