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What's the Deal with Toners?

Common Questions Answered by Dr. Heather D. Rogers, Dermatologist and Founder of Doctor Rogers RESTORE Skin Care.

Do we need toners?

Historically, facial cleansers were very alkaline to get oils off the face. So when you washed your face, your skin’s pH would be increased by the cleanser. Acidic toners were then created to help bring the pH back down to a more optimal pH for the skin. Yet in today’s world of gentle cleansers this rise in pH is far less common and therefore so is the need for a typical toner.

What ingredients should we be looking for when we buy toners? 

Toners can be divided into three general types:

Alcohol-based formulas that often include "astringent" ingredients such as witch hazel. These products should be avoided as they dry out the skin, cause irritation and inhibit the skin’s ability to heal itself.

Water formulas with fragrance or fragranced essential oils. Although alcohol-free, the fragrance in these products is another common cause of irritation to the skin.

Water-based formulas that are fragrance free. These can have all sorts of different beneficial ingredients for the skin like antioxidants, humectants, AHA or BHAs. If you are looking to use a toner, this is the group to pick from. But, as a general rule, water is a poor vehicle for getting active ingredients into the skin. So even if you have antioxidants in your toner, you are going to want to use an antioxidant serum after.

What toners do you recommend? 

The only toners I recommend are toners with AHA or BHA acid like Paula’s Choice BHA 2% Liquid. These products can do a beautiful job of gently exfoliating your skin leaving it smooth and ensuring better penetration of any active ingredients in the products that follow. Depending on your skin type, you may be able to use this type of product everyday (think thick, oily skin) or once a week (thin, dry skin).

Are there alternatives to using toners?

Yes, you can simply clean your skin with a gentle cleanser and proceed to the next step of your skin care without using a toner. If you have sensitive skin or rosacea this is what I would recommend. 


Healing Cream


Please contact us if you have any questions by filling out this form or emailing us at hello@doctorrogers.com.



Meet the author: Board-certified and practicing dermatologist, Dr. Heather D. Rogers, MD, is the founder of Doctor Rogers Skin Care and Modern Dermatology in Seattle, Washington. She studied at Stanford, University of Washington School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. She lectures nationally, is well published, and an active member of the American Academy of Dermatology. Highly respected among the skin care community, Dr. Rogers has been annually named “Top 1% of Most Honored Doctors in the US” by Castle Connolly.

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