Incorporating a toner into your daily skincare routine is essential, yet even I can admit that up until recently — I hadn’t done it in years. Tsk tsk, as a beauty editor I should  have known better. Here’s why toner is crucial and why I regret leaving it out of my beauty regimen for the last ten years.

Does anyone else remember the rise of  SeaBreeze astringent back in the early aughts? For some reason, I never went a day without applying it to my face and cursing myself for all the painful burning that ensued. What exactly did I think I was accomplishing? I’m going to assume I thought it was some magical cure for acne. No such luck, Little Ani. As much as those bottles promised to remove trapped oil, dirt, and makeup — I’m pretty sure they were just damaging the hell out of my skin and making it so much worse.

Sure, Seabreeze is an astringent, but it’s definitely the reason I’ve been hesitant to incorporate the use of a toner into my beauty routine. Just remembering the way it smelled and the pain it caused as it destroyed my pores was enough to make me run the other way from any product I had to apply with a cotton ball directly after cleansing. That being said, it had been quite awhile since those days so I figured perhaps it was time for me to slow my roll, back up, and take another look at the benefits of toner and what it can do for me in adulthood. Because of course there must be benefits. You know, when it’s used properly and made out of high-quality ingredients that are actually effective.

When a friend told me about DDF’S Glycolic Toning Complex I was intrigued because, as regular readers of this site may know, I am obsessed with glycolic acid. Plus, any product that increases cell turnover, refines skin’s texture, and minimizes the look of pores and fine lines has a special place in my heart and on my face.

DDF Skincare was founded in 1991 by Dr.Howard Sobel, one of New York’s premier cosmetic dermatologic surgeons and the current Attending Dermatologist  and Dermatologic Surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital. With those credentials, I figured he wouldn’t steer me in the wrong direction so I started using DDF’s Glycolic Toning Complex every day after cleansing my skin.

DDF glycolic toner

DDF Skincare Glycolic Toning Complex, $43

After about a week, I was pleased to see that my pores had become visibly smaller and that my skin looked even, toned and wrinkle-free. I also couldn’t help but notice that my complexion looked great. Clearly the mistakes I had made with Seabreeze during my youth had led me astray. Only now did I realize I had been missing out on the magical benefits of toner all this time. Would I even need Botox  today had I been using toner for the last 10 years? Who knows, I was also kind of dumb when I was younger when it came to applying sunscreen. Would my pores have scored better than a sad, pathetic 8% on my recent Visia Complexion Analysis? Absolutely.

Since bringing toner into my routine, I’ve also noticed that all of my other favorite products have been much more effective. It has also made my face the perfect canvas, allowing my makeup to glide on like a dream and look smooth all day.

Hindsight, man. Hindsight.

To explore the topic of toner further, I got in touch with Dr.Sobel to understand the difference between astringent and toner. I also wanted to know about all those sweet benefits I had been missing out on all these years. Check out our conversation below.

What’s the difference between toner and astringent?

Dr. Sobel:toner is a water-based solution that uses humectants to keep the moisture in the upper layers of the skin to prevent skin dehydration. It is considered to be an important part of a home skincare regimen.

 An astringent is a water-based solution that is meant to shrink or constrict the skin when applied directly. It is a stronger form of toner and is usually formulated with SD Alcohol or Denatured Alcohol which can potentially irritate those with sensitive skin.

Why is toning essential to your everyday skincare routine?

Dr. Sobel: Toning is an important second step to cleansing that completes the process, yet many people choose to leave this step out. A good toner will remove any remaining bits of oil, dirt and debris left behind by the cleanser. More importantly and depending on the purpose and skin issue that it is helping to alleviate (to soothe, exfoliate, etc) a toner will help nourish and hydrate the skin while restoring its delicate pH balance. This ensures that skin conditions such as Folliculitis, or the inflammation of hair follicles that can lead to acne if left untreated, are avoided.

Should this be done once or twice a day?

Dr. Sobel: I recommend toning twice a day using a gentle, alcohol-free toner and once a day using a toner containing actives and chemicals such as Glycolic and Lactic acids, as these can leave skin sensitive, cause photosensitivity and if SPF is not worn after using this type of toner, it can cause skin to be very sensitive to the sun.

What benefits are you missing out on if you don’t use a toner?

Dr. Sobel: Using a toner is a beneficial and important step in the cleansing process. Depending on the type of toner that is being used, it can help in everything from exfoliation to hydration. Additionally, not cleansing the skin properly can cause other skincare products such as serums and creams to not effectively penetrate the pores if they are clogged with debris and oils.

Tell us about your DDF Glycolic Acid 5% toner. What can people expect it to do?

Dr. Sobel: The Glycolic 5% Toning Complex is formulated with glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid known to help increase surface cellular turnover. It not only promotes clarity and immediately revitalizes skin’s appearance but it also minimizes the appearance of wrinkle lines, refines skin texture and decreases the look of pore size.

What is glycolic acid?

Dr. Sobel: Glycolic acid is part of the group of active compounds known as AHA’s (alpha hydroxy acids). Derived from cane sugar, it is able to penetrate skin deeply, making it highly effective for treating fine lines, acne, blackheads, dullness, oiliness and much more.

What skin type is it best for? Is there anyone who should not use it?

Dr. Sobel: Anyone can use Glycolic Acid, as there are varying percentages of strength on the market right now. My 5% Toning Complex uses one of the highest found OTC (over the counter, without a prescription) and is highly efficient at producing clinical results in the comfort of your home.

For more expert advice and information on our favorite products head over to our Beauty section. 


One Response

  1. Cynthia Knisely

    I have never used a toner before. After reading your article, I will start using one.


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