The Toner Conundrum : To Use Or Not To Use

Doesn’t the title of this post sound like a Robert Ludlum book? Like “The Bourne Identity”, “The Sigma Protocol”, “The Ostermann Weekend” et al.  Well, this topic might not be as interesting as his books, but it certainly a mystery for my skin that I need to “solve”.

Like I have mentioned before, I have never been much of a toner user. I did try a few over the years but I used them on and off, never regularly, because I simply never felt that they were important. Neither did I feel that they made any kind of difference to my skin. So why this conundrum now? Read on…
Clarins Toning Lotion with Iris

Till last december, I wasn’t a regular user of toners. Then I tried the Clarins Toning lotion with Iris (reviewed here) and really liked how fresh it made my skin feel. It also made my pores “appear” a bit smaller. Nice fragrance, cooling sensation and alcohol-free all made it my HG toner.

Then, on one of the skincare blogs I follow (a UK based skincare expert), I read how acid toners were really important that everyone should make them a part of their skincare routine. I also read hundreds of comments by other readers on how acid toners helped them in combatting their acne and in generally improving the look and feel of their skin.

Now, I never had to seriously battle acne as a teen. My acne troubles started once I stopped nursing my second son (hormonal fluctuations) and Lancome’s Visionnaire serum just added fat to the fire. To get my good skin back, I tried several products, including Vichy Normaderm (reviewed here and here) and while they all helped in fighting the acne, none could prevent fresh outbreaks. And we’re talking cystic acne here. The kind that left behind dark marks and deep scars.

Finally, after a lot of research (thank you google) on acid toners and reading reviews of P50, Alpha H and several other, much-raved about, HG acid toners, I decided to buy the Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner. There were two main reasons for choosing this one; just four ingredients and only 2% Glycolic Acid, making it the gentlest of the acid toners and hence a good one to start out with….

Mario Badescue Glycolic Acid Toner

Initially, I used this twice a day and my skin got angry and red because of over exfoliation (other products were responsible too) and I cut down to using this only in my night-time routine and the Clarins one in the morning routine.

My skin continued to behave erratically and the breakouts continued. Despite using the acid toner for 45 days, I didn’t see any reduction in the acne outbreaks nor major skin turnover to speed up the fading of the marks. And I kept thinking, “these things take time, be patient”.

Then, when I went on my holiday to Thailand, I didn’t take the MB Glycolic Toner with me since that makes the skin more sensitive to the sun. I took the Clarins toner but ended up not using it at all. Now, after just one month and ten days of being “Toner-free”, my skin is soooo much better! The acne breakouts have also reduced dramatically with me getting just two pimples around that time of the month. My skin, overall, looks and feels so much better now. And just to clarify, both these toners are alcohol-free.

This has really baffled me. So should I use toner or not? All the skincare experts and gurus extoll the virtues of the CTM – Cleansing-Toning-Moisturising – routine and they all say that toners are very important. Some of them also say that an acid toner is a must in the anti-acne and anti-aging routines. But my skin is better when I don’t use these. Common sense obviously, says that I should stay toner-free since my skin prefers it that way.

Moral of the story for all of you reading this blog? Don’t blindly believe what anyone recommends! Everyone’s skin is different and reacts in it’s own unique way to different products. What might have worked for someone, might not necessarily work for you. Proceed with caution.

And as they say, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” If you haven’t been using a toner and your skin is good, there’s no need to start using one just because you read a rave review online. Yes, even if it is on my blog. And I always advise readers to try out a little sample before buying. Ultimately, you need to understand and listen to what your skin is trying to tell you.

The Clarins and Mario Badescu toners are really good, gentle toners but perhaps, my skin just wants me to slather on fewer chemicals? My mom and hubby both keep telling me to cut down on the stuff I use on my face, and guess what, I cut down on toners and my skin has started improving. Co-incidence, perhaps.

So the answer to my conundrum….I’m laying off toners for a while and will see how it goes. Sorry for the rambling, but I hope it helps you in some way with your skincare routine.

Do you use toners? Do you feel your skin is better when you use them or when you don’t? Do let me know in the comments….

16 Replies to “The Toner Conundrum : To Use Or Not To Use”

  1. Seriously, if the rose water is working for you, then stick to it.

  2. the only toner I have used so far is rose water 😛 After reading so many blogs, I always feel like I have to try something more effective than rose water but your post is kinda an eye opener… and I was reading like ‘oh finally she got something to work on her acne’ but it was a nice twist in the end lol 😛

  3. The cucumber toner sounds good. But that wouldnt be an acid toner, I guess.

  4. Thanks for appreciating my blog Smita 🙂

    And yes, if your skin is behaving, why provoke it with unnecessary products…

  5. I am currently using Mario Badescu cucmber toner and quiet liking it, but again not so regular off late. Yes it does helps in minimizing open pores.

  6. Oh yea! Thanks for reminding me about that one Jhilmil. Ive used the Lancome Tonique Radiance a couple of years ago (bro got it from usa) & i loved it too.

  7. Jhilmil D Saha says: Reply

    Even I have the same love-hate relationship with toner. The best toner for me till date has been Lancome Tonique Eclat.

  8. I dont think it’s glycolic acid Megha, coz I have used a cream with glycolic acid in it earlier. Are you sure your breakouts weren’t just the skin “purging” itself of impurities?

  9. I used to be that way too Naomi. But if your skin doesn’t need a toner, then don’t bother using it regularly. Will follow you on GFC 🙂

  10. I haven’t tried ice cubes. Will give that a shot 🙂

  11. Same here. Let’s see how it goes for some time, then I can decide whether to restart using toners or not.

  12. Haha…that is really nice. Actually, I felt that the toners were making my skin better but after stopping them, my skin feels waaay nicer.

  13. Meghamadhulika says: Reply

    Hi Dollie, i guess we are on the same stage…skinwise too. as i am also prone to cystic acne. but in this case i guess the culprit is Glycolic acid. although it has several recommendations to its share but then again it depends on ‘your skin’. i too had tried glycolic acid facial last sunday and oh boy…had several fresh break outs next day. but rather panicking i waited them to settle on their own and they did but the problem is with scars they leave behind. i do use toner but a mild one from Himalaya and its good.

  14. Naomi Ganzu says: Reply

    I don’t use toners myself on a regular basis!
    I wonder why but it slips out of my mind :/
    Followed you via GFC Dollie 🙂
    Do add me back too!

  15. Beauty Frontline says: Reply

    I don’t use toners.. I use ice cubes instead… Toners make my skin bit shiny and dull 🙁

  16. Pooja Mittal says: Reply

    Well sweets, I have really oily acne pro r skin. A few years back I was recommend to use to toner , and I thought not using the toner might be the cause of acne and I got one. A really mild one
    But a few weeks of using it I realised all my skin need it so pice and I need to leave it alone
    Since then I have never used a toner, sometime I make a DIY one and use it
    Keep in touch

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