Toner has long gotten a bad rap as an unnecessary step that leaves skin parched and overstripped — but that's far from the case these days. Now, it's all about hydrating toners that actually add moisture to the skin while balancing the complexion.
They're especially popular in Asian countries such as Korea and Japan. And as Christine Chang, co-CEO and co-founder of Korean skin care destination Glow Recipe, explains, hydrating toners (often referred to "softeners") typically make up "the first leave-on step of hydration after cleansing." In terms of function, she notes that they're quite different than the traditional American concept of face toner — they're not typically used to cleanse (what with the advent of double-cleansing) and are "instead used to infuse the skin quickly and efficiently with liquid hydration, plumping it up for the next skin care steps to be effectively absorbed."
So, what's the best way to add toners to your routine? Well, they're perfect for giving the buzzy 7-skin method a try. "Our favorite way to incorporate a hydrating toner is actually by practicing the 7-skin method, a method we had heard about from our editor friends and beauty gurus in Korea," says fellow Glow Recipe co-CEO and co-founder Sarah Lee. "It's where you put on a layer of hydrating toner 7 consecutive times."
7 layers sound like overkill? "You can also adapt this method for days you don't need as much hydration and alternate by using a 3-skin method, layering just three layers," adds Lee.
No matter how you choose to wear them, we're full-on toner converts now — and we can't imagine our skin care routine without them. Keep reading for 15 of our faves, from K-beauty and Western brands alike.
Image via Imaxtree
Belif Aqua Bomb Mist, $34
Though this mist's main purpose in life is to refresh your complexion throughout the day, it's also designed to help balance your pH — which means you can use it as a toner. The mist is fine and adds a subtle glow to your complexion while giving your hydration levels a boost.
Whamisa Organic Flowers Deep Rich Essence Toner, $40
Lee name-checked this popular toner as a 7-skin method favorite and it's easy to see why: With a slightly viscous texture and a delicate floral aroma, it's quite the treat for the senses. Plus, it absorbs right away, plumping up your skin without leaving any residual stickiness.
Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner, $44
This gentle hydrating toner adds an extra cleansing step to your routine while also moisturizing (thanks to ingredients like rose flower oil, glycerin and hyaluronic acid). And though not exactly picturesque, the floating rose petals add a luxurious touch.
Leegeehaam Grow Hyal B5 Toner, $30
With a crystal clear appearance and a near-scentless formula, this toner is almost like water — and just as refreshing. It has a light gel texture and a convenient pump, and thanks to humectants like hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5, it really helps add a little extra bounce to your complexion. Botanical ingredients like centella asiatica extract also ensure that it's soothing and calming.