‘I’ve Been an Esthetician for 30 Years—Here’s Why I Would Never Cut Toner Out of My Routine’

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Well+Good senior beauty editor and host Zoë Weiner never turns down an opportunity to ask top dermatologists, hair stylists, or celebs about their beauty routines—down to the exact eyebrow brush they swear by. And on Well+Good’s all-new podcast, 'Routine Rundown,' she’s inviting you to join the conversation. Read More

Each and every year, new skin-care innovations come to light. And with every new trend that emerges, once-game-changing products fall to the wayside. Take toner, for example. In the ‘90s and early ‘00s, toner (particularly in the form of astringent) was a popular product, primarily for those with acne-prone skin. Then, in the 2010s, people started to scoff at the pore-shrinking, zit-zapping liquid. The reason? Classic, alcohol-infused toner was extremely drying. While many skin-care brands caught onto this and started debuting updated formulas that focus on hydration and gentle exfoliation, many people still think toner is an absolute no-go for their skincare routines. But guess what? Celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau—who has been in the game for three decades—says she’d never nix toner from her routine.

In the inaugural episode of Routine Rundown, Well + Good’s new podcast hosted by senior beauty editor Zoë Weiner, Rouleau revealed that toners have come a long way since the Y2K, Sea Breeze-esque formulas burned into our minds.

Listen to the episode here: 

“Toners are essential,” she says. To emphasize just how essential they are, she provided an analogy.

“When you think of your shower, you have glass shower doors, or glass windows if you have that, but it leaves that filmy crud when it dries—that’s chlorine, salts, and minerals that are found in your tap water,” she explains. “When you wash your face—when you wipe a toner over the skin—you’re getting rid of that debris that could be dehydrating the skin.”

In addition to deep cleaning pores, toners can help hydrate the skin.

“When you leave your toner still damp on the skin—which is what I recommend—and then you put on your next products, it’s like giving a drink of moisture to your skin, so it’s really plumping and delivers a lot of water to your skin, so it’s a great way to hydrate your skin and we all want skin hydration,” Rouleau explains.

Toners don’t stop at cleaning and hydrating, though. The liquid formulas can help subsequent products sink deeper into pores, as well. That’s because many toners are water-based, and the water helps make skin more permeable (10 times more, according to Rouleau). “So the idea is that [toner] may help penetrate those active ingredients deeper within the skin to drive better results,” she explains. “So if you’re not using a toner, you definitely should.”

The trick is to look for an alcohol-free formula that addresses your complexion concerns. “As long as they’re alcohol-free, they’re not going to dry out the skin,” she says. While many people think that alcohol is the trick to banishing acne-causing bacteria, Rouleau reminds us that there are plenty of other ingredients that can get the job done, including gentle exfoliants like salicylic, lactic, and glycolic acids. Her go-to? The Renée Rouleau Energy Boosting Toner ($39), which is a hydrating toner powered by vitamin B12 and sodium PCA. “[It’s] really good for blood circulation,” she says.

Regardless of your skin type, there are plent of great toner options on the market. Shop some of our favorites here.

Meet Your New Beauty BFF
With our latest podcast, Routine Rundown, senior beauty editor Zoë Weiner sits down with the top beauty minds in the biz to dive into the buzziest beauty trends of the day—while also swapping recs for their use-to-the-last-drop products. Be the first to listen in each week by signing up for eps delivered straight to your inbox.
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