Stop Wasting Product—This Is the Most Effective Way to Apply Toner

a woman applying Renee Rouleau toner on her face

Updated 03/15/23. If you’re familiar with my skincare line or you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know how much I love toner (alcohol-free toner to be exact). Not only does it give the skin an instant boost of hydration, but it can also balance the skin’s pH level and support the natural moisture barrier.

Some skincare companies package their toners in spray bottles, which allows people to easily apply them to their skin after cleansing. Other brands, like mine, package them in bottles for the purpose of wiping them across the skin with a cotton pad or toning cloth. I’m often asked whether the application method matters and if so, which way is best. My answer is yes, it does matter! In this post, I’ll explain why. Keep reading to find out.

What Is the Best Way to Apply Toner?

Wiping a toner on the face with a cotton pad or toning cloth is the preferred method. Why? One of the five major benefits of toner is that it can remove residue from the skin—whether that’s residue from a cleanser or, more importantly, residue leftover from tap water.

What many people might not realize is that tap water contains minerals like sodium, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc. When you wash your face with tap water, and these minerals are deposited on your skin, they can react with surfactants in your cleanser and form what is essentially soap scum.

This ultimately creates a film that upsets the balance of the skin in more ways than one, leading to the following skin issues:

  • A disrupted moisture barrier
  • Dryness and dehydration
  • Irritation and sensitivity
  • Rough-feeling skin
  • Clogged pores

The good news is that the simple action of wiping your skin will remove all of these problem-causing residues! That’s why I always apply my toner with Toning Cloths. Not only do they help lift away these film-forming minerals, but they also absorb less liquid than a traditional cotton pad or ball. In the long run, this means your skin gets the most out of the toner and you save product. Plus, they’re ultra-gentle on the skin and you don’t get any of that fuzz or shredding fibers like you do with cotton rounds.

The only time I suggest spraying a toner vs. wiping it is if you’re using it on the go, like if you were using the Rapid Response Maskne Spray. I packaged this toner into a spray bottle for convenient application throughout the day as we wear protective face masks. With salicylic acid, lactic acid, and tea tree oil, this spray-on toner helps keep mask-induced breakouts at bay.

The Bottom Line

While wiping vs. spraying toner might seem like an unnecessary distinction, it really does make a difference!

As always, make sure you’re using an alcohol-free toner. Toners that are alcohol-based can be extremely drying and irritating. Also, make sure you’re leaving your toner damp on your skin before applying serum or moisturizer (I call this the Golden Minute Rule). This will seal in all that hydration and keep your skin looking plump and healthy.

Next, check out 10 surprising cleansing mistakes you need to stop making!

Disclaimer: Content found on and, including text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or blog.


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  1. I have sensitive skin, so when I apply toner using a cotton pad it irritates my skin. I use witch hazel. Is it better for me just to spray it?

    Posted By: monse  | 

    • If wiping over your skin is causing irritation, it’s either the cotton being too scratchy and/or the ingredients (like alcohol) found in witch hazel. This collection of toners is alcohol-free.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  2. I use a toner. I am happy to learn the how to about application, remove.
    Question: I would like to know more about whiteheads. I am 68, think I am a #2 and most of all love learning from you. Thank You, DN

    Posted By: Donna Nelson  | 


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