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Want Better Skin? Skip the Toner

It’s time to unseat toner from the pantheon of essential skincare products. For years, we’ve all dutifully bought and used toner, operating under the misapprehension that it’s necessary to remove excess dirt and oil from skin and “refine” pores. Not so. Toner is an expensive and excessive step in your skincare regimen that may actually do more harm than good.

Why You Bought It
Someone—a beauty editor, a friend, the woman behind the cosmetics counter—told you that toner was important to get all that gunk off your face and shrink your craterlike pores. If your experience was similar to mine, she probably made you feel like the oil on your skin could fill a Crisco tub, telling you that you needed to get clean, clean, clean now! So you shelled out $30 to $50 for a bottle of toner and rushed home to get “freshened” and “refined” and “clarified,” only to end up with dry, irritated skin a few days later.

Why You Should Toss It
Finally, the truth about toner emerges. Beauty editors and makeup artists are starting to break ranks and confess: “Today most dermatologists agree toner isn’t necessary” (InStyle); “Skip the toner” (Allure); and “Toners are truly optional” (Bobbi Brown).

Not only is toner a needless expense and waste of space in your bathroom, most products contain alcohol, which is harsh and drying to skin. If you’re thinking, Okay, alcohol is drying, but I could pretty much fry onion rings in one of my pores right now, so maybe I seriously need some of that, think again. Alcohol can actually increase your skin’s oil production by drying it out, causing your glands to overproduce from lack of moisture. Alcohol-based toners are actually a bad idea for every skin type.

What to Reach For Instead
Any product that promises to remove “impurities” or “toxins” from your skin, “refine” your pores, or maintain an “optimal pH balance” is lying to you to get your money. Your skin is a complex organ; it does a very good job of cleaning and balancing itself. But if you still think you need something besides your usual cleanser to remove makeup or excess oil, try a natural, non–alcohol based toner like aloe vera, apple cider vinegar, rooibos tea extract, or tea tree oil. All of these have astringent, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties but don’t dry skin.

Lose the Toner, Keep Your Money
Pay out the nose for something that might actually make your skin worse? Bad deal! Skip the toner and buy yourself something pretty (to match your gorgeous skin) instead.

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