Is Toner A Necessary Skincare Step? MOJEH Asks The Experts

5 min read
A fresh faced model, backstage at Dior SS24
A fresh faced model, backstage at Dior SS24

Often considered an essential step to any skincare routine, the humble toner has long been lauded for its ability to restore the skin’s natural pH balance. But is it really still necessary in a modern-day regimen? MOJEH asks the experts

Over the last few years, we’ve been talking more and more about skin minimalism, aka skinimalism. The beauty equivalent of a capsule wardrobe that focuses on only hardworking skincare essentials and hero ingredients, the less-is-more approach champions a sustainable yet effective routine that harnesses the power of multi-tasking products. Yet there’s one so-called skincare essential that continues to divide beauty buffs over its importance in our beauty arsenal, with some skeptics deeming it skippable while other ardent fans swear by its pH balancing benefits. Which begs the question — as we continue to cut back, is there still space in our 2024 skincare routine for the humble toner?

“Traditionally toners are liquid skincare products frequently employed to restore the skin’s pH balance following cleansing,” Dr Chandini Rajani, London-based GP and aesthetic doctor tells MOJEH. “Their primary objective is to eliminate any remaining traces of dirt, oil or makeup that cleansing might have overlooked.” Dr Reem Hanna, specialist dermatologist at Medcare Medical Center agrees, adding that: “toners were. first designed to remove soap scum from the face which was caused by lye-based soaps and hard water leaving a sticky residue after cleansing.”

Today, however, the argument goes that most face cleansers now already contain a pH balance, meaning no pH correction is really needed after you wash your face. “Many would say toners aren’t necessary in the skincare regime anymore,” adds Dr Chandini. “They aren’t an essential, and some may be too harsh for specific skin types, but they can enhance the effectiveness of other skincare products by aiding in better penetration into the skin and maximizing their benefits.”


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One thing that has become clearer over the years is that whether or not a toner is for you is highly dependent on your skin type, and if you have clear, non-oily skin you can confidently skip this step. “Those with acne- prone skin will benefit most from using a toner,” explains Dr Hanna. “It can remove excess oil while helping to tighten pores at the same time. The most effective toner ingredients for oily skin include salicylic acid, witch hazel and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs).”

Alternatively — and rather luckily — for advocates not willing to remove their toner completely, today’s offerings have evolved incredibly to meet the ever- changing demands of modern-day skin, and now feature gentler formulations with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and antioxidants that can still be beneficial to most. “Toners are increasingly being adapted to suit all different types of skin,” agrees Dr Ecaterina Lica of Dubai’s AEON Clinic, which recently opened at Atlantis The Royal. “For sensitive skin, a toner needs to contain Vitamin B5, while those suffering with rosacea should look for Vitamin K and C. Toners with anti-inflammatory plant extracts including orange stem cells, white lily extract and oregano are best for oily skin, while propylene glycol has high moisturizing power through attracting water molecules.” Always avoid more traditional alcohol-based toners, however, which have the potential to harm the skin and provoke irritation, hindering its natural healing process and collagen production.

“Indeed, look for mild toners containing hydrating components such as hyaluronic acid and niacinamide,” adds Dr Chandini. “This is particularly important for people with dry and sensitive skin. Always opt for tonerswith simple ingredient lists, avoiding alcohol, artificial fragrances, parabens, synthetic colourants and sulphates.” It’s not just toners that are getting more advanced, however, and today most people can achieve these benefits through skincare products and steps they already have in their routine. If you’re using an exfoliating toner, for example, the same results can be achieved with a retinoid or exfoliating serum with glycolic acid. If you’re using a hydrating toner, you could achieve the same benefits with a hyaluronic acid serum. And if you’re using a brightening toner, you can usually get the same results from a vitamin C serum. “A healthy regime doesn’t have to include a toner, but it must include gentle cleansing, moisturising, daily sunscreen, targeted treatments and regular exfoliation,” concludes Dr Chandini. “Whether you choose to complement your regime with a toner is really a matter of preference.”

At-Home Heroes

Replace your old toner with these hard-working products that promise better results with added skincare benefits and, more importantly, remove the need to tone.

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  • Words by Naomi Chadderton