Beauty Q&A: Is there a Difference Between Toner and Astringent?

By: Marisa Petrarca | by L'Oréal
Beauty Q&A: Is there a Difference Between Toner and Astringent?

There are certain skincare staples we’ve been using for as long we can remember: cleanser, body wash and face moisturizer, just to name a few. But toner and astringent? While you’ve probably heard of both of these products, you might not be able to explain how they differ, or if they even differ at all. We enlisted the help of two skin care experts to talk more about toners and astringents — and to help us figure out which one is right for you.

How are toner and astringent different?

According to the experts, toner and astringent are formulated very differently and therefore serve completely different purposes. “The main differentiator between an astringent and toner is the ingredients,” says Dr. Adam Friedman, associate professor of dermatology at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in New York.  “Toners often contain glycerin and some form of glycol, which both draw water into the skin and help soothe and buffer its pH levels.”

Los Angeles–based estheticianStacy Cox refers to toner as a preparatory agent. “Toner primes the skin for moisturizers and serums,” she explains. “It allows for these solutions to penetrate deeper into your skin, helps hydrate the skin and removes any excess dirt or grime that wasn’t cleaned off by your facial cleanser.”

Astringents on the other hand, are much more potent, alcohol-based and designed to remove excess oil from the skin, adds Dr. Friedman. Because of this, they have a tendency to dry out your complexion. “Astringents reduce the acid mantle in your skin as well as the pH balance,” says Cox. “You can’t ‘oversdose’ on toner, but you can definitely ‘overdose’ on astringent.”

Which one is right for you?

“Toner covers most skin types and basically works for everybody,” says Cox. In fact, there’s a variety of toners out there that address specific skin types. Toners can target everything from aging, dark spots, acne, oil, dryness and even sensitivity and irritability. An example of a toner that’s meant to hydrate dry skin is Lancôme Tonique Confort Comforting Rehydrating Toner. With nearly five star reviews across the board, its formula — made with Honey and Sweet Almond Extract — will leave your skin feeling soft and clean.


Astringents have more of a one-track mind and mainly treat oily, acneic complexions. Even then, Dr. Friedman advises proceeding with caution when using these super-potent formulas. A formula we know we can rely on is Kiehl’s Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion because it contains witch hazel that kills pore-clogging bacteria in one shot. According to Kiehl’s, this specific astringent was originally created for just those with acne-prone skin, but those with oily skin can use it in place of their everyday toner.


The Verdict

The short answer is that toner is ideal for all skin types, as it comes in a variety of different formulas meant to target different skin concerns, while astringent is generally just used to target acneic and oily skin.

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