How To Apply Toner the Right Way for Beautiful Skin

Toner is one of the most helpful skincare products overall, but many folks accidentally misuse toner because they consider it the same thing as cleanser.

Although the two skincare products do have some similarities, toner is not the same thing as cleanser – it requires a different application routine and takes up a different spot in a holistic skincare sequence.

So, just how can you apply toner the right way and get the beautiful skin you’ve always dreamed of?

Read on as we explain both how to apply toner, where and when to apply toner, and how to ensure toner gives you the best effects.

Step 1 – Wash Your Face

Firstly, you need to wash your face before using any skincare product, including cleansers or moisturizers. Washing your face gets rid of surface-level dirt and debris, along with a certain amount of dead skin cells.

Your skincare products, especially serums and moisturizers, won't penetrate the pores and give your skin cells what they need to thrive otherwise. That’s why it’s important to wash your face twice — once in the morning and the evening. Ideally, your face washing will coincide with your skincare routines, so it all gets done around the same time.

When you wash your face, be sure to do so with warm water rather than scalding hot water. Hot water can irritate your skin’s pores and can even cause sensitive blood vessels to burst.

Only after you wash your face should you apply a cleanser product. A cleanser is a relatively gentle cleaning product that gets rid of the top level of dirt and debris that regular water doesn’t remove.

Every skincare routine, including those routines that include exfoliators, should use cleansers at the start. Many cleansers will also include prepping agents or ingredients that get your skin ready for the more intense cleaning agents included in most toners.

Step 2 – Apply Toner With Fingers or Cotton Pads

Next, apply your chosen toner using either your fingers or cotton pads. Most toners don’t require a lot of formula to be used to be effective; one or two spritzes or squirts of the bottle should be enough.

The key thing is to apply the toner correctly to do this:

  • Only use a small amount of toner on your face. For example, a dime-sized amount of toner on the fingertip is enough for many people.
  • Rub the toner into your skin using small, concentric circles. Many people prefer using their fingers because they have more control over the pressure and direction of the toner application this way.
  • However, small and soft cotton pads could also be pleasant for your skin or allow you to spread toner around more effectively. Either way can work, but be sure not to rub the toner into your face too hard. That’ll irritate your skin cells and could cause your pores to close up.

As the toner penetrates your skin’s pores, it will cleanse them even more deeply and scrape out extra oil or debris. This leaves your pores even cleaner than before and ready for a serum or moisturizer.

Many toners include prepping ingredients like cleansers. These can brighten your skin or pre-moisturize it to receive serum ingredients more effectively.

Optional – Dab Test New Toner

If you’re using a new toner product that you haven’t tried before, we recommend doing the dab test. In a nutshell, the dab test just means applying a small dot of the toner on your skin, preferably around your cheek or nose.

The dab test lets you make sure the toner product isn’t an allergen for your skin. Lots of modern toners are comprised of a variety of ingredients, some natural and some chemical.

Just like you need to make sure an adult multivitamin gummy is safe before eating it, you need to make sure a new toner is safe, too!

Regardless, it’s in your best interest to test any new toner product before spreading it all around your face.

If you are allergic to a toner ingredient, but you don’t do the dab test, you’ll likely end up with red and irritated skin for hours to come. If the dab test doesn’t have any results, you can go ahead and use the toner for your skincare routine.

Step 3 – Apply a Face Serum or Moisturizer (or Both)

Every complete skincare routine means finishing things with a serum or moisturizer. Serums have extra vitamins and nutrients for your skin cells to help them regenerate or maintain your skin’s youthful appearance.

A moisturizer, meanwhile, provides your skin with extra hydration and seals in existing moisture, so your skin cells don't dry out.

This is doubly important after applying toner. Many toner products may include astringents or other harsh ingredients that can dry out your skin if you don’t use a moisturizer at the end of your routine.

When Should You Apply Toner?

The best time to apply toner is between your cleanser and serum or moisturizer. You should also apply toner at the beginning and end of each day. If you have sensitive or overly dry skin, your dermatologist may recommend only applying toner once daily rather than twice.

In any event, watch your skin for reactions, and don't apply toner if it feels too dry or irritated. Applying toner if your skin is dry can exacerbate that effect rather than help things.

If your skin is inflamed in a pinch, a cleanser will work well enough for a basic skincare routine.

Some folks may also find it beneficial to avoid applying toner on days when they use an exfoliating product, like a chemical or physical exfoliant. Exfoliating your skin involves scraping away even more dead skin cells than usual. This promotes blood flow to your skin cells and opens up your pores for more nutrients or hydration.

But if you have sensitive skin, exfoliation can also be irritating. Since you should only exfoliate once or twice per week at maximum, feel free to skip applying toner on the same day that you exfoliate your skin if both measures feel like too much for your skin to handle.

Can You Use Toner in Place of Cleanser?

You should never wholly replace cleanser with toner. Cleanser is gentler and better for general cleaning than toner, which helps dig deeper into your skin's pores or remove makeup.

If you use toner too frequently or replace cleanser with it, you risk drying out your skin and irritating it in the long run.


When used correctly, toner can significantly boost your skin health and help you maintain an excellent skincare routine. When combined with quality supplements like Hope Health’s Immune + Organic Tablets, your overall health and skin health will be supported.

Check out Hope Health’s online store today for additional healthy supplements and more ways to maximize your wellness!


Efficacy of a twice-daily, 3-step over the counter skincare regimen for the treatment of acne vulgaris | NCBI

How to test skin care products |

How to moisturize your skin | Harvard Health.