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  5. Toners And Astringents: What’s The Difference & Which One Should You Use?

By now, most of you must have included a toner or astringent in your skincare routine. Thanks to the hype around them across the beauty industry. Oily skin people, you must have especially been advised to use a toner or an astringent by experts. But, do you often wonder what the difference between them is?

Well, it’s possible that you may be using the wrong product among the two as each has its own functions for different skin types. Let’s find out what they are, to ensure you make the right purchase decision henceforth.

What Is A Toner?

A toner is essentially used to clean any remnants of make-up or cleansers left on your skin after you have washed your face. It is usually a water-based product with ingredients like humectants [1] and glycerine that help to hydrate the skin and are suitable for dry or sensitive skin.

Natural toners may contain floral and herbal extracts and are chemical-free. Others are known to include antioxidants and anti-ageing elements such as nicotinic acid or niacinamide [2]. All these factors combined make a toner more effective. Besides cleansing, it can smoothen the skin, and make it softer.

What Is An Astringent?

Astringents perform the same function as toners -- that of cleaning remnants of make-up and cleansers. They are also water based. But, astringents are also effective in removing excess oil from the skin due to their composition and are suited for oily and acne-prone skin.

Astringents usually contain ingredients like salicylic acid and alcohol. These ingredients help in reducing pimples and blackheads. Astringents can be alcohol free too, but those are milder than the ones that contain alcohol. Both help in removing excess oil from the skin.

How To Use A Toner/Astringent?

There are similarities in the way both these products can be used. These are listed below:

  • You should use an astringent or a toner only after cleansing your skin and before you use any moisturiser.
  • Pour some astringent or toner on a cotton ball and apply all over your face and neck. If using an astringent, avoid the eyes and under-eye part of your face.
  • Do not wash off after applying and let it dry on your skin as both products are meant to be left on the skin.
  • If your toner is in a spritzer, then spray like a mist on your face and leave on.
  • You can apply your moisturiser even if your skin is slightly damp from the toner or astringent.
  • All other skincare products such as anti-acne treatments or topical retinoid creams, sunscreen, under-eye gels or creams, and any anti-ageing serums should only be applied after the skin is completely dry.

Difference Between A Toner And An Astringent




  • Water-based
  • Milder than astringents
  • Often have floral infusions and herbal extracts
  • Natural ingredients like aloe vera extract, rose water and chamomile are used
  • Ideal for sensitive skin
  • Good for dry and sensitive skin due to their hydrating effects
  • Alcohol or chemical-based
  • Stronger than toners
  • Can contain alcohol-based products
  • Witch hazel and salicylic acid are used
  • Ideal for oily, normal skin which is not sensitive to products
  • Not good for dry skin as the alcohol can dry the skin further

Are Toners and Astringents Necessary?

Actually, no. Toners and astringents are not products that fall into the ‘must-use’ category. In today’s times, toners and astringents are meant for those who use concealers and foundation often. Whether toners and astringents work and their effectiveness have not been proved yet.

You might have heard of the cleansing, toning and moisturising routine, but that was for when face cleansing options were limited to a bath soap or a cream. Both these products left a residue on the skin. Astringents and toners were invented to remove this residue.

Which One Is Right For You?

If you must use a toner, it can be confusing to choose the right one for your skin type. Remember to look for the ingredients and keep your skin type in mind. We have listed some of the pointers and ingredients you need to look for:

1. Oily Skin

Use an astringent that will remove excess oil from the surface of your skin. It should contain isopropyl alcohol [3] or rubbing alcohol. Witch hazel and green tea may be used in astringents with a natural base. Some even contain salicylic acid. But if it dries out your skin, change the brand.

2. Dry Skin

If you have dry skin, opt for a toner with humectants (ingredients which attract water molecules) that hydrate the skin. Your toner may include ingredients like aloe, hyaluronic acid [4], glycerine [5], propylene glycol [6], sodium lactate [7], butylene glycol [8], rose water, or chamomile and other floral and herbal extracts.

3. Acne-Prone Skin

If your skin is prone to acne, the astringent you use won’t cure acne. But, it can substantially help remove excess dirt and oil from the skin and the pores that are the cause of acne. It should contain glycolic or salicylic acid that help fight acne.

4. Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin, opt for a toner instead of an astringent. But, if your skin is sensitive and on the oily side, you can use an alcohol-free astringent. For sensitive skin, the toner should not contain strong fragrances, artificial colours, alcohol, sodium lauryl sulphate [9] or menthol.

5. Normal Skin/Combination Skin

If your skin is normal or you have combination skin where your T-zone is oily and the rest of it is normal, choose a toner and a mild astringent. Use the astringent only on the oily t-zone area.

Can You Use Both (Toner And Astringent)?

Using both is not recommended for all skin types as they can cause excessive dryness. However, there are some circumstances where you can use both. They are listed below:

  • If you have very oily skin, you can use a toner and a moisturiser.
  • If your job entails using cosmetics like foundation and concealers and eye-shadows, you may use an astringent in the morning so your skin has a matte look before you wear make-up. You can apply toner at night to remove the make-up and moisturise your skin.
  • If your skin is dry or sensitive, then you should avoid using both together.
  • You can even use toners and astringents depending on the weather where you live. If your place has hot and humid summers and your skin becomes oily and sweaty, you can use an astringent in summer. And, if it gets dry due to a cold and dry winter, you can use a toner in winter.

Pro Tips For Right Usage Of Toners & Astringents

  • Cucumbers are natural astringents. Just rub a slice all over your face to remove any residues of soap or make-up.
  • Applying a solution of lemon juice and water can work as a natural astringent.
  • If you have acne-prone skin, and you are using a dermatologist recommended anti-acne cream, you don’t need to use an astringent. A mild toner is a better option.
  • Alcohol that is used in astringents can cause a tingling feeling on application. If the feeling irritates or your skin becomes dry after applying, use a toner or an alcohol-free astringent instead.
  • If a toner or an astringent used causes a reaction like redness or tightening of the skin, change your product or stop using it.
  • Humectants used in toners pull water from the lower layers of the skin to the top layer and increase the moisture on the surface.

Wrapping Up

Toners and astringents are different products and cannot be used indiscriminately. If you use the wrong product for your skin type, there are chances of skin damage, irritation and inflammation. Thus, it is important to know what goes into them and which one is right for your skin.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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