The Skincare Step You’re Probably Forgetting

Toner, toner, toner!

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Everyone knows that a cleanser purifies the skin while a moisturizer nourishes it. And if your skincare routine is more detailed, you’re doing a weekly mask, perhaps applying serum before you moisturize, and are exfoliating twice a week after cleansing.

Even then, you’re probably missing a very important, complexion-clearing step: toning. 

“Toner removes excess oils and pollutants, and balances the pH levels of the skin,” says NYC-based dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD. “It also removes excess makeup and any residue [leftover] from a cleanser.” Another bonus: it balances the oil levels in your skin.

It’s often overlooked because it isn’t so straightforward as a moisturizer, cleanser or exfoliator. However, toner may be your ticket to clearing acne and forehead shine once and for all. While you’ll still want to cleanse away each day’s oil accumulation, toner can slow the production and keep oil from blocking pores. Many men will use it as a post-shave, to cleanse and tighten the pores—and prevent inflammation.

Jaliman has one forewarning: Don’t use toners that are heavily concentrated with alcohol, like astringents. They can cause more harm than good, since they severely dry out the skin.

“Instead look for witch hazel or aloe in the ingredients, which are much more soothing,” she says. “Aloe is also anti-inflammatory so it takes redness out of skin.” 

Use a toner after you cleanse, but before you use a serum or moisturizer. Here are a few to try: