Why using toner is more important than you think

Recently, I got interested with the pH level of my cleansers and toners all over again and have been testing them using the pH strips. If you want to find out how to do this, check my entry on how to test the pH level of your skincare that I wrote about a year ago. So why am I revisiting this topic?

Well, because I know some of you do not use a toner and I want to highlight to you that toners play an important role to correct and restore your skin’s pH level so that your skin is better prep to receive your serums and moisturizers. A toner is not like what some claim, a nice to have.

pH imbalance causes skin problems
Ideally, your cleanser should have a balance pH level of 5.5 so as not to alter the skin’s natural protective capabilities as normal skin pH is said to be somewhat acidic and in the range of 4.2. to 5.6. A high pH level can cause our skin’s acid mantle to break down, while low levels of acid can cause our skin to become over drying.

Moreover, pH imbalance is widely known to be the most critical cause of acne. Hence, maintaining the skin pH at the natural pH no greater than 5.5 is vital to prevent acne, infection, irritation and more importantly, slows down skin aging. So a cleanser that is mild, and free of SLS and alcohol is ideal.

Toner restores skin’s pH level immediately
However, given that you still have to wash your face with water, and water has a pH of 7, hence, that can still disrupt your skin’s pH level unless you use ‘special water’ to wash your face.

Sure, your skin will ultimately restore the pH levels on its own but that can take up as much as half and hour or longer. And the bad news for older skin is that it can take up to eight hours to regain its acidity!

Plus, this restoration process would contribute to skin aging over time. So this is where a toner comes into the picture as with the right toner, your skin’s pH level is immediately restored to its optimum range.

Selection of the right toner
Now that we have established why it is important to use a toner apart from its ability to hydrate our skin, the next question is, what is a right toner? Again, the selection is much like choosing a cleanser and you should pick a toner that is mild and alcohol free.

However, I believe that commercial toners that claim that they are pH balanced are indeed so because it is quite easy to test them using pH test strips, which are easily available at pharmacies. I got mine from Guardian and paid around S$15 for a box and I was happy to note that those toners and face mists I use have a pH of around 5.5.

Test the pH level of your DIY toners
For those who are fond of using your own DIY toners, you might want to take the additional step to verify the pH level of the toner you concocted. Okay, I admit that this is something I did not do with some of those I’ve tried so going forward, I’ll remember to test them with the pH strips.


  1. Soos says:

    One of our librarians tests books and paper using pH test strips. Fascinating!
    Soos last post is: Watch Out When the Moon is Full, or Things They Don’t Teach You in Library School, Pt. 3

  2. EcoBeauty says:

    Yeah, haven’t been testing lately… thanks for the reminder. I have like 6 toners now, haha… I’ll see whether it’s really worth using all of them.
    EcoBeauty last post is: DIY: Aloe-Rosemary Energizing Scalp Mask for Thicker Hair

  3. babybunii says:

    The current suki balancing toner states that it helps to restore the natural ph of the skin. so I suppose its pH is around 5 ..

    Can I ask you if spraying toner on a hot day is good for skin.. Because I heard that our skin cannot contact water if ur body is hot..If not will have white spots..is this true?

  4. sesame says:

    My understanding is that white spots are caused when we contact with water during perspiration, such as bathing while we are hot and perspiring. If it’s just on a hot day and your skin is not particularly hot, it should be fine to use a spraying toner but remember to pat off the excess moisture or your skin will become drier.

  5. sesame says:

    We never seem to run out of toners…haha…

  6. sesame says:

    Oh? That sounds very intriguing but how because I’ve always thought whatever you need to test with it must be wet?

  7. espenine says:

    May I know where I can get PH strips?

  8. sesame says:

    You can get it at pharmacies – I got mine from Guardian…around S$12 – $15.

  9. Rennie says:

    This is definitely an interesting point. I never really saw the reason for toner except for cleaning off makeup residue from skin. I honestly have been using homemade toners for a long time now. Haha, maybe I should invest in a good toner.

  10. Rebecca says:

    oh this is so interesting!! I have always used a toner and thought that is was very important, but I never thought of testing them. I happen to have PH strips at home (for another reason) and am going to test my products right now. What an awesome idea…I have OFTEN wondered if toners were necessary, but I guess my intuition was right! thanks!!

  11. Issa says:

    thanks for this reminder! i never thought of testing my toners with ph strips….i am now confused, i have read somewhere that if you have combination or oily skin, you have to look for toners with alcohol but on your post it says we have to pick a toner that is alcohol free? please enlighten me sesame… ?

  12. Jung says:

    Wonder if u can provide the brands of toner that has neutral ph. Rather lazy to buy strips to test. Also I wonder why some toners are so expensive ( like SKII, Clarins, Arden, etc) while some are cheap… What ingredients are necessary?
    Oh I have so many questions!! Thanks again for the post.

  13. sesame says:

    I’ve always found toners to be necessary for my skin…I realized it when I stopped using for a couple of months some time ago. Yeah, invest in a good one or even using something like Avene face mist is okay. I tested the pH level and it is around 6.

  14. sesame says:

    Hope you have fun testing them. ?

  15. sesame says:

    Alcohol is drying, when used long term and when your skin is dry, it will secrete more oil as a natural response. That’s why I say it’s best to avoid alcohol. Plus, drying out skin means it will promote more wrinkles eventually.

    I used to buy that too when I was younger but I realized that using alcohol based toners or even those with high witch hazel content did not make my skin better. The key is to normalize our skin and not curb the oil production.

  16. sesame says:

    Madara is one I have…in the picture that you see and it’s priced mid range. I tested and it’s very mild. Another one is to use Avene face mist like a toner. I tested the pH and it’s around 6. I use a face mist in the morning and it’s also around that pH level. If you don’t particular need a natural formulation, then try Simple Soothing Skin Toner – it’s got good reviews although I haven’t found out about its pH level.

    The reason for cost difference is usually due to branding and marketing as toners don’t need fanciful ingredients.

  17. Issa says:

    thanks sesame! ? so, what should i watch out for in my toner?

  18. sesame says:

    Ingredient wise, they should contain no alcohol. You can use those with witch hazel…they help to close the pores but the toner should then include a humectant such as glycerine or hyaluronic acid. What works will depend on your skin type. If your skin is without too much problems, then simple hydrosols or floral water can also be used as toners.

  19. beautymakeupdivas.com says:

    I only use rosewater to tone my skin. I use pukka rosewater, it’s so pure that it is edible grade.

    I haven’t found something more good than rosewater to do the job.
    beautymakeupdivas.com last post is: Homemade Sandalwood Complexion Mask

  20. sesame says:

    I love rosewater too but I haven’t ascertain if the one I used was edible.

  21. Adama says:

    If you apply moisturizer (ph close to skin) or a serum, directly after cleansing, this then restores the ph level. If you use neither a moisturizer, gel, nor serum, then a toner could be beneficial, otherwise I still believe they are nice to have but certainly not needed for effective skin care.

  22. sesame says:

    True…if it’s a gentle moisturizer then it should work to restore but most of us, especially in the night, would apply something with active ingredients so that might need some help prior to application from the toner. I think to each her own…some pple don’t find toner necessary and I can respect that. ?

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