- Astringents are strong, alcohol-based skin care products that are best suited to control the symptoms of oily and acne-prone skin.
- Toners are mild, water-based products that are beneficial for normal, dry, sensitive or combination skin types.
- Apple cider vinegar and witch hazel are common ingredients found in astringent toners.
- Toners often contain hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin to moisturize dry skin.
Face toners and astringents are often mistaken as being the same product. However, while they may share some similarities, toners and astringents offer different benefits according to skin type.
It is therefore important to choose the correct product to help you achieve the best results based on your skin type and concerns.
What Is the Difference Between Toners and Astringents?
Toners and astringents are both liquid-based skin care products used after cleansing to remove oil, debris and any remaining residue. However, their ingredients and effects on the skin vary significantly.
Astringents are alcohol-based products often formulated with isopropyl, ethanol or ethyl alcohol. They are effective in removing excess oils from the skin, while also helping to reduce the appearance of enlarged pores. Astringents often contain added active ingredients, such as witch hazel and apple cider vinegar.
Conversely, toners are water-based, and often contain hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid (HA) and glycerin. By providing additional moisture, toners are effective in softening and hydrating dry skin.
Should You Be Using a Toner or an Astringent?
When choosing between a toner or an astringent, consider your individual skin type.
Astringents are designed to treat acne-prone and oily skin, and should be avoided by those with dry or sensitive skin, as irritation may occur.
In contrast, toners are effective in maintaining the skin’s pH balance while also providing moisture, making them appropriate for dry, normal and sensitive skin.
|Skin Type/Concern||Toner vs. Astringent||Purpose and Ingredients|
|Normal||Toner||Neutralizes skin’s pH by rebalancing the pH after cleansing |
Clears away oil, debris and remaining makeup using ingredients such as aloe vera and rose water
|Dry||Toner||Provides moisture to the skin using ingredients such as HA and glycerin |
Softens and improves skin texture with ingredients such as urea or ceramides
|Combination||Toner or astringent||Balances skin using a combination of ingredients; aloe vera to hydrate dry patches and apple cider vinegar or witch hazel to control the oilier areas|
|Acne-prone||Astringent||Removes excess oil which reduces the risk of clogged pores and breakouts by using ingredients such as witch hazel|
Sloughs away dead skin cells to reveal a clearer complexion, using glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA)
|Oily||Astringent||Constricts pores and reduces their appearance |
Dries the skin and clears away excess oil, using added ingredients such as witch hazel
|Sensitive||Toner||Eases irritation, redness and inflammation by using ingredients such as chamomile|
|Blackheads||Toner or astringent||Salicylic acid (SA) – a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), helps to unclog pores by penetrating deep within the skin and dissolving buildup due to its keratolytic properties|
|Hyperpigmentation||Toner or astringent||Glycolic acid – an AHA, works by sloughing away dead skin cells and promoting the regeneration of fresh, healthy cells|
|Rosacea||Toner||Azelaic acid, an antioxidant ingredient used in toners is found to be effective in reducing the symptoms of rosacea|
A Word of Caution
Your skin naturally produces sebum, or oil, to protect and hydrate itself. The overuse of astringents often leads to irritation and dryness, as they are liable to strip away too much oil.
Astringents should be used a maximum of once per day, however you may need to reduce this frequency accordingly.
While toners are water-based, they may also contain astringent ingredients such as witch hazel and apple cider vinegar. This may be detrimental if you are seeking a toner with hydrating properties. Therefore, it is important to check the label ingredients in order to select the right product for your skin.
Toners and astringent toners are beneficial products to add to your skin care routine. Toners are primarily used to hydrate and soothe dry or sensitive skin, while astringents are effective in controlling excess oil.
Alcohol, witch hazel and apple cider vinegar are commonly used in astringent toners to treat oily and acne-prone skin. Various ingredients can be found in toners, including HA, chamomile and glycerin.
- Gallo, R., Drago, F., Paolino, S., & Parodi, A. (2010, 10). Rosacea Treatments. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 11(5), 299-303. doi:10.2165/11537020-000000000-00000
- Keratolytic Agent. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/keratolytic-agent
- Kornhauser, A. (2010, 11). Applications of hydroxy acids: Classification, mechanisms, and photoactivity. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 135. doi:10.2147/ccid.s9042