Admittedly, there are more important queries to ponder in life, but, nevertheless we’d like to make the case for toner. In our humble opinion this shouldn’t be a question at all. However, because it turns out that many of you are skipping toner entirely, we’d like to take this opportunity to defend this crucial step and explain how toners work and why they shouldn’t be overlooked.
What toners are supposed to do:
Most (non-oil formula) cleansers and tap water are alkaline, so your skin’s natural acidity is compromised by constant cleansing. However, because cleansing can’t and shouldn’t be avoided, toners are meant to be used as a follow up to hydrate the skin’s surface and restore pH balance. (pH level refers to how acidic or alkaline something is, on a scale of 1-14, with 1 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. It is estimated that the 'natural' skin surface pH is on average below 5 and that the pH of tap water is 7 in the US and 8 in Europe.) In addition to balancing the skin’s pH level, toners actively help to clean, smooth, soften, hydrate and clear the skin. Toners also prepare the skin for whatever you apply to it next, which is why they work so well in tandem with moisturizers and serums.
Why they often fail:
The appropriate acidity for toners is between pH 4 and 5, however current offerings run the gamut. The other most common complaint is that toners dry out the skin, which is unfortunately the opposite of what the correct toner is meant to do. It is understandable why one would shy away from toners after such an experience.
Upon moving to the US in 2001, MUN’s Founder, Munemi Imai was shocked to learn that many people don’t use toners at all here. In her home country of Japan, excluding it from your skincare routine is unthinkable. However, when shopping around for a toner in New York, Munemi found that all of the offerings were in fact intended to dry out acne prone skin and contained astringent ingredients like methanol, ethanol (sometimes also called ethyl), isopropyl and denatured alcohol (these are types of alcohol that have antiseptic and antibacterial properties, but can be very drying).
Read the label:
Be weary of toners (or any products) containing water that have no preservatives listed as this either means that the product is likely to go bad within a short period or that it does contain preservatives but the producer isn’t being 100% transparent about their ingredients list. Though alcohol often gets a bad reputation, there are other types of non-drying alcohol groups such as fatty alcohols which actually have emollient properties. One example is benzyl alcohol which is an aromatic alcohol that functions as a preservative. The term “preservative” has also come to have a negative connotation, however, natural preservatives are necessary for any product containing water (as toners often do) to prevent mold, bacteria, and microbial growth. Read more on the necessity of preservatives in water based products via Well & Good.