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  • Writer's pictureK Beauty Hobbit

Toners in Korean Skincare

Forget all you know about toners - Korean toners are special and serve a unique purpose.

Here in the US (and in Russia, for that matter, where I grew up) a “toner” is the last step of cleansing, meant to remove whatever was missed during face washing. They are often astringent in nature and contain drying alcohols.

In Korean beauty, a toner is not for cleansing. The main purpose of a toner is to balance the skin’s pH level after face washing (which tends to make the skin more alkaline). Using a toner helps the rest of the skincare steps work more effectively.

In addition to the basic benefit of normalizing the pH, toners can have a variety of added features, depending on the specific brands.

For example: pore tightening, hydrating, oil control, anti-aging, soothing, and so on.

To keep things interesting, toners aren’t always called that. The other common names are: starter, refresher, and skin. “Skin” typically refers to toners that are thicker and more gel-like vs watery in texture.

How to use: generally, toners are applied after cleansing with either bare hands (pour some into your palm, rub hands together then pat into the skin) or cotton discs/balls. I prefer the palm method as it produces the least friction with the skin and is, therefore, more gentle. If needed, you can apply more than one layer (a “7 skin method” is popular in Korea currently, where up to 7 layers of toner are applied) until the skin is properly hydrated. Once the toner is absorbed, follow with the rest of your routine (serum, lotion, etc.).

Here are my favorite toners (I have combination skin with oily t-zone and cheeks that can get dehydrated).

Soothing: Purito Centella Green Level Calming Toner

A gentle, alcohol-free toner with safe ingredients, suitable for all skin types. Helps calm irritation and redness. Available on eBay, full review here.

Oil Control: Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Pore Toner

A good morning toner, especially for the summer and if you are prone to an oily sheen - contains volcanic ash particles that absorb any extra sebum (skin oil). Available on eBay and Amazon, full review here.

Pore Care: Innisfree Green Persimmon Pore Toner

Alcohol-free toner with green persimmon from the Jeju island - keeps the skin supple and oil free without dehydrating it. Available on eBay and Amazon, full review here.

Hydrating: Innisfree Jeju Lava Seawater Skin

A divine-smelling (bergamot and patchouli, mostly) hydrating toner made with seawater that was naturally filtered through lava bedrock. I use this one at night, but it’s completely appropriate for the daytime, especially for those with dry skin. Available on eBay and Amazon, full review here.

Anti-aging: Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence Intensive

This essence contains 80% fermented yeast extract and reduces fine lines and wrinkles, helps restore sun-related damage, improves elasticity and firmness. No scent and quick absorption make it a great addition to any anti-aging regimen. Official instructions say to use it right after cleansing, so I consider it a toner. Available on eBay and Amazon, full review here.

Toners are a great addition to any skincare routine that will not only provide unique benefits but also allow the other products to work more effectively. What’s your favorite toner?

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