The beauty product you should definitely be using.



I used toner when I was 15 and copying my best friend, Emma. Had no idea why. (Was a marshmallow or nettle or something-a-rather one, came in a small trio of skin care in mint-aqua plastic bottles… I want to say the brand was Blackmores, but that can’t be right, can it?)

I just did what she did. The fact that she had some spots and actually needed skin care, whereas I escaped teenage acne and had a face that was hungry for nothing more than Lip Smackers, was irrelevant. (Don’t worry – I got mine, giving myself a DIY undercut in Year 9 because it was trendy, but only getting as far as enormous, deep sideburns, which I shaved off with Dad’s razor. I was the joke of school for the rest of the year and they have never been the same since.)

Toners cop a bad wrap because they seem like a superfluous pain in the arse, what with all that cleansing and moisturising already going on… never mind the serums and peels and masks and primers and so on. But they are not a pain in the arse. They are useful and good for us – they can transform the skin of those with very dry or very oily skin – and it’s high time we realised this. (Again.)

Having personally just re-discovered their splendour, (I’m using a Boots brightening one I read about in Elle) after a few years off, and seeing a glowier complexion and better skin texture already, allow me to gently remind you of their benefits:

– They remove all the makeup and primer and sunscreen your cleanser missed. (Yes, even your fancy expensive, Norwegian whalesong and gold dust extract cleanser can miss stuff)

– They rebalance oily skins and reduce oil production

– The rebalance PH levels

– They clear out filthy, clogged pores (which lead to breakouts) and minimise their appearance

– They can serve a “serum-like” purpose, that is to say, they can assist with your pigmentation battle, or your wrinkles, or your minimise/prevent acne

– They hydrate the skin in a longlasting and sincere fashion

– They can calm and soothe skin suffering from redness

– They beautifully prepare the skin for your serum or/and moisturisier

– They help your makeup to sit better on the skin


And on top of new formulas and benefits, some modern toners come in spritzes that take less time to use than it takes to swoon over Joel Madden. This makes them excellent for swift birds or lazy birds, or birds who like to give their already face-creamed skin a boost of moisture right before foundation.

Allow a dame to help you navigate the toner maze?

For oily skin and those prone to breakouts: Go for an astringent, which are the more “traditional” toners, and can contain a whopping 60% alcohol, making them definitely unsuitable for dry-skinned dames. (Witch hazel and salicylic acid are also used and shouldn’t irritate.) Astringents will also clean out and tighten pores to stop breakouts and excess oil production. Try Mario Badescu Special Cucumber Lotion, Garnier Pure Pore Purifying Astringent or Biore Complexion Clearing Triple Action Toner.

For combination skin: You need something to balance it all out: keep the oil in check, add moisture to dry patches, and refresh and gently clean your skin. Try Origins United State Balancing Tonic (a cult favourite), it’s the perfect antidote to naughty, misbehavey, and complicated skin.

For ladies with pigmentation who wish they did not have pigmentation: Look for words like “whitening” and “brightening” and be sure to use sunscreen during the day. Try A’kin Hydro Essential Lavender Cellular Brightening Mist or Kiehl’s Clarifying Whitening Toner.

For ladies who want their “toner” to act as a cunning anti-aging tool and/or exfoliant as well: Go for one with AHAs, like Alpha-H’s Liquid Gold.

For those with dry skin: Choose one with no alcohol and no acids. Try Aesop’s bestselling Parsley Seed Antioxidant Facial Toner or Natio Ageless Rehydrating Toner.

For normal skins who want the hydrating and clarifying benefits: You don’t need the astringent stuff or the full on actives. Choose something simple but powerful, like SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence, or Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Mist, (which is great to use just before and after makeup.)

For sensitive skins: Go for one that is completely alcohol free, like Neutrogena Alcohol-Free Toner, or something with very pure and simple ingredients, like Dr Hauschka Facial Toner or Sodashi Rejuvenating Face Mist.

Zoe is an author, columnist and porridge fan. Her books include the beauty bible Amazing Face, dating and relationship guide Textbook Romance, and three novels, Air Kisses, Playing The Field and The Younger Man. Find more info on her here, or supervise on her daily procrastination here and here.

Please understand that Zoë cannot respond to ALL your questions – but never fear, there are readers that are bound to know the answers, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Do you use toner? Or did you give up at 15? Which one do you use? Why?