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Do You Wash Off Toner?

by Gabbi

Toners, astringents, essences, ampoules; all these skincare products can seem overwhelming, but in reality, you only need a few core products in your beauty regimen to see results. Toners are one of the classic skincare staples for any routine. 

Toners can be overstimulating on their own because multiple types of this product exist. This makes it challenging to understand when you apply it or how to use it. 

For example, do you wash off toner? Toner is often viewed as a supplement product to either balance your skin’s pH levels, treat imperfections, or increase the absorption of other products. It’s usually not recommended to wash off a toner. 

Washing off toners can reduce the benefits you may receive from this product. Toners are commonly applied after cleansing and before moisturizer for the best results. You’ll want to use toners as a leave-on treatment to nourish your skin. 

What else should you know about toners before adding this supplemental product in your routine?

What Is A Toner?

Toners have a touchy reputation because they are known as harsh and stripping products that sensitize the skin. Toners are skincare products used after cleansing and before serums/moisturizers and have a water-like consistency. 

However, toners have now gotten a modern update and help restore the skin’s pH levels, reduce impurities, and improve product absorption.

Why Use A Toner?

Toners are also a leave-on product because they can be formulated with numerous beneficial ingredients to treat the skin. Also, toners are regaining popularity thanks to K-Beauty and updated formulas that don’t contain stripping alcohols. 

Toners can provide multiple benefits and serve a purpose in all skincare routines regardless of your skin type. 

Remove Excess Impurities 

One reason to use a toner is to remove impurities. Old school toners often targeted problematic skin, but their formulas lacked key nourishing components. They also made up for the lack of efficiency of outdated cleansers. 

Toners can easily remove excess dirt, debris, makeup, or sunscreen. However, you’ll get the maximum results if you don’t wash the face after applying toner.

Improve Absorption Of Products 

Another purpose toners have is improving the absorption of other products. Toners can effortlessly prep the skin for serums or treatments to help reap every benefit. It clears the skin of leftover impurities and offers a clean canvas for other products.

A toner can only improve the absorption of products if you leave it on the skin rather than wash your face. 

Types Of Toners

One crucial factor regarding toners and how you use them is what type of toner you’re implementing into your routine. For example, you could have an alcohol-based toner or one filled with chemical exfoliants that aren’t recommended for daily use.

Or you could have a nourishing water-based toner that may help absorb other products and shouldn’t be washed off. Also, always follow your brand’s directions on the toner’s label to achieve the best results.

Application methods can vary by toner type. 


Water-based toners can often contain ultra-soothing or nourishing components that can strengthen the skin barrier. For example, on the toner’s ingredients list, you may find it contains ceramides, niacinamide, or fatty acids. 

You’ll want to leave these beneficial ingredients on the skin and promote product absorption.


Alcohol-based toners are similar to old-school toners or share more similarities with astringents. 

For example, an everyday alcohol-based toner is like witch hazel, or you may look at the ingredients list of toner and find that it contains stripping alcohol components.

These toners can often dry and sensitize various skin types, including problematic and sensitive. In addition, they can be irritating when used daily.

Exfoliating Toners 

Toners can also contain chemical exfoliants like AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs. A brand may choose to formulate with a chemical exfoliant to target pores or clear out the skin from underneath the surface. 

It’s crucial to leave these toners on the skin to benefit from the chemical exfoliants but beware of pairing them with other exfoliant treatments.

Benefits Of Toners

What are some specific benefits you can gain from toners? First, it’s crucial to note the best way to reap the benefits of toner is to avoid washing them off after your application. Most toner formulas work the best when left on the face.

Target Pores & Blemishes

Exfoliating toners can easily target enlarged pores or blemishes. For example, a toner containing salicylic acid, a BHA, will penetrate the skin and exfoliate the face from underneath the surface. This can reduce textural and acne concerns. 

Also, these toners can promote a clearer complexion when used consistently a few times each week and letting the product absorb into the skin. 

Eliminate Traces Of Makeup/Dirt

Some toners can even eliminate traces of leftover cleanser, makeup, or dirt to promote a clean canvas for other products. This can also help improve the absorption of other products when left on the skin. 

Balance pH Levels

Toners can also help balance the skin’s pH levels, especially after cleansing. This can also help reduce irritation or tenderness and potentially keep a healthy skin barrier. Balancing the skin’s pH level is the most common benefit of most toners.

Moisturizer & Nourish The Skin 

Finally, toners can quickly add extra nourishment and moisture to the skin. The water-like consistency of toner can soon replenish the skin and create a beautiful base for following products, like a ceramide-based serum. 

These toners may be water-based and help other products penetrate deeper into the skin. You can reap the maximum benefits by leaving the toner on the skin rather than washing it off.

How Often Should You Use A Toner?

How often you use a toner can vary by brand directions or what type of toner you use. For example, an exfoliating toner may be used up to 2-3 times weekly to avoid irritation. Meanwhile, nourishing toners may be used once or twice daily. 

Each brand will provide detailed instructions on how and when to apply their toner.

Can You Apply Too Much Toner?

You can apply too much toner, and it’s always wise to use the recommended amount. However, applying too much toner can lead to irritation or stinging by exfoliating toners or just excess product buildup from nourishing toners. 

You may also not reap the full benefits of toner by applying it too much or too often.

Why You Shouldn’t Wash Off Toner 

Toners aren’t a wash-off treatment, and many brands recommend you leave them on the skin. So what can happen if you wash off a toner? You won’t be able to gain any benefits like eliminating impurities or balancing the skin pH by washing off the toner. 

Toner is a water-like product meant to be patted or swiped onto the skin and fully absorbed to achieve the best results. Unfortunately, washing it off dilutes the formula and doesn’t allow it enough time to work.

How To Use Toner

So how can you incorporate a toner into your skincare routine? Toners are often the second step in any skincare routine and are used after cleansing. Directions can vary by brand, so double-check the labels before applying your toner to the face. 

Other helpful tips include conducting a patch test and applying toners before serums or treatment products.

Patch Test 

You’ll first want to conduct a patch test with your toner, mainly if it contains active ingredients or high concentrations of acids. A patch test will ensure you don’t have an allergic reaction or breakout from your toner. 

Once you know the toner is safe to implement into your routine, you’ll see it’s best used as the second step in your skin regimen.

After Cleansing

You’ll want to use a toner right after you finish cleansing the skin. This will ensure the toner has the chance to remove any excess traces of dirt or makeup and provide a clean canvas for your following products. 

You’ll want to avoid washing off the toner so you can receive all the benefits it has to offer your face. 

Before Serums/Treatments

What comes first, toners or serums and treatments? You’ll want to apply your toner first to aid in the absorption of your following skincare products. So after cleansing, you’ll use the toner on the skin and allow it to settle before going in with serums.

Pat It Into The Skin

Toners can easily be applied to the skin with a cotton round, reusable cotton round, or your hands. You can gently swipe cotton round across the face with toner for even distribution. Your hands can also effortlessly pat the toner into the skin.

If you’d like to see a visual tutorial, take a look at this one from Tabeth Giselle on YouTube.


Toners can be an essential step in any skincare regimen regardless of your skin type. Multiple toners can aid the skin for exfoliating purposes or hydration. 

You’ll want to avoid washing off toner because it can dilute the formula, and you won’t gain all the benefits this product offers. Also, toners are often the second step in a routine applied after cleansing and before serums/moisturizers.

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