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Updated: Jan 31, 2023

The key point to start with is that the word “toner” does not necessarily apply to one group of products or uses. Read more...



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Can you briefly explain what oily and combination skin are and why they require specific skin care products in order to yield effective results (i.e., clear skin)?

When people refer to their skin as oily they are usually implying that they tend towards acne. Often there is a general feeling of the skin feeling “greasy”.

Combination skin is usually referring to the tendency towards feeling oily in some areas and dry in others. Most often the oily areas are along the “T zone”- above the eyebrows and around the nose.

Oily skin will often need products with ingredients designed to exfoliate the excess buildup or absorb the excess oil. Combination skin may be trickier to address with the same ingredients as the result could be excessive irritation along the cheeks and upper forehead.



Can you explain what a "skin type" is?

There are several “skin types” referred to in marketing. Normal, Combination, Dry, Oily, or Sensitive -- these are not medical terms. Actually, when a dermatologist refers to skin types we are often referring to the tendency of different skin to tan or burn. I often am asked by patients to tell them their skin type. I understand what these claims are trying to reference but it is misleading for consumers. The FDA does not regulate this type of labeling because this falls under cosmetic. This issue comes up routinely in practice. Patients tell me they are using “sensitive skin” products so they cannot believe their products are causing their rashes. It adds another level of explanation to help patients understand their skin and their products.

What is toner? Why is it important to use and add a toner to your routine? Please explain.

The key point to start with is that the word “toner” does not necessarily apply to one group of products or uses. What I have discovered is that the modern-day use of the word “toner” in skin care truly refers to a leave-on product applied post-cleanse with a cotton ball or gauze pad.

The “first generation” of toners, so to speak, played an astringent role. They were designed to pH balance the skin and degrease or strip away extra oil left on the skin after a routine cleansing. This is technically no longer needed as cleansers have evolved to address this concern without the need for an additional product.

Modern-day toners tend to have different ingredients to target different concerns. For example, several contain rosewater. This is an age-old ingredient that has anti-acne and anti-aging properties. Chamomile is seen in some and is thought to have calming qualities. And, some do have salicylic acid for acne.



Why is a toner beneficial for someone with oily, combination, and acne-prone skin?

Many toners still have a percentage of alcohol in them. Those with oily or acne-prone skin will find that they can help dry out some of the excess oil buildups on the skin. People with dry or sensitive skin will feel like these burn or sting when applied. This is just uncomfortable!

The “new-generation” toners actually may help people with combination skin depending on the ingredients. If you consider the “new definition” of toners, a post-cleanse leave-on product, if you choose a hydrating formulation with milder ingredients, you very well could see some extra hydration for dry sensitive skin. Applying a moisturizer on top will only seal in some of these benefits.

What are the best two ingredients for someone with oily skin?

Ingredients to look for...

Salicylic acid. This is really meant for acne-prone skin and will dry your skin out further. It can assist in an acne care routine by reducing the excess oil buildup on the skin.

Alpha hydroxy acids. These are meant for anti-aging as well as oil and acne. This can help exfoliate the skin to reduce the tendency towards acne.

What are the best ingredients for someone with combination skin?

Ingredients to look for...

Hyaluronic acid. Most people think this is an “anti-aging” product. It is actually a hydrating product that gives the appearance of anti-aging when used topically. It draws hydration and moisture to the product and holds it in the superficial layers of the skin. It is best used with a moisturizer on top to enhance its effects.

Antioxidants such as green tea are calming to the skin.

Glycerin. This is similar to hyaluronic acid, this product can draw moisture to the skin.

Vitamin E. This has a lubricating effect on the skin.

Chamomile is seen in some and is thought to have calming qualities.

What are the best ingredients for someone with acne-prone skin?

I put these under oily because this tends to be the same issue. The only reason it would be considered separate is if you are referring to rosacea-prone skin.

When is it best to add a toner to a skincare routine?

Toners are best-used post-cleanse. I worry that some people try to substitute washing their face with just using a toner. The problem with this method is that most people will end up using way too many products. They will keep wiping until their cotton ball is clean which can take a lot more wipes and leave a lot more product behind! Always remember, toners are not just stripping away some oil from the skin- they are leaving a product behind!

The best results are seen if these are applied after each cleanses, ideally am and pm. Essentially they will help replace some hydration that may have been stripped away from cleansing if using the hydrating formulations.


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