Should You Use a Toner?

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Do you include a toner in your skin care regimen, or even know why you should use one? It used to be an essential part of a three-step skin care routine—cleanse, tone, and moisturize—but with so many extra products appearing on the market (eye creams, serums, brightening gels) it can be a step that we often forget or even wonder why we need. We spoke with Washington D.C.-based dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D., and Carla Watts, the lead esthetician at the Hotel Bel-Air Spa by La Prairie, to find out what toner really does for your skin and who should be using it.

The traditional belief was that toners were essential for closing up your pores after cleansing, as they opened during the cleaning process. But the main purpose, says Carla, is to bring the skin back to its natural pH level, as cleansing usually interrupts the chemical balance of your skin, which can affect its ability to absorb moisturizer. “Toners are an essential part of your at-home skin care regimen," says Carla. “Not only do they restore the correct chemical balance, but they also pick up any impurities or dirt that your cleanser might have missed."

Anyone can use them, but they're best suited to Beauties with oily or combination skin. "These skin types are the best candidates for using a toner," says Dr. Tanzi. "Toners that contain glycolic acids help remove excess oil and keep pores clean, and are the best for acne-prone and oily skin. Just be sure to stay away from toners containing alcohol, as you don't want to strip away the natural oils that your skin needs." If you have sensitive, dry skin, look for a toner with natural moisturizers. “I suggest La Prairie's Cellular Softening and Balancing Lotion," says Carla. "It lightly moisturizes and gives the skin a beautiful glow. For the best results, cleanse, tone, and then apply serum, eye care products, and a moisturizer of your choice. And don't forget your SPF!”

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