Beauty Chat: Do You Really Need Toner?

Here are the three toners i tried, in least favorite to favorite order.

Today we’re tackling a rather popular beauty question.

Do you really need a toner?

I get asked this one a lot.

Honestly, if you asked me this two months ago I would say no… unless you have really oily skin. The advice I’d always been given was that if you wash your face well enough, you don’t need it – especially if your skin is on the drier side. (Mine is.)

I’ve recently changed my position here.

In early November I went and had a facial at Christine Chin (I got a lot of questions about this, I saw Coco and loved her). It was the most violent (in a good way?) facial I’d ever had. If you follow my stories on instagram you probably remember what I looked like after. The extractions were… intense… and my skin was red for a full 36 hours but afterward, I glowed and had NO PORES. Worth it and easily the best facial I’ve ever had. Painful extractions aside, the questioning I received was also a little intense! Coco grilled me after extracting the small bumps on my left cheek. “You use a toner!?!” I lied and told her I did. She called me out on my lies. Yes, I’m serious guys, she called me out.

In my head though I was all…

Toner!? Seriously? That’s what she’s asking me about? I do it all. Masks! Regular exfoliation! Vitamin C! Retinol! Why do I need a g*ddamn toner!?” I waited for the inevitable sales pitch that usually follows these sorts of conversations. It didn’t come. There was no special Christine Chin toner she wanted me to buy, this was not a sales pitch. She just wanted me to use toner, explaining that a) it would help with the bumps on my cheeks by removing those dead skin cells that get stuck and b) it would help my serum + moisturizer to penetrate deeper.

So, I committed to adding a toner to my already extensive skincare routine. My facial was about 6 weeks ago and I’ve been testing out (a few different) toners ever since. Honestly guys, I noticed a pretty big difference. No more bumps on my cheeks and the pores on my nose haven’t been getting as clogged (They still get clogged but I have one of those noses that just needs a Biore strip once a week. Those pores just get clogged so easily, no matter what I do.

Here are the three toners i tried, in least favorite to favorite order.

one // Herbivore Green Tea Toner.

Okay I really like Herbivore as a brand but this toner didn’t do a thing, except feel nice and cooling on my skin. It’s a spray so I would saturate a cotton ball and wipe all over my face. Nada. It felt good? For $39, we can do better.

two // Tracie Martyn Toner.

I really like this one – I’ve featured it here before.  It’s ultra soothing and great for calming redness. Lady Gaga is a fan and it smells like a lavender cloud.

three // Acwell Toner.

Okay this is my favorite (and for once in my life also the biggest bottle + least expensive option so hooray!) It might be my favorite mostly because every time I use it, I can see the dead skin cells it takes off on the cotton ball. I need a visual reward and I don’t get that with the Tracie Martyn or the Herbivore. Even after a good solid double cleanse, it still takes off additional dirt and dead skin cells. I’ve been using this for a solid three weeks and really love it.

My skin is dry and slightly sensitive. It definitely gets red but redness is only situational (it gets red when too cold, or irritated, but easily calms down once back to normal). I would absolutely, wholeheartedly recommend the Acwell Toner, or the Tracie Martyn if your skin is really sensitive. Or if you want to be a fancy lady like me, get them both and use the Acwell most of the time and the Tracie Martyn when you want something more gentle. Or for something more wallet friendly, plain old witch hazel is also awesome. I’ve noticed a big difference in the texture of my skin and can’t wait to go back to see Coco to see if she notices too. She probably won’t (the salon’s hashtag is #meanchristine for a reason but I’m into it!!)

Here are the three toners i tried, in least favorite to favorite order.

Photography by Carter Fish.

Leave a Comment


  1. Brianna Rooney says 12.11.18

    My derm really talked up a toner as well (I feel our skin is super similar!) and it was great even for getting the Hyaluronic acid serum to really soak in to help hydrate my face. I got a sample of the PCA Skin one (new to me brand) and it smelled like pumpkin and is quite lovely!

    Also, preach on the once a week pore strips for my nose, it’s insanity!

    • grace at the stripe says 12.11.18

      I keep hearing such good things about PCA (Helena from Brooklyn Blonde is a big fan and her skincare recs are always spot on.) Must try!!!

      And Biore strips are liiiiife!!! haha!

  2. michelle says 12.11.18

    I thought P50 (which I think you use) was a toner – is that not true?

    • Laura says 12.11.18

      Same question, I thought P50 was a toner?

