Product hybrids can be confusing and intimidating. Take acid toners, for example. Do they replace your toner and acid? Can you use them every day? Are they too harsh for your skin? To demystify the category, we answer those questions and more below.
Whenever I get asked about what my favorite step in my skin care routine is, people are often surprised when I respond that it’s toning. It’s a step that I think gets overlooked far too often, and many people don’t know just how much a good toner can do for your skin. Toners help to hydrate and rebalance the skin, restore the skin to an ideal pH (usually around 5.5), and prepare your skin to receive the rest of your skin care. But, some toners go just a bit farther.
Enter acid toners. The name sounds a bit harsh, but acid toners are actually amazing for your skin. Typically the ingredients in toners are super gentle and simple, with the main goals being to soothe and hydrate. But for many skin types, acid toners are a major step up from regular toners. As the name suggests, they’re formulated with different AHAs and BHAs to achieve different goals, like refining skin texture or controlling sebum.
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Who should use an acid toner?
In general, you should look towards acid toners if you’re struggling with skin concerns that can be aided by exfoliation – think acne, excess oil, and uneven tone/texture. Acid toners help with these issues by providing a dose of exfoliating and skin perfecting chemical acids early in your routine. They are especially good for the winter months when you’re experiencing dry patches and/or flakes.
This, typically along with hydrating ingredients, ensures the rest of the products in your routine are absorbed better and more effectively for maximum results.
Acid toners are especially good for people who struggle with these issues but also have sensitive skin, as acid toners are usually less aggressive than other exfoliating products due to lower concentrations of the acids.
A great example of this is the Troiareuke Acsen TOC Toner. This toner is formulated specifically for people with acne-prone and sensitive skin, and contains a gentle dose of glycolic acid to help minimize the appearance of pores, even out skin tone, and regulate sebum production. However, it’s also formulated with centella asiatica and glycerin to soothe, calm, and hydrate skin.
If you’re looking for a stronger option, try The Plant Base Pore N Turn-Over 28 ABA Toner. This powerhouse product is formulated with lactic acid, citrus acid, malic acid, and salicylic acid – all adding up to a powerful dose of exfoliation. But, they’re all balanced out with resveratrol, glycerin, centella asiatica, and aloe extract to soothe and hydrate.
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For the breakout-prone, the Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner is a great option. It’s got salicylic acid to keep pores clean and clear, in addition to soothing and moisturizing aloe and snail mucin.
How often should you use an acid toner?
Typically, you shouldn’t exfoliate more than two to three times a week, however, because in acid toners the concentration of acids is on the low end, it’s safe to use them more frequently. That said, always keep an eye out for signs of over-exfoliation, and if you think your skin is getting irritated, reduce usage. It’s also important to note that you should never use an acid toner with other exfoliating products, as that will likely lead to irritation. So, on days you want to use a more aggressive exfoliating product, sub a gentle, hydrating toner in for your acid one.
Where do acid toners fit into your routine?
Just like regular toners, acid toners should be used directly after cleansing. While many toners can be applied either by hand or with a cotton pad, it’s best to apply your acid toner with a cotton pad. This way, you can sweep away dead skin cells and other debris which the toner may loosen up on your skin. I love the White Rabbit Plain Cotton Pads, because they’re made with 100% organic cotton and don’t pill on the skin and are super soft and gentle.
I personally have dry skin, so I also like to follow up my acid toner with another super hydrating toner – especially during the winter months. Layering with acid toners is totally okay, just make sure the other products you’re layering them with don’t also have acids. Additionally, if you’re using an acid toner, it’s especially important to end your morning routine with sunscreen, as the acids can make your skin more sensitive to sun damage.
Toning is already one of the most useful and crucial steps in one’s routine, and acid toning makes the step even more effective for many skin types. With regular use, you’ll not only get the hydrating and balancing benefits of regular toners, but also clearer skin, a more even skin tone, and reduced sebum production. All in all, they’re powerhouse products that are well worth incorporating into any routine.