Shit, I Think I ‘Get’ Toner Now

Does anyone care about toner anymore? Well, I’ve got some thoughts.

My on-again-off-again relationship with toner begins (as with most of my beauty discoveries) in my mom’s bathroom, which I frequently looted as if it were my own personal Sephora store. Thanks, mom.

As with a lot of women in the early 2000s, she relied on the Clinique 3-Step skin care routine; She washed her face with the gentle bar soap, toned with the Clarifying Lotion 2 (which I just knew as ‘the purple one’) and moisturized with Dramatically Different. I can’t remember exactly when I decided to try it — maybe around thirteen? — but I remember loving how clean and fresh my face felt after going over it with a cotton ball soaked with purple toner. I was instantly hooked.

But as my teen years wore on and I entered a period of life literally and figuratively marked by pervasive, moderately severe acne, my skin began feeling irritated and dried out by my (in hindsight) aggressive use of toner. It’s also around this time where I adopted a blitzkrieg approach to stripping all oils from my skin in a misguided effort to treat my breakouts. Alcohol-laced toners and astringents? Sure, why not!

It was enough to make me stop cold turkey. By my mid-to-late teens, I began getting really into reading fashion and beauty magazines on a monthly basis and subscribing to a bunch of beauty vloggers on YouTube. I pretty much got schooled on the basics of good skincare. Which led me to eventually beginning my career as a beauty writer at…a perfect fit for my product junkie/beauty guinea pig tendencies. But it still wasn’t enough to make me revisit toner. I’m just stubborn, okay?

I’m 23 now, and am happy to share that I’ve reintroduced toner into my daily routine. After spending a couple more years in the market, I’ve since learned that not all toners are created equal. While more intense, acne-fighting formulas still exist, there are just as many gentle, balancing formulas that can do wonders for maintaining a moisture balance in the skin, and actually help ward off acne. (My favorite to date is Aesop’s B & Tea Balancing Toner, which I use every morning — my skin has never looked better.) At night, depending on how my face is feeling, I’ll use the Ole Henriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner, which gently exfoliates with AHAs without irritating anything. (I’ve also yet to try anything I don’t love anything by Ole Henriksen.)

Anyway, this post has already gotten way longer than I initially intended, so I’ll sign off with this: There’s a lot of good toners out there, so don’t wait 5+ years before you give it another chance.


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