What the Hell is a Toner, Anyway?

Interesting fact—most people who are interested in skin care have at some point used a toner. Also a fact—the majority have no bleedin’ clue what a toner does. Before working in cosmetics, I know I didn’t.

Like so many others I used my toner because, well, it was the right thing to do. Cleanse, tone, moisturize—these have been the bare minimum skin care steps for as long as I can remember. I can’t believe I ever thought this was enough. Oh dear skin, I’m sorry for all of those wasted years. Now I know better, and I also know what a toner is for. Would you like to know, Kittens? Hmmm?

The difference between Western toners and their Eastern counterparts—Japanese and Korean specifically—reflects the disparate approaches to skin care of each region. Western toners tend to be more astringent, often focused on the appearance of pores. There is some hoo hah out there about needing a toner to fix the pH of your skin before you moisturize. Yes, there is an optimum pH but most cleansers are now gentle enough that they don’t massively affect this. Unless you use the smelly bar of soap my grandmother used to make her dresser smell pretty, this shouldn’t be an issue.

The real effect of Western toners is that they act as the last step of cleansing. They remove any final grime and makeup from your pores and whisk away cleanser residue.

Now for Eastern toners, and I will mostly speak of Korean ones because K-beauty is my JAM! The buzzword behind Korean skin care is HYDRATION. Is that big enough? Did you miss it? Everything is about dewy moisture. Healthy skin is moist—you know I love that word, Kittens—skin, and Korean products are meant to get it for you. To be clear, this doesn’t mean there aren’t lines for dealing with oily or acne prone skin issues. What it means is that these will not dry your skin out like many harsh Western products will.

I am going to use one particular product that I love as an example of a Korean toner—the Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner.

The first thing you will notice is the scent. While there is no fragrance added, it also has no chemical masks. You can definitely smell the aloe. It has a smell that reminds me of hospitals. Is that weird? It isn’t bad. Hospitals are very clean places, right? It’s kind of reassuring.

It is dispensed with a pump, which I love. So much product is wasted when you are pouring out a liquid. And yes, my wallet is tightening as I say that.

Now we come to the biggest difference. Unlike Western toners that you swipe over your skin, this one is used by patting it over your face. You can swipe if you want. The Catty Cosmetician is all about freedom. Realistically though, you’re missing out if you don’t press these ingredients into your skin. Snail mucin, and you know how I love that. BHA (.5% salicylic acid), which is a chemical exfoliant that will keep your skin clear and your pores immaculate. Aloe which soothes and makes this suitable even for sensitive skin.

Another reason that this does not need to be wiped across skin is that the typical Korean skin care routine involves a double cleanse. Most often this is an oil cleanser followed by a balm or more intense foam. Because you are cleansing twice there is no need to use toner as a final step to remove grime.

My personal review of this toner? It has seriously reduced the appearance of blackheads because my pores are so damn clean. My skin is clear to the point that getting one pimple during my period was a trauma. One pimple! It has also worked to exfoliate much of the dead skin that tends to linger. I am so happy with this product. I will definitely try others as well, but I know that Korean toners are for me. Let’s say that buzzword again—HYDRATION!

Until next time, MEOW!


5 thoughts on “What the Hell is a Toner, Anyway?”

  1. This post was sooooo interesting to read… I never really use toner but everyone always talks about the benefits of it. I have the La Roche Posay one so might start using that more often, but this Aloe one looks amazing. I might have to purchase it and give it a go because i have terrible blackheads and pores! x

    1. I am so glad that you found the post helpful! La Roche Posay is a great line, especially if you have sensitive skin. I do have to say that this one has done wonders for my pores, along with some lighter moisturizers. Highly recommend!

  2. This is so helpful! I’m guilty of using toner, but not really knowing what it is for, ive just been using it knowing it does something for my skin! but thank you!

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