#TuesdaysWithLarry: Do We Really Need Toners?

Finally - THE definitive guide to the most mistaken step in skincare


Toning – the skincare step that many think is not needed. Does it benefit your skin? Of course! Let me explain.

In the past, toners were used with cotton pads to remove any traces of makeup after cleaning your face. Toning was the final step of cleansing as it ensures that all impurities are removed before other skincare products, such as your moisturisers and serums, are applied.

They were also used as an astringent to “close pores”. In addition, toners helped to rebalance your skin’s pH level after washing your face with facial cleansers or soaps with older formulations.

That was all a #LongLongTimeAgo.

Introducing the modern toners

With advancement of cleansing formulations in makeup removers and facial wash, these actions are no longer required. A fantastic cleansing oil or lotion cuts away all forms of makeup, lifting everything away to be washed off; followed by an excellent gentle facial wash that do not change the pH of your skin too much, leaving it comfortable without being too stripped out.

Toners are beneficial for our skin that is exposed to the humid weather, as they bring suppleness back to your skin without you having to slather on thick layers of moisturisers.

Do people with dry skin need a toner? Yes, of course! I "love" it when people claim that their skin is dry, so they skip the toner and pile on more moisturisers.

The possibility of having dry skin in hot and humid Singapore is LOW. Most of these people who think that they have “dry” skin are not aware that they have been using skincare that irritated their skin, which results in a blotchy, uneven skin texture that is mistaken as "dryness".

With so many toners catering to so many skin types, which one is the best? There is no such thing as the best – the right toner for you is dependent on what you need from it and also how comfortable you are using it. Unfortunately, even with so many brands offering toners, only a limited selection is good. Many contain too much fragrances or are so badly formulated that it is disappointing just to see such products launched in the market.

How does a toner benefit your skin?

1. It contains ingredients that can calm your skin
2. It supplies your skin with antioxidants
3. It hydrates your skin and helps it regain suppleness so other skincare can be applied more easily
4. It softens your skin to create a radiant glow

Tips for using toners

Don’t use your toner with cotton pads. Simply pour a 5-cent sized amount onto your palm, spread it across the whole palm and massage directly on face.

This allows you to feel out the drier patches on your face. Then massage another round of product over these areas with your hands, so your skin is softened and plumped up.

Toning also prevents excess drag upon your face (which usually occurs when we apply skincare products with force), as hydrated skin allows your skincare products to be applied more easily and evenly.

Recommended toners for different skin types and needs

A denser toner in lotion form will help to comfort drier skin. In colder and drier climate, skin that becomes dry and flaky will benefit from a watery emulsion as a form of toning or softening – this will help to condition the skin.

If you have oily or acne-prone skinlook for toners that are lightweight and do not leave behind too much of a “moisturised” finish (because that gives the feel of being too "oily"). Beneficial ingredients like niacinamide or even BHA/AHA (acids) will help with pore problems.

What about sensitive skin? Trick question. The so-called "sensitive skin" is just a marketing stunt, as anything can cause an allergic reaction - read more about it here.

Here are some of my recommendations for toners:

The CNP Laboratory A-Clean Active Freshner Toner helps with oil control, while keeping skin hydrated. It also uses actives to calm your skin and combat acne at the same time. 

For Beloved One Mandelic Acid Renewal Toner is great for nightly use, as the acid helps to slough off dead skin cells and clears the pores.

Finally, the Bioderma Hydrabio Tonique contributes to sustaining moisture in your skin in a lightweight formulation.

The Clinique Moisture Surge Face Spray Thirsty Skin Relief is an oldie but goodie, with its multiple hydrating properties that bind water to skin. I love that it's very comforting as well - spray it regularly over sunburnt skin to wick away heat!

The texture and properties of the For Beloved One Polypeptide DNA Resilience Lift Toner are more like a lotion than a watery toner, as it helps to condition skin while keeping it soothed. Plus, it has anti-ageing properties too.

Algenist Hydrating Essence Toner hydrates the skin while introducing peptides with anti-wrinkling properties (great for maximising anti-ageing day-night skincare).

Dr.Wu Repairing System Intensive Firming Essence has a more lotion-y formulation that uses different peptides for skin regeneration.

Rich in antioxidants, Fresh Black Tea Age-Delay Instant Infusion Treatment Toner has soothing capabilities - fantastic for those who wish to start an anti-ageing regime for the first time.

The lightweight texture of MAC Prep + Prime Fix+ allows it to quickly soften skin. It also contains caffeine to immediately awaken your skin.

For a toner that goes on really well, try the For Beloved One Hyaluronic Acid Tri-Molecules Moisturising Toner. It brings the bounciness back, and its texture does not interfere with any other products that you apply after the toner.

Clarins Extra-Firming Treatment Essence is great for hydration. Its uncomplicated formula leaves skin refreshed and well-hydrated without being too sticky.

Both the MAC Lightful C Marine-Bright Formula Softening Lotion and Clarins White Plus Brightening Soft Aqua-Milk contain vitamin C, which protects your skin from sun exposure and aids skin regeneration. The two formulas also leave the skin feeling comforted and comfortable.

Laneige Water Science Mist White Plus Renew (Whitening) comes in a spray, while the SKII Cellumination Mask-In Lotion has a richer formulation - and both contain a good percentage of niacinamide for combating pigmentation. The other ingredients in their formulations also help to boost an even skin tone.

So with the information offloaded to you, I hope now you can make a better decision the next time you want to pick a toner to add to your skincare regime!

For more from Larry Yeo, check out #TuesdaysWithLarry: Do You Really Want To Be A Makeup Artist? and #TuesdaysWithLarry: How To Update Your Makeup Look.

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