How to Use a Face Toner & When to Use It

How to Use a Face Toner & When to Use It

There’s clean skin and then there’s truly clean skin. Although you may feel like you’re getting clean with a splash of warm water, a brisk rub with a washcloth, or even with a facial exfoliant, you’re probably not removing all the tiny bits of grit and grime that accumulate during the day.

So what can you do to get truly, deeply squeaky-clean skin that glows? Meet your new best friend: face toners.

Not only can skin toners help get your face deep-down clean, but they can even improve the appearance of the texture of your skin, leaving you silky smooth and dewy fresh. So read on if you’re interested in learning about how and when to use a facial toner in your skincare routine.

3 Toner Types

Before we delve into the how and when of skin toner, let’s look at the variety of facial toner formulations available today and what makes them different from each other.

If you were wondering what toner is for the skin, toner was originally formulated to remove lye-soap residue and hard-water deposits from the skin after washing.1 Although today most people don’t use lye-based soap nor do they bathe in excessively hard water, the need for a deep cleaning toner remains in a world where environmental pollutants can affect the skin.

So what does a face toner do? In the most basic terms, skin toners are solutions meant to:

  • Clean impurities from the skin
  • Hydrate the skin

Additionally, certain toners may also claim to:

  • Smooth the appearance of pores
  • Improve an uneven skin tone
  • Refresh the skin and skin barrier

1. Toners for Cleaning

Toner’s #1 job is cleaning. However, toner is different from your facial cleanser which is meant to remove the strata of makeup, oil, dirt, sweat, and environmental pollutants that can attach to your skin each day. Toner’s job is to deep-clean your skin after the cleanser, grabbing up those last bits of grit and grime that remain at the pore level.

The range of cleansing ingredients in toners can contain ingredients like witch hazel, zinc, lactic acid, salicin, menthol and alcohol.1 But all toners are not equally gentle.

Alcohol, witch hazel, and menthol are certainly able to remove stressors from your skin, but they can also be extremely harsh and lead to dry skin. If your skin is sensitive, mature, or simply overtaxed, avoiding those ingredients in your toner is crucial.

Luckily, ingredients like lactic acid and salicin are equally good at cleaning your skin without drying harshness, which is why here at REN Clean Skincare, we include both in our Clarimatte™ Clarifying Toner. This refreshing toner works to help remove dead skin cells and reduces oiliness to leave your skin looking clearer and smoother.

2. Toners for Hydrating & Balancing

Second only to cleaning, hydrating is an all-important duty of toner. While it might be tempting to wish oily skin away (especially if you’re blemish-prone), oil is actually a vital part of your skin’s barrier’s defense systems.3 Supporting your skin’s barrier by properly hydrating it will keep your skin supple and strong.

Some hydrating ingredients that we recommend in a toner are:

  • Lactic Acid
  • Acidea acid
  • Salicin
  • Fruit extracts, particularly citrus lemon, grape, pineapple
  • Glycolic Acids

A skin-resurfacing AHA facial toner is your best bet when looking for a hydrating toner. Our Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic does this best by effectively exfoliating the skin's surface and replacing moisture using Lactic Acid (AHA) and Salicin (BHA).

Because moisturizing toner is meant to be kept on your skin, using a toner after cleansing but before applying a daily SPF moisturizer or night serum is important to maximizing the hydrating effects.

Choosing The Best Toner for YOU

Before choosing a toner, take a moment to think about your particular skin type and your skin goals. Generally, skin can be categorized in the following ways:

  • Dry
  • Oily
  • Balanced
  • Combo - meaning oily in some places, dry or normal in others
  • Blemish-prone
  • Mature
  • Sensitive to skincare products or to the sun

This isn’t meant to be single-choice. You may have oily skin in some areas and dry skin in others. It may have sensitive spots and normal zones. The point of the categories is simply to help you think deliberately about what your skin needs or lacks naturally.

However, we always recommend a visit to the dermatologist as this is a great way to start understanding your skin type (and don’t forget an annual follow-up, too).

How & When To Use a Face Toner

Now that you’ve done the hard part of understanding your skin type and needs, knowing how to correctly use a skin toner is mostly just a matter of getting the order right in your skincare routine. As we’ve already discussed, the order should be:

  1. Start with a facial cleanser, one to two times per day, as needed.

  2. Next comes your toner, also once or twice a day depending on necessity and skin type. Do not rinse it off!

  3. After toner, apply your moisturizer or serum.

  4. Applying sunscreen should always be your final step before heading out of the bathroom and into your day (even if you’re not going outside). However, if you use your toner in the evening before you sleep, you can forego sunscreen.

Lightly soak a reusable cotton with the toner and apply gently into the skin, avoiding the eye area. You should apply a thin enough layer of toner so that can evenly coat your skin but it should still be able to dry quickly. If you have sensitive skin, wet your cotton pad with water beforehand to dilute the formula, then apply as usual as your skin becomes accustomed to the product.

Get Ready To Glow With Toners By REN Skincare

Finding the right toner for your skin can be a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack - there are just so many choices and they all seem to look alike. Luckily, here at Ren Skincare, we’ve taken only the best ingredients on the market and combined them into a series of toners that will suit you, no matter your skin type or skincare goals.

There is a Ren Skincare toner for you, always vegan, cruelty-free, and bottled in recycled plastic!

About the Author:

Camille Poggi is a doctor in Pharmacy (PharmD.) and is passionate about skincare and how the skin works in general. She specializes in the cosmetic industry and worked for renowned companies in France like L’Oréal and Chanel before moving to London. After being a training manager for 4 years, Camille is at ease with explaining how products work in the skin and how to adapt her speech according to the audience.

She joined REN in January 2020 as International Training Manager and moved to the Research & Development team earlier this year to be the new Scientific Education Manager. A tailored-made role where she assesses and leads all technical communication and ensures scientific compliance is always met. She’s also involved in new product development from the earliest stages. Finding a way to create sustainable skincare products and making sure the message is properly delivered and understood is definitely a big challenge but also her favorite part working for REN.


  1. Dermatology Times. Are Facial Toners Necessary?
  2. InStyle. State of Skin.
  3. Allure. What Exactly Is Sebum and Why Is It So Important?