Tone Up Men

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Best Toners for Men

Most skincare is straightforward: Moisturizers hydrate your cells; cleansers wash away grime and unclog pores; exfoliators buff away the dead surface cells; serum is a super-hydrator that brightens complexion and prevents signs of aging.

Toner, however, is less obvious. But just because it isn’t as straightforward as its rival skincare products, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve an important place in your skincare routine. Skin toners can work miracles for men with uneven, oily or acne-prone skin.

If that describes you, read on to learn how skin toners work and what they can do to help clear up your skin and shrink your pores.

How Do Skin Toners Work?

Toners balance the oil levels in your skin. In other words, if you’re prone to a little forehead sheen — or to acne — a toner might work miracles. Place a few drops in your hands or on a cotton pad, and distribute evenly around the face, especially in areas most susceptible to acne and oil accumulation.

“A toner can reduce oil and optimize pH,” says dermatologist Michael Swann. “They are often based in mild acids; glycolic acid is common. They gently remove oils and also lightly moisturize the skin.”

Are Skin Toners for Everyone?

Toners are unnecessary for some guys; if you aren’t oily or you don’t break out frequently, then a toner might be a waste of time and money. Furthermore, it might dry out your already balanced skin. So proceed with caution, or introduce it gradually into your routine, to see how it might affect you.

If your skin is sensitive, you should be fine using most toners; again, introduce it gradually into your routine — perhaps apply just twice a week at first — to see how your skin handles it. The following week, try toning every other day, and thereafter, start using it daily.

It’s worth discussing toners with your dermatologist, and to see whether or not your skin might benefit.

“I suggest getting a better understanding of your own skin [by speaking] with a professional,” says Swann. “They can help you make the best decisions about products so you aren’t undermining your goals.”

How Should Men Use Skin Toners?

Because they reduce oil levels, toners are a great foundation for your skincare routine; they mattify the face. A serum or moisturizer will absorb more easily if oil levels are in check. However, toners should be used after cleansing (and exfoliating, on those days when you scrub the skin).

Most guys should only use toner once daily, to prevent any over-drying and redness. Swann recommends a morning application, after washing.

“Guys will want to dial back if they are getting irritated,” he says. “Using a toner can give your face a fresh oil-free look, but it isn’t something you would want to do all of the time.”

Following a shave, you can apply toner to prevent clogged pores and ingrown hairs. You also might see your girlfriend use a toner before she applies her makeup, or after she removes it. (We’ll let you tell her the risks of over-toning, but in the same way you’re using toner to recover from a shave, she needs to unclog any makeup from her pores.)

Is Astringent a Toner?

Not really. Astringents don’t balance oil levels in the same way, and will instead often dry out the skin completely.

“An astringent causes tissue contraction and is used after shaving to reduce the effect of nicks on the skin,” says Swann. “Astringents are usually alcohol-based and although they also reduce oil on the skin, they can be harsh for sensitive skin types. I don’t generally recommend an astringent except as an aftershave.”

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