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To tone, or not to tone…that is the big question!?

I have a love-hate relationship with toners. I personally love them, and they can have a big impact in your skincare routine however I hate that 9 out of 10 of you are misusing them. 

Using a toner incorrectly is probably the most common issue I see when doing virtual skin consultations and talking to my clients in the clinic. 

Let me tell you why… 

First, we need to understand why we need a toner in the first place. There are two main functions of a toner;

To remove any left-over make-up or dirt your cleanser may not get. I prefer to call these liquid cleansers or mists, an example is a Micellar water. They look like toners but they actually are not. 

They are great….however, if you just got a better cleanser OR learned how to use your cleanser properly you wouldn’t need it for this purpose. 

So let me give you a few quick tips for properly cleansing your skin. 

•             If you are wearing heavy foundation start with a make-up remover or do a double cleanse. 

•             Spend more than 10 seconds on it. Just like brushing your teeth, you can’t do a couple of quick passes and expect it to remove the build-up. Spend at least 45 seconds massaging the cleanser into the skin, making sure you cleanse at the hairline, eyebrows and into the creases of your nose. 

•             USE A FACE CLOTH!!! Seriously, the splash and dry method is not okay. I personally use a clean face cloth every day! The cloth will help to loosen everything off the skin, lightly exfoliate and provide you with a superior clean. 

The true toner is meant to balance your skin… 

We all know that we want normal skin but how do we achieve it? That unicorn skin has a pH balance of approximately 5.5 but we consider normal between 4.5-6.5. 

Cool right, but what on earth does this mean for you? 

Well, cleansers also have a pH balance. They can be pH neutral which means they do not affect the skin’s natural pH by making it either too acid or too alkaline OR they aren’t…

Here is where toner comes into play. A toner is created to rebalance the pH level when a cleanser throws it off. 

You may be wondering why all cleansers aren’t just pH neutral and are toners just the big guy’s way of getting us to use one more product…maybe haha but no. 

Our skin prefers what it knows best, therefore cleansers with a slightly more acid pH are best for maintaining overall skin health. The benefits of acidifying skin surface by way of pH is proven to have a reduction in inflammatory responses, acne, barrier function recovery, and prevention of epidermal hyperproliferation which causes skin irritation, dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis. Yay!! All the good stuff. 

Now, that being said….products that are more alkaline such as some bar soaps have a PH of about 9 to 12, which is rather extreme if your goal is to keep your skin moisturized. This is why every aesthetician will always cringe when you tell us you wash your face with a bar of soap. That squeaky clean feeling is the sound of your skin crying, haha! Just stop, thank you!! 

Okay okay….back on track! Now that we understand this let’s dive into your biggest mistake. 


When you buy a cleanser, wherever you may be, if there is no “matching” toner its probably safe to say it is pH neutral and doesn’t require one BUT if there is you need to buy that one…not another one that looks or smells good or happens to be on sale…THE MATCHING ONE. If you don’t have the budget for both pick something else because buying one without the other is a waste of your money. 

Toners are not meant to mix and match. Skincare companies create their toners to rebalance your skin after cleansing with a SPECIFIC cleanser. 

When you use random toners you aren’t properly bringing the skin back up to neutral and therefore you aren’t getting the proper benefits, in fact… you could be making it worse. 

Such a simple concept many never knew. Now there is one exception to the rule, but it requires a little google search if you are ever really intent on changing things up. Some skincare companies make all the cleansers & toners with the same pH and therefore you can mix and match within the same line…but never do it with another brand OR keep it simple, do yourself a favor ask an expert or just buy the matching set. 

Happy toning, and as always if you are ever unsure- Let’s talk!

Your skin revival, 

Alexis Fry

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