- Mona Gohara, MD, board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Yale University
Since the toner category now encompasses everything from hydrating products with hyaluronic acid to exfoliating ones packed with AHAs, it's extra important to consult the ingredient list before putting anything on your face. Otherwise, you run the risk of using something that will disrupt your complexion instead of nourish it. "Avoid any toner with witch hazel or an alcohol base, because they can strip your skin’s protective layers of essential lipids and proteins that keep irritants out and keep hydration in," says Dr. Gohara. "They can disrupt the skin barrier, and the skin barrier is essential for skin health." Instead, look for products that offer some sort of added benefit to the skin by way of actives like AHAs, BHAs, or hyaluronic acid.
Since these ingredients offer targeted results, Dr. Gohara suggests thinking of your toner as more of a spot treatment than something you should slather on all over. "If you feel like you need it, just use it on areas where you may need a little extra love on your skin."
To figure out what type of toner is right for your individual skin needs. (and when you should be mixing and matching a few different options for best results), press play on the video above. And one more thing to keep in mind? "Remember that it’s not essential—it’s kind of the cherry on top," says Dr. Gohara. So if you want to skip out on this particular step and save yourself from the confusion altogether, that's totally fine too.
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