Everyone has probably had a bottle of witch hazel toner lying around their bathroom at some point in time, but toners and essences deserve much more credit than they often get for their abilities. But it’s easy to get them confused, especially when you’re unsure when to use each and how they pull a different weight from one another. While they may seem like an unnecessary step (isn’t it just glorified water?), essences and toners should be implemented into anyone’s routine.
There can be crossover between the two, but for the most part these products have very different resumes. Toners, which Americans are most familiar with, can help pick up what your cleanser left in terms of makeup and residue and refresh your skin after washing (via Byrdie). Though when it comes to selecting a toner though, be wary, as some, like those considered astringents, can dry out your skin. Fortunately, you don’t have to avoid them completely — there are plenty available for all skin types.
Newer to the scene in the U.S., and frequently confused with toners, are essences. These Korean skincare staples can typically do more for your skin in terms of repairing than a toner. “You’ll see more results from essence than any other product because it treats skin on a cellular level,” says a blog post on Soko Glam. “Essence is a concentrated formula that specifically targets wrinkles, fine lines, and dull and uneven skin tones.”
How to use toner and essence
Both toner and essence should make an early appearance during your skincare routine. And whether you do a full-blown ten to 11 step system or keep it super simple, you shouldn’t skimp out on a either. A good way to look at it is your toner aids your cleanser, while an essence makes it possible for the rest of your products to do their job, so they shouldn’t be an afterthought (via Allure).
Post-cleansing, your toner should be next, but this is up for interpretation depending on your skin type. “Although the Korean way is to apply an essence after your toner (that 10-step system can be a bit much to some), it’s OK to replace your regular toner with an essence if you’re looking for more hydration in your routine,” says Allure. Both can be used day and night, and after toning and applying essence, you can follow up with the rest of your serums and moisturizer.
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