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The three basic steps of any skincare regime always included cleansing, toning, and moisturizing. In the past, though, toners have often received a bad reputation for drying and even sensitizing the skin, which often results in many skipping this step.

Today’s modern toners, however, are well researched and formulated to provide the skin with a vital step before applying serums and moisturizers, and should not be overlooked. 

The basic function of a toner is to prepare the skin for the next step in the skin regime. It also helps to balance the skin’s pH levels, which can help prevent issues such as acne. Below, I share some of the benefits that toners provide for the skin, as well as my personal toner recommendations for each skin type. 

Toners Are Vital For Skin’s Longevity

1. Toners provide an extra layer of cleansing

Even after cleansing with the best cleansers, there will always be a small amount of makeup, dirt, impurities, dead skin cells, sebum, and free radicals that have accumulated throughout the day left on the skin. 

Toners have the ability to clean leftover makeup and penetrate deep into pores to ensure that the skin is fully prepared for the next step in your skincare regime.

2. Toners tend to add an extra layer of skin hydration

Toners can come in handy during the winter months, adding in extra needed moisture. Modern-day toners contain humectants, such as hyaluronic acid, glycerine, ceramides, and other moisturizing ingredients which act to soothe, repair and hydrate the outer skin barrier.

3. Toners provide much-needed ingredients to rejuvenate the skin

Today’s toners contain ingredients that act as antioxidants and skin-replenishing ingredients. This helps to remove and neutralize environmental free radicals enhancing the rejuvenating capability of the skin and the rest of the skincare regime.

As previously mentioned, these benefits can also include balancing the skin’s pH or acid/alkaline level.

How can you choose the best toner for your skin type?

In exactly the same fashion as developing our entire skincare regime, we should only use a toner that is specific to your skin type. 


Photo by Sora Shimazaki

Choosing the incorrect toner will cause unwanted skin reactions. This includes;

  • stripping the skin of essential nutrients
  • upsetting the natural pH
  • overly drying the skin
  • increasing sebum production

Normal to combination skin

The best toners for this skin type should contain ingredients that normalize the skin’s pH. They should also remove any excess impurities and sebum. Look out for ingredients like alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids. They are typically found in low concentrations of toners to gently exfoliate and clean deep within pores while simultaneously limiting sensitive reactions.

My recommendations: 

Sensitive skin

People who suffer from sensitive skin may believe that they should stay away from toners. However, the correct toner can be a crucial step in healing, calming, and balancing the pH of the skin.

With sensitive skin, select toners that will replenish and repair the skin barrier without stripping the skin of its vital nutrients. Ingredients to look out for include hyaluronic acid, glycerine, antioxidants, and even ceramides.

My recommendations: 

Oily or acne-prone skin

Excess oil or sebum tends to sit deep in the pores. The correct toner will ensure that all impurities are removed, allowing serums and moisturizers to penetrate the skin.

Toners for acne or oily skin should contain beta hydroxy acids and fruit-based exfoliants, such as papaya or pineapple extracts, that will provide both proteolytic and keratolytic effects on the skin.

My recommendations: 

Dry skin

Dry skin sufferers need to use toners that not only add that extra layer of cleanliness, but also hydrate and repair the skin. Ingredients to look out for include hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerine, vitamin E, and even aloe vera.

My recommendations: 

The takeaway 

Using a toner specifically for your skin type is a key step that should not be overlooked. It will provide your skin with numerous benefits including hydration, balancing your skin’s pH, and soothing and repairing properties. It also offers protection against free radical damage, and most importantly, prepares your skin with an effective deep cleanse. I would suggest using a toner twice daily, which allows you to see the positive effects on your skin. 

Dr Alek Nikolic

Dr Alek Nikolic

Dr Alek Nikolic is a renowned specialist in aesthetic medicine and is at the forefront of the latest developments in his field. With a focus on skin care, skin ingredients and cosmetic dermatology treatments such as lasers, chemical peels, Botox, and Dermal Fillers, he has performed over 20 000 procedures to date and is responsible for training many medical practitioners both locally and internationally. After receiving his MBBCh from the University of the Witwatersrand (1992) he went on to do an MBA at University of Cape Town (2000). With over 24 year in private practice, he has lectured and performed live demonstrations across the globe, including Bangkok, Rome, Paris, Monte Carlo, Prague, and Warsaw.  Some of his achievements include: Owner of Aesthetic Facial Enhancement Owner of online skincare store, com. Founding member of the South African Allergan Medical Aesthetic Academy Advisor to Allergan Local Country Mentor in Facial Aesthetics   Vice President of the Aesthetic and Anti-Aging Medicine Society of South Africa(AAMSSA) Associate Member of the American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery(ASLMS).


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