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Toners: All you need to know!

Toners have made its comeback to the skincare world and has been a staple for a lot of skincare enthusiasts. If you’re wondering about what’s the hype of this watery textured product, their benefits and if they are worth the investment, this article is for you! We will breakdown everything you need to know about toners down to Skin Library curated product recommendations!

Evolution of toners

Tonic waters also commonly known as toners have evolved since the first time it was first discovered back in the early 1900s. Back in the days, they composed of mostly alcohol as astringents which focus on removing all the natural oil in our skin to make them feel tight. This tight and squeaky clean skin is highly associated with a clean face, up until recently. As our knowledge also evolves with time, we know that drying alcohol can be bad for our skin and it should be avoided, especially for sensitive and dry skin. Luckily, now we have so many options from all different type of toners to pick from based on our skin type or concern.

General benefits of toners:


First and foremost, you’ll wonder what does a toner do and the benefits of toners in general. Toners are one of those products that is versatile yet very beneficial for our skin. Here we list some of their benefits:

1. Balance pH level of the skin

Our skin’s normal pH level is around 5.5. This acidity level is an essential part of our skin barrier to be able to protect our skin from external irritants and water loss. However, washing our face will raise our skin’s pH (Normal pH of water is 7.0) which will disrupt our skin’s ecosystem. Since most toners have pH ranging from 5.0 – 6.0, this will rebalance our skin’s pH back to its normal state after we wash our face.

2. Hydrate the skin

Although they might look just like water, toners are more than just water. They are packed with other water-attracting ingredients, antioxidants, soothing and many other skin-benefiting ingredients to help restore your skin barrier and hydration. Do you know that when your skin is hydrated, your next product will be able to absorb more easily to your skin? This will make your serum work even better.

Imagine pouring water into a dry sponge compared to a hydrated sponge. The hydrated sponge will absorb the water much easier once they are hydrated with water. Same goes with our skin!

3. Remove skin impurities

Have you ever noticed some “dirt” leftover after you cleanse your face? Either if its’ due to ineffective cleanser or if you haven’t rinse your face properly, toners can help you solve this issue. Even better, some toners with exfoliating ingredients can actually help remove dead skin cells and help your other products to work more effectively!

Types of toners:

Types of Toners

Toners are not created equally and some of them can serve a different purpose. There are basically three different types of toners to choose from:


This is one of the most common toners that you can find in K-beauty. These toners are gentle and you can use them daily to add that boost of hydration to your skin. More than just water, they usually contain other water-attracting ingredients like glycerin or hyaluronic acid.


In this type of toner, you can find several exfoliating ingredients in it. Either if it’s AHA, BHA, PHA or combinations of all, they work to remove unwanted dead skin cells and make your skin softer, smoother and brighter


Librarian tip: If you’re new to using exfoliating products, build your skin tolerance and start slowly. This rule also applies for exfoliating toners. Even when the labeled mention that they are safe for use daily, you should start slowly from 1 – 2 times a week and be mindful on how your skin reacts to it. Step up your exfoliating routine gradually, one step at a time!



While conventional astringents that we all know back in the days contain mainly alcohol, astringents nowadays contain ingredients like witch hazel which can be a lot gentler on the skin. Their oil-absorbing properties can actually make your pores shrink in an instant. This can be a really great option for those who have oily and large pore issues due to overproduction of oil. However, it’s not for everyone, especially if you have dry and sensitive skin try avoid this type of product.

Ways to apply a toner

Toners are not only multi-functional but they are versatile and can be used in so many ways based on your lifestyle, preferences, or skin needs. There are several ways you can use them and how you can benefit from each one of them

1. Hand


This is one of the most practical and economical ways for you to use toners. You can just dispense an appropriate amount of product to your palm and pat them on your skin.


Librarian tip: Have you ever heard of the Korean 7-skin-method? This is a beauty secret from Korea where they layered a thin layer of one toner 7 times. It is an effective way for you to add that EXTRA boost of hydration to your dehydrated skin.

2. Cotton pad


When you need that extra gentle swipe of exfoliation and cleansing, you can use a cotton pad. Soak a cotton pad with any of your favorite toners and swipe them in one outward-upward motion all over your face and down the neck.


Librarian tip: Do you know that you can create your own DIY sheet mask using your toner? Soak cotton pads with your choice of toner and then use them just like any other regular sheet mask! A great way to make the best out of your toner


3. Spray - mist


Yes! Your hydrating toners can be your hydrating mist as well. You just have to put them in an empty spray bottle, carry them anywhere and spray them whenever you feel like you need extra hydration during the day


Librarian tip: Double toning! Yes, you can also two toners in one routine. Try this method when you combine exfoliating toners and hydrating toners. While the exfoliating toners work by removing the dead skin cells which increases the tendency for your skin to lose more water and hydration, hydrating toners will come to compensate that. Say hello to bright and supple skin!


Skin library’s recommendation of toner for every skin type:

Now that you are convinced on incorporating toner to your skincare routine, we’ll give you some of our recommendations for your specific skin concerns.

Oily, acne-prone skin

Look for a product that contains BHA, Niacinamide, Tea Tree, Witch Hazel or Willow Bark extract. This can help control your overall sebum production and therefore control your acne.


Somebymi AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner



Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner



Dry skin

Focus on hydrating toners that contain a concentrated amount of water and water-attracting ingredients like hyaluronic acid, propolis, and glycerin to solve your dry-flaky skin issue.



Keep Cool and Soothe Toner


Sensitive skin

For sensitive skin, avoid toners with alcohol or astringents or fragrances at all cost. Instead, opt for toners that are rich in skin-soothing ingredients like Centella Asiatica, Aloe Vera, Chamomile, Calendula, and Bamboo extracts to help calm down your irritated skin.


iSOi Cicago Cica Expert Mist Toner, Centella Asiatica Extract



Klairs Supple Preparation Unscented Toner

Dull skin

Looking for toners to brighten up your overall complexion? Products with chemical exfoliators (glycolic acid, lactic acid), licorice root extract, rice extract, and niacinamide or other skin-brightening ingredients are the way to go!


Acwell Licorice pH Balancing Toner


Ageing skin

Look for toners that contain high amount of extracts that are rich in antioxidant and proven plant extract that can battle premature sign of aging such as rose water, green tea, algae, quinoa or resveratrol. This will prevent the formation of premature wrinkles / fine lines and keep your skin plump and soft for the longest time.


ACWELL Betaglution Ultra Moisture Toner


Takeaway: We are glad to share the secret behind the reason why toners have been such a big hit in the skincare industry. Toners itself can be very beneficial but their benefit doesn’t stop there since it also boosts other product’s performances. What’s not to love from them, right? There are many toners for every skin concern and type, and we’ve summed up our top picks only for you. Your skin will thank you! Yes, you’re welcome ;)


Claudia Christin

- By Claudia Christin (@Funskincare)

Seoul based Dermatology Post Graduate Student


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