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.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Her hands-on experience as an esthetician and trusted skin care expert has created a real-world solution — products that are formulated for nine different types of skin so your face will get exactly what it needs to look and feel its best. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”