toner vs. astringent – what’s the difference?

toner vs. astringent - what's the difference - Cosmetic Composition

Recently I was asked the question what is the difference between toner and astringent, and while I knew the answer I realized that many consumers aren’t aware of the difference. By choosing the wrong product you could be ruining your skin without even knowing it. So here’s a simple explanation of the difference between toner and astringent.

Toner is a water-based product that is used to balance skin’s pH, hydrate and prep, and can optionally provide many benefits like moisture, anti-aging, brightening, etc. 

Astringent is an alcohol-based product that is used just like a toner but is beneficial for oily and acne-prone skin types. 

  • Both products should be used after cleansing and before applying any serums or moisturizers
  • The skin’s acid mantel has a pH of around 5.5, (most) cleansers are basic (meaning pH above 7), toners/astringents are acidic (pH below 7) and are used to balance the skin’s pH back to around 5.5
  • Toners and astringents come in a variety of price points, brands and benefits so make sure you do your research before purchasing one

Bottom Line: If you have oily and/or acne-prone skin use an astringent in your routine, all other skin types should use a toner. The only exception being if you have oily and/or acne-prone skin and also have sensitive skin you may need to seek out a toner that can help with oil production (maybe one with a BHA). Due to the high amount of alcohol used in astringents it can be highly irritating towards sensitive skin.


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