Toners affect efficacy of active ingredients


The topic on whether or not toners should be incorporated into our daily skincare regime has been much discussed. I’ve already written two to three entries on the topic and here’s one more for today. The reason why this entry came about is because I found a very interesting comment left by Dr Veronica Waks of Natural Health and Medicine in yesterday’s entry on Hydrosols. Veronica, by the way is a licensed Naturopathic Physician.

Toners close and tighten cell gaps
There were a few things that Veronica mentioned in her comment about the usage of toners for our skin but the one that caught my attention was that because toning is supposed to close pores and tighten cell gaps, hence it may actually reduce the penetration of any product with active ingredients through our skin. Which means, if we’re using products containing ingredients such as Retinol, Vitamin C or Copper Peptides for example, then we shouldn’t be using a toner at all. This also implies that unless it’s just a normal moisturizer, in most circumstances, we should avoid using a toner.

Veronica’s views are also shared by those at Smart Skincare although the latter qualified that this view is debatable.

Toners offer deep cleansing & hydration
In my first entry about toners, I’ve written that in general, toners fall under two categories. One category is made to remove traces of impurities that your cleanser can’t get rid of and even the remaining traces of your cleanser itself. And there is yet another category that leave behind helpful goodies, like vitamins, minerals and hydrators to nourish the skin.

So toners do not only offer additional deep cleansing of the pores, it actually can serve to hydrate, revitalize and soothe the skin, literally relaxes and tones the pores preparing them to more effectively receive the benefits of the moisturizer.

Toners and prescription topicals
Then in this entry where I wrote about the right order to apply skincare products, I highlighted that while it is commonly said that both moisturizer and serum should be applied to toner damp skin to seal in the hydrating benefits from the toner deep into the skin but if you’re applying prescription topicals, then you should wait for your toner to dry before you apply the topicals on your cool, clean and dry skin, to enhance their penetration as well as decrease any chances of irritation.

Toners are great for oily skin
I know some people do not see the need for toners at all but personally, I did see a difference to my skin condition when I stop using it. Perhaps it is because I have combination skin with a rather oily t-zone. Hence, I need to tone. I also resort to toning mist to keep my face hydrated especially under air-conditioned environment and that has worked well for me too.

But, I agree that the usage of toner has to be moderated if one is using prescriptive topicals or an anti-aging product with active ingredients. In fact, after reading Veronica’s comments, I think I’m going to skip this process to reap more benefits from my night moisturizer.


  1. parisb says:

    Ah that one’s interesting! I don’t use a cleansing toner but a moisturising one. Do you reckon there’s a difference?

    parisb: A moisturizing one should give you more hydration I reckon. Good if your skin is normal and dry. I have combination skin. Oily t-zone but dry cheeks so the ones I use also provide hydration.

  2. nicole says:

    Based on my personal experiences, any type of toners seem useless on my skin, in fact my moisturizer is more difficult to be absorb after toning.

    So I skipped toner for while, and tried light emulsion to replace toner, then apply cream on dry patches ( I’ve combi skin too). If I use serum, it’ll be after the emulsion, before cream. Seriously, I found my skin more hydrating in this way,even serum or cream absorbs better. So, I stick to this unless I encounter a toner/lotion can do the same job to my skin. ?

    nicole: Actually toner is not necessary for everyone. If your skin is fine without it, then just continue with your regime. I guess mine has been conditioned to need it. Haha… And just curious. What is your skin type?

  3. nicole says:

    I’ve combination-dry, sensitive, easily dehyrated skin type. ?

    nicole: I see. You don’t need toner actually. Facial water or spritz will probably suit you better for hydration purpose. ?

  4. Andiee says:

    Hello there ?
    Very nice article you have here. I want to say that I have a combination skin (oily t-zone and dry/normal elsewhere). I think toning is quite important steps in skincare, but the thing is, we must aware not to use a toner with ethanol. I am using an ethanol free toner, basically it is just aqua, rose oil, tea tree extract. I also use prescription topical (Retin-A). And it just perfect. Nice hydration.

    I think that it is okay to use toner, but not one with ethanol on it ?

    Andiee: Hi and welcome! Yes, I agree totally with you about ethanol. I used to think it didn’t matter but now I’m more aware, I consciously avoid it. So toners I use do not contain this ingredient too. It’s too drying for the skin long term.

  5. paramita says:

    when you are washing your face with cleanser, it opens up the pores for deep cleaning. So it is necessary to use toner to bring back the pores to its normal size. Any good toner DOES NOT CLOSE YOURS PORES, it reduces back to normal size.

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