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What Is The Difference Between A Tonic and A Toner?

Smoothing toner

Walking through the aisles of drug stores, I often found myself slightly puzzled when it comes to toners and tonics. With new products added every year, the two look pretty similar to me, if you ask. So how do you pick between the two? 

Both toners and tonics are lightweight skincare products recommended for use between the cleansing and moisturising stages. While toners strip away excess oil and restore the skin’s pH balance, tonics moisturise and condition by adding various active ingredients. 

However, toners offer more than merely cleansing and balancing benefits nowadays. Read on to learn about the benefits of each and how to decide which one to use.

Table of Contents

What is a Skin Tonic?

A skin tonic is a lightweight, refreshing skincare product formulated to revitalise the skin after cleansing. It combines active botanicals and hydrating ingredients with a soothing and moisturising effect on the skin. Skin tonic is excellent for adding moisture to the skin after cleansing, which is essential since our skin tends to become more dehydrated with each passing year.

Face tonic types

With a growing number of organic skincare products coming to the market, formulators develop skin tonics with a specific benefit in mind. Here are a few examples: 

Astringent tonics help draw out impurities gently, balance skin’s pH, normalise sebum production while boosting moisture retention. They work particularly well for acne-prone or oily skin. 

Hydrating tonics are nourishing tonics that soften, firm and moisture the skin throughout the day. Made with dry and ageing skin in mind, they can help recover the skin’s natural moisture levels and minimise water loss.

Soothing tonics are gentle enough that most skin types can use them. They have a calming and calming effect that can help reduce redness and inflammation of the skin, minimise puffiness and soothe irritated skin

Skin tonic benefits

Generally formulated with a wide range of nutritious ingredients to target specific skin concerns such as acne, dry, sensitive and acne-prone skin, tonics can:

  • Help improve the look of the skin and help retain the natural moisture level, which is essential for healthy and radiant-looking skin. Face tonics are made to be absorbed quickly into the skin to deliver moisture and nutrients for your skin to optimise the results of your skincare routine.
  • Soothe and calm the skin, making them great for sensitive or inflamed complexions. Plus, they help to reduce any redness and inflammation, aiding a healthy complexion.
  • Some tonics contain natural astringents, which help tighten the skin and naturally exfoliate it, which gives a more refined look. 

Who is skin tonic for?

Tonics are a great option for anyone with normal to combination skin who wishes to nurture the skin in the post-cleansing stage. You can also use them instead of serum as they are often enriched with various nourishing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, hydrosols, Vitamin E, etc.

When and how should you use face tonic?

Use face tonic twice a day between the cleansing and moisturising stages as it helps to nourish from the start. It is best spread by splashing a few drops into your palm and then gently massaging into your face, not forgetting your neck and neckline for a luminous look!

What is a Toner?

Skin toner is a lightweight astringent. Its primary function was to remove any excess residue from cleansers, restore the skin’s pH balance and firm the skin. That being said, the latest toners are no longer made just to cleanse and balance the skin’s pH. Many of them contain hydrosols, humectants and botanical extracts and offer added hydrating, brightening, and exfoliating benefits, among others.

Face toner types

Cleansing toners: If your skin is excessively oily, it may require a firming toner that can remove any excess sebum and residue in the pores, leaving the skin feeling clean and refreshed. Witch hazel is an anti-inflammatory and astringent agent that cleanses the skin by stripping away surface oils and bacteria and calming the skin.

Balancing toners: Applied after cleansing, they remove traces of cleansers, excess sebum and other pollutants while regulating the skin’s delicate pH balance. 

Hydrating toners: A good toner should contain hydrating agents to help the skin retain moisture and nourish it. Aloe Vera, for example, is a natural moisturiser and anti-inflammatory agent.  

Brightening toners: Whether your complexion appears dull or has an uneven tone, you can use a toner to brighten it. Although dark spots from too much sun exposure are hard to get rid of, lemon water and Vitamin C can help reduce pigmentation and tone the skin.

Exfoliating toners: Exfoliating toners help remove dead skin cells on the skin’s surface and unclog pores. The long time favourite ingredient in exfoliating toners is glycolic acid. It helps to remove dead skin cells and grime, smooth out fine lines and promotes collagen, leaving the skin feeling soft and smooth.

Skin toner benefits

Formulated with a particular skin benefit in mind, toners can:

  • Refresh and re-hydrate the skin after cleansing, therefore helping to prolong the effects of your skincare routine.
  • Help to brighten the complexion by reducing the appearance of pigmentation and uneven skin tone.
  • Help remove excess sebum and residue.
  • Improve the look of your skin by removing dead skin, unclogging pores, and fighting against acne and blackheads.

Who is it for?

Toners used to be picked mainly by people with oily skin. Now they are primarily alcohol-free with added benefits and can be used across all skin types.

When and how should you use toner?

You can use toner twice a day after the cleansing phase. If your skin tends to get dry or irritates easily, use a toner once a day or look for a gentler alternative. To apply, pour or spray toner onto a cotton pad and gently sweep across the face to remove any excess sebum or residues from the skin. 

So Which One Should You Use?

With toners offering various skin benefits, the line between toners and tonics have been blurred. The best way to decide whether you should use a toner or a tonic is by choosing a product that can help address your skin concerns.  

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