Skincare routines can feel overwhelming, especially these days. We are constantly bombarded with advice on how to put together the best skincare routine by adding more and more products.
Before you know it, you go through 10 steps every morning and evening, and your bathroom counter is cluttered with a dozen different bottles.
You might be wondering if all of this is necessary and if not – which products are actually needed?
When cutting down their skincare routines to something more manageable, people often look for products that can combine several beneficial actions within them. One of those things is toner.
If you were a young teen in the ‘90s or early 2000s, you probably remember the toners of those days as drying and astringent products that you used to demolish your zits. They would sting and dry out your face. As an adult, you probably don’t want that.
But the toners of today are entirely different. Today’s toners are applied after cleansing; instead of drying out your face, they provide a blast of hydration. Some of them contain additional nourishment in the form of antioxidants and exfoliating acids.
So, if these toners are so hydrating, you might be wondering – can I use toner without moisturizer? The answer is that you can, but most people benefit from using both toner and moisturizer. Some skin types can get enough hydration from the toner, while others could use a little extra from their moisturizers layered over the toner.
In this post, we will go over how to use toner, what benefits you may receive from it, and whether or not your individual skin needs an additional moisturizer in your skincare routine.
What Exactly Is Toner?
Old toners had a high alcohol content – this is why we loved them for our teenage acne. But alcohol can dry out your skin – which is why these toners used to sting and make our skin flake.
But let’s forget the toners of the 90s, let’s talk about what toners can do for you for today.
The purpose of the toner is to offset the damage done by cleansing your face. That’s right, when you cleanse your face, you strip your skin of helpful oils and moisture. Toners are meant to be applied immediately after cleansing so that they can return the skin to its natural state and replenish some of what was lost.
Toners prep your skin for the next steps in your skincare routine – whether that’s a serum or moisturizer – so that these products get absorbed properly.
Some toners also contain mild exfoliating acids to help remove any remaining dead skin cells that didn’t get washed off during cleansing. This helps your skin look smooth and glowy. There are many different types of toners, including ones with lactic acid, vitamin C, and many more.
As you can see, toners are a great addition to your skincare routine.
Here’s a tutorial for using toners from Tabeth Giselle on YouTube.
When Should You Use Toner?
Your toner should always be applied after cleansing and before applying any other skincare products on. Most people use toner twice a day – during their morning and evening routines.
If you like to use a makeup remover and a cleanser, your toner should go on after the cleanser.
If you like to double-cleanse by using oil and a cleanser, your toner should go on after the cleanser. As long as you stick to that order, you’ll get the most out of your cleanser.
If you’re wondering what order you should be using other products after the toner, try to layer the products from thinnest to thickest.
For example, if you want to use a serum and a moisturizer, your skincare routine will look something like this:
- Cleanser -> Toner -> Serum -> Moisturizer
- Cleanser -> Toner -> Serum -> Moisturizer -> Sunscreen
If you’re using additional treatments, like a retinol cream, your routine will look like this:
- Cleanse -> Toner -> Retinol Cream -> Moisturizer
As you can see, the toner always goes on immediately after cleansing. Then the products get layered from thinnest to thickest, with sunscreen always being the last product you put on (if you’re using it).
Serums are typically lighter and thinner than moisturizers. The same goes for retinol creams and other special treatments that you’d want to apply before covering them with moisturizer.
Can You Use Toner Without A Moisturizer?
Because toners have gotten so good at giving your skin a boost of hydration and everything else it needs post-cleansing, you might be wondering if you even need to follow them up with a moisturizer.
In fact, many people with oily skin feel that moisturizer only adds to the oiliness and tends to block their pores.
If you have oily skin and it seems to do a good job of keeping itself hydrated without additional products, using toner without following up with a moisturizer might be a good solution for you.
However, most people’s skin will dry out over time if you only use cleansers and toners because there are not enough lipids in toners to repair your skin’s moisture barrier.
Not to mention, toners don’t typically contain sunscreen, so you’ll likely need to use an SPF-containing moisturizer to protect your skin from UV damage anyways.
But if you don’t plan on going outside, and your skin doesn’t dry out easily, you can get away with just using toner.
Just keep in mind that this doesn’t work for everyone, and it might only work for you during certain seasons.
It’s a good idea to find a moisturizer that works with your skin type just in case you end up needing it at some point. There are many great moisturizers that work well for oily skin types and don’t block your pores.
Another thing to consider if you’re using toner without moisturizer is that your toner should contain moisturizing ingredients that you won’t be getting from other sources, such as:
- Hyaluronic acid
- Aloe vera
If your toner contains one or more of these ingredients, it is likely to be moisturizing enough for you to skip the moisturizer.
How To Tell If Your Skin Is Oily
If you’re not sure whether your skin is oily enough to go without moisturizer, try doing this test:
- Cleanse your skin
- Do not apply any products after cleansing and go about your day
- After 3-4 hours put a thin tissue over your skin and see if it gets stained by the oil
- You can also simply observe your skin in the mirror or touch it with your hands to feel for oiliness
People with oily skin will produce oil within 3-4 hours even if no other products are applied to their face. If this sounds like you, you likely have oily skin and can probably get away with using a moisturizing toner without needing to apply a moisturizer over it.
However, if your skin remains dry and even becomes tight within 3-4 hours of this test, you likely have dry or combination skin, and you shouldn’t remove the moisturizer from your skincare routine.
Another way to tell if you can get away with using just toner is to observe how your skin reacts to 1-2 weeks of using toner followed up by a moisturizer.
Does your skin feel overly oily, sticky, or congested? Are you seeing more breakouts? In this case, you might want to eliminate the moisturizer for a few weeks and see if your skin responds better.
With skincare, the best way to find what works for you is through trial and error. Everyone has different skin, and it responds differently to products and ingredients. So test some things out and go with whatever makes your skin look and feel its best!
Best Moisturizing Toners To Use Without Moisturizer
If you’ve determined that your skin responds best to using toner without a moisturizer, make sure that you’re using hydrating toners. Don’t make the mistake of buying one of those alcohol-filled toners from the 90s (yes, you can still find them on the shelves!)
Here are a few great toners we recommend that hydrate and nourish your skin similarly to a moisturizer:
- LANEIGE Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer – this is a 2-in-1 product that has the light consistency of a toner with the powerful hydration of a moisturizer. The perfect middle ground!
- CeraVe Hydrating Toner – this alcohol-free toner is packed with ceramides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid to repair your moisture barrier and provide a powerful boost of hydration.
- PYUNKANG YUL Facial Essence Toner – this toner provides remarkable soothing and moisturizing properties, balances skin pH, hydrates, reduces acne, and leaves the skin soothed, incredibly even in tone, and soft.
Moisturizer is an essential part of any skincare routine because every time you wash your face, you are stripping it of moisture and important nutrients. Moisturizers are intended to repair the moisture barrier of the skin and replenish lost hydration.
This is why it’s recommended that most people use moisturizer, even if they are also using hydrating toners. Unlike moisturizers, toners provide a quick blast of hydration and prep the skin to absorb other products better.
For those with extra-oily skin, it may be possible to go without moisturizer as long as their toner is hydrating enough. However, most people will need to use a moisturizer at least occasionally to maintain the proper moisture balance in their skin.
We hope this post helps you figure out the best routine for you and your individual skin type!