Toners are one of the most under-appreciated and misunderstood beauty products so, let me clear up the confusion and enlighten you about these magnificent products!
Your skin has an acid mantle which is a thin film on the surface of the skin that is made up of water, various acids, sebum, and amino acids all of which prevent the environmental pollution and bacteria from entering the pores. The acid mantle has a pH of 5.5 which is ideal for enzyme function but also prevent pathogenic bacteria from thriving since they prefer alkaline (pH>7) environments. However, several factors such as diet, products, and exercise habits may leave the acid mantle unbalanced.
After the skin has been cleansed, the skin is usually alkaline since the soap may be too harsh. The high concentration of hydronium ions decreases as the hydroxides neutralize them. Below we see a soap molecule. The hydrophobic group binds to the oil particle and the hydrophilic group binds to the water molecules allowing for this compound to slide right off the skin. In the hydrophilic group, the O- can take a H+, illustrating how the soap molecule acts as a base (proton acceptor). Strong soaps can strip the skin of too much oil and acid leaving the skin dry and basic.
Toners restore and balance the pH after the skin is cleansed. A common ingredient in toners is ceramide which is a lipid. It contains a fatty acid tail which allows for the decrease in pH. Toners also have several amazing ingredients that hydrates, calms and smoothes the skin but they differ from product to product. Therefore, the idea of toners may seem daunting in that there are a variety of products that may affect oily, dry and combination skin differently.
What happens if I do not use a toner? Your skin will automatically secrete oil and other necessary substances to rebalance the pH and restore the acid mantle within a few hours. So, toners are not a necessary step that you must add to the routine but there are several advantages in investing in one. It can remove the excess oil and dead skin cells that the cleanser may have missed and help other products that you use subsequently to penetrate the skin more rapidly since toners also reduce the surface tension of the mantle. Now, you can decide if it is in your best interest to use one!