Even if you’re not particularly into skincare and multi-step routines, you’ll likely know the old adage: cleanse, tone and moisturise.

Cleansing wipes away grime, pollution and anything else clogging up your pores, while moisturiser can plump up skin, reduce the appearance of fine lines and hydrates. The question is: do we really need to use toner as well? The step after washing your face and before putting on any serums, oils or moisturisers, toners normally take the form of a liquid you pour onto a cotton pad and swipe all over your face. There’s no denying it can feel good on your skin – particularly in summer, when it cools your face.


Skincare advice often changes, and we’re always being told to add new things into our regimes, but toner is one of those products that’s been around so long, we rarely stop and think about whether it’s vital.

Do we need to use toner?
Do we need to use toner? (iStock/PA)

Medical director at Cosmetics Doctor Dr Amber Woodcock puts it simply: “A toner is not an essential part of any routine,” instead referring to it as something of an “old fashioned habit”.

So why have we been using toner for so long? “I think people use toners because it has been drilled into them by beauty counters for years,” explains Woodcock. “People I have asked said they thought it was to balance the skin, or remove any traces of cleanser.”

Is it time to ditch the toner?

Woodcock doesn’t consider toners terrible, but notes their effectiveness varies. “In reality, most commercial toners won’t do much for your skin, and in fact some may even be worsening the skin, as they can dry it out and strip our natural oils (which is why we can get that tight, tingly feeling),” she explains.

There are plenty of skincare ingredients we’d religiously slather on in the past, that have since fallen out of favour – be it harsh cleansers or peel-off blackhead masks – and we’re increasingly wising up to what’s beneficial for our skin.

Woodcock is keen for toner to go the same way. “It is much safer and effective to now exfoliate with liquid acids and topical products such as retinol. They target dead skin cells and turn over fresh skin,” she explains.

However, when changing your skincare routine and trying new products, it’s important to do your research, take things slowly and speak to your GP and skincare professional if any issues arise. “Everyone is unique, so it’s vital you don’t just copy your mate’s skincare routine,” says Woodcock.

That said, skincare can be an important tool for self-care and mental wellbeing, so if toner makes you feel good and really gives you that relaxing, spa-like experience, maybe there’s no need to chuck out your favourite product just yet.

However, it’s important to be fully aware of what toners do, and look to include plenty of other nourishing and hydrating products in your regime.

Face toner alternatives

Considering phasing toner out? Why not give these products a go instead…

For those suffering with acne… salicylic acid

Caudalie Vinopure Blemish Control Infusion Serum, £29

Caudalie Vinopure Blemish Control Infusion Serum, available from Amazon

Dr Dennis Gross Breakout Clearing Gel
(Dr Dennis Gross/PA)

Dr Dennis Gross Breakout Clearing Gel, available from Amazon

For those with normal skin… vitamin C serum and niacinamide

(Wishful/PA) Wishful Honey Balm Jelly Moisturiser

Wishful Honey Balm Jelly Moisturiser, available from Amazon

Volition Strawberry-C Brightening Serum

Volition Strawberry-C Brightening Serum, £36, Cult Beauty

For those who miss the cooling feel of toner… facial spritzes

Green People Toning Hydrating Mist
(Green People/PA)

Green People Toning Hydrating Mist, available from Amazon

Super Facialist Rose Hydrate Soothing Facial Mist

Super Facialist Rose Hydrate Soothing Facial Mist, available from Amazon

For those looking for exfoliation… retinol

Estée Lauder Perfectionist Pro Rapid Renewal Retinol Treatment
(Estée Lauder/PA)

Estée Lauder Perfectionist Pro Rapid Renewal Retinol Treatment, available from Amazon

Dermalogica Retinol Oil

Dermalogica Retinol Oil, available from Amazon

If you prefer to still use a toner in your beauty routine, check out these best-selling toners.

Best-selling face toners

Stuck for inspiration? Check out our list of best-selling Amazon products!

SaleBestseller No. 1
L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Filler [+ Hyaluronic Acid] Face Toner
  • A replumping & anti-ageing toner to rehydrate, smooth and refresh skin after cleansing
  • With pure Hyaluronic Acid, known for its plumping and anti-ageing properties
  • Immediately, skin is re hydrated and refreshed post-cleanse
SaleBestseller No. 2
NIVEA Refreshing Toner (200 ml), Gentle & Caring Face Toner, Refreshing Toner with Vitamin E Removes...
  • Cleansing Action - Light and refreshing face cleanser toner and cleanses the skin deeply and removes residues for clean and healthy-looking skin
  • Refreshing Formula - Skin cleanser leaves skin feeling invigorated due to its mild and refreshing formula that contains Vitamin E to invigorate the skin
  • Gently Caring - Make up remover gently moisturises the skin to keep its natural moisture balance leaving you with wonderfully purified skin
Bestseller No. 4
Q+A Niacinamide Daily Toner. A face toner to calm breakouts and de-clog pores. 100ml/3.4fl.oz
  • This face toner helps to calm redness and improve the appearance of pores ✨
  • Niacinamide evens skin tone 💊
  • Hyaluronic Acid rejuvenates and promotes healthy skin 💧
SaleBestseller No. 5
Garnier Natural Aloe Extract Toner Normal Skin, 200 ml.
  • Garnier first toner made with 96% ingredients of natural origin
  • Enriched with aloe Vera extract known for its hydrating powers
  • It gently, yet efficiently removes make up and impurities while leaving the skin feeling perfectly soothed

Last update on 2021-08-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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