Beauty Q&A: What’s the Difference Between Toners and Astringents?

September 08, 2020
Marisa Petrarca
By: Marisa Petrarca | by L'Oréal
There are certain skin-care staples we’ve been using for as long we can remember, like cleanser, sunscreen and face moisturizerToners and astringents are a newer discovery. While you’ve probably heard of both of these products and may even use one of them in your everyday skin-care routine, it can be confusing to tell the difference between the two. To learn more about toners and astringents, including how to figure out which one is right for you, we consulted with skin-care experts. Check out their advice, ahead.

What is a toner and an astringent?

According to the experts, toner and astringent are formulated very differently and 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 to help soothe and buffer its pH levels.”

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

Which one is right for you?

“Toner covers most skin types and basically works for everybody,” says Cox. In fact, there are a variety of toners out there that address specific skin concerns. Toners can target everything from aging, dark spots, acne, dryness and even sensitivity. An example of a toner that’s formulated to hydrate dry skin is the Lancôme Tonique Confort Comforting Rehydrating Toner. With nearly five star reviews across the board, its formula — made with honey and sweet almond extract — will give your dry skin the hydration it’s looking for while leaving it feeling soft and clean.

Astringents are mainly used to treat oily and acne-prone skin. Dr. Friedman advises proceeding with caution when using these formulas. A formula we know we can rely on is the Kiehl’s Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion because it contains witch hazel that kills pore-clogging bacteria. 
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