    • grace at the stripe says 12.11.18

      I don’t consider P50 a toner – I love it, but consider it an acid, not a toner! I use toner morning and night whereas P50 I would apply after toner, before serum, and only at bedtime.

      But everyone’s skin is different!

      • Laura says 12.12.18

        That helps, thanks!

  3. kim says 12.11.18

    i felt like i didn’t need it too (i have combination-to-oily skin), but after going to a talk at credo beauty earlier this year, i starting using the herbivore jasmine one & it has really helped with oil control, breakouts, and texture. i do 5-6 sprays (so my face feels damp) and let it set in before doing the serum/moisturizer. they said the jasmine is for combo skin, and the rose hibiscus one was more hydrating (so i would assume for dry/sensitive skin) if that makes a difference.

    • grace at the stripe says 12.11.18

      Awesome! I personally didn’t love the Herbivore one but just goes to show how different everyone’s skin is and that what works for one person may not work for another and so on and so forth!

  4. Diana Pearl says 12.11.18

    I have super oily skin (ugh) so toner is everything to me. Def want to try Acwell now! I also love P50 which I think is a toner? That stuff is magic, it has completely changed my skin for the better.

    • grace at the stripe says 12.11.18

      Ooh give Acwell a try!

      I don’t consider P50 a toner – I love it, but consider it more of an acid! I use toner morning and night whereas P50 I would apply after toner, before serum, and only at bedtime.

      But everyone’s skin is different!

  5. Jess says 12.11.18

    I have a question for the pores on the nose! Do you actually use biore strips and do you recommend them? Thanks!

    • grace at the stripe says 12.11.18

      Yes I do – I love them and use once a week. Sorry if that was not clear from my post!

  6. Kristin says 12.11.18

    I agree! I was breaking out this summer and started using toner and it defiantly got rid of my hormonal acne! So far I really like the Indie Lee toner and the Arcona pads are so convenient but run out faster.

    • grace at the stripe says 12.11.18

      I like the Indie Lee one too! Forgot to include but got a sample from Follain and love it!!!! Her new purifying face wash is fantastic BTW!

  7. Jillian says 12.11.18

    such a good post…. lol idk why I always just “ignore” the existence of toner and what the wonders it can be doing to my skin!! Gotta order some asap.

    • grace at the stripe says 12.12.18

      Yeah, my attitude toward toner has totally changed! I think it’s very useful!

  8. Oooh, this is so interesting! I never used toner before and my skin was squeaky healthy and clean, but I decided to start using it a month ago anyway… so far I haven’t felt any real difference to my skin and only use it when I remember to now, hahah!

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  9. Leah says 12.12.18

    For a long time I thought toner was unnecessary too! Then I read a blog post by Renee Rouleau (I love all her products I’ve tried) about how your skin starts to dry out immediately after you wash it, but if you use toner, it helps your skin to retain moisture and then helps the rest of your products absorb better. Or at least that’s the summary that I remember. I now use her toners!

  10. Erin says 12.12.18

    Thanks so much for all this info! Does the Acwell smell like black licorice or anise?

  11. Paige says 12.13.18

    Hi Grace!! Love this post-I remember reading an article about K beauty a few years ago and they said toner and essences were the most important steps to a skincare routine. I use SK-II and also P50- SK-II in the morning and P50 at night. Do you consider SK-II to be a toner? I am always worried of using an additional layer before it because I don’t want to cause a reaction but SK-II is an essence so technically different. Curious to see if you use a combination of these and in what order!

  12. joanna // jojotastic says 12.14.18

    So funny! I was just wondering this myself. I actually love the Herbivore toner but it took me a long time to figure it out that it helped keep my acne at bay. I had run out and was like ‘this doesn’t do anything!’ then I got really bad cystic acne all over my chin, just like before I started using it. Now I swear by it. Go figure 😉

  13. Kate M. says 3.1.19

    Thank you! I’ve never used toner, but maybe I’ll give it a try. Do you use toner even on night’s that you’re using your Dr. Bader moisturizer?

    • Yes! Toner is seen as the last step of the cleansing process so it’s a good idea to use it (it also helps moisturizer + serums to better absorb!)

  14. Tabitha says 8.22.20

    I have been a toner addict for my entire adult life – my face never felt right if I skipped this step! When I switched to clean skincare a few years ago, there were hardly any toners available, but I found a holy grail in Dr. Roebucks Lifesaver. It has super clean ingredients, is so effective, and great for sensitive skin. It’s almost always out of stock so I buy 5 bottles at a time just to never run out!