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Astringent vs. Toner for Acne and Oily Skin: Which is Better?

Astringent vs. Toner

We know why you’re here. You’re confused.

Toner or astringent, which is better for me? How do I know if it suits my skin? Wait, are they EVEN necessary?

All these skin concerns lingering in your mind — we totally get them.

Well, don’t you worry. We wrote down all the necessary details to know the difference between astringent vs toner. We’re here to guide you throughout your stay.

Table of Contents

What's an Astringent?

What's an Astringent

Astringents are cleansing skincare products that mainly TIGHTEN pores and REMOVE excess oil from the skin’s surface.

Its other purpose is:

  • To discourage bacterial growth;
  • To prevent excessive oil production;
  • To fend off acne buildup;
  • And to remove leftover dirt and grime.

The key ingredient can either be isopropyl alcohol or SD (specially denatured) alcohol. Most of its accompanying ingredients are:

  • Benzoyl peroxide 
  • Salicylic acid
  • Citric acid

But these days, natural astringents are starting to BLOOM in production as well.

These modern astringents like Dickinson’s are made with LESS harmful chemicals. A natural astringent usually contain ingredients like this:

Who It's For

Natural and alcohol-based astringents are most effective on oily, acne-prone, or combination skin. They’re also great for those who need to brighten their skin tone.

How Do You Use It?

Astringents are applied to the skin once a day (could be either in the morning or evening). It usually follows AFTER using a cleanser, the initial step in a skin care routine.

So basically, what you’ll need to do is…

  • Put a small amount of astringent onto the cotton ball or cotton pad
  • Dab it all over your face, but especially focus on areas that need attention (example: oily areas)
  • No need to rinse or face wash after
  • And applying moisturizer or sunscreen will be your last step

Yes, they’re as SIMPLE as that. Though no matter how much this sounds effortless, you may still experience side effects which we’ll get into later.

Now, REMEMBER. It can be used twice on some days, but ONLY IF it’s advised by a board-certified dermatologist.

If it’s alcohol you’re applying on your face, it must NOT BE OVERUSED no matter how bad your skin condition or skin type is. We still suggest you opt for something alcohol-free instead for the long run.

How About Its Side Effects?

As we just mentioned earlier, astringents may cause some irritations EVEN on the recommended skin type, especially if they’re NOT APPLIED correctly.

But normally, you may experience these things below:

  • Tingling sensation
  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Dryness

REMINDER: If you start feeling like you’re experiencing more than these (like over-drying, excessive redness, and itchiness, inflammation, etc.), STOP USING IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!

These alcohol-based products may KNOCK acid mantle out of balance. You’ll have your skin evolve BACKWARDS if this happens.

What's a Toner?

What's a Toner

A toner is a slightly acidic, water-based product that REMOVES dead skin cells and other residues from the top layer of the skin.

It also…

  • Shrink pores and lessens oil;
  • Refreshes skin;
  • Retains moisture;
  • And restores pH balance.

Unlike astringent, toners are mostly alcohol-free, but always check the label regardless. Most toners tend to contain more natural and hydrating ingredients such as:

  • Hyaluronic acid 
  • Glycolic acid 
  • Rosewater
  • Witch hazel
  • Aloe vera
  • Green tea
  • And other more herbal extracts

Who It's For

Toners are SAFE for any skin type, but it works EXCELLENT on dry or sensitive skin.

Many of the most popular Korean toners are very gentle and mild on all skin types even if they contain exfoliants like Lactic or Salicylic acid.

How Do You Use It?

You can use a toner TWICE — for morning and night use.

But its process is a bit more complicated. How you use it VARIES on the product itself. You’ll have to refer to the instructions written on the back to know the specific process.

But generally, these are the suggested skin care routine steps AFTER using your traditional cleanser:

  • Pat your face with dry towel
  • Prepare a cotton pad and soak it with toner
  • Gently sweep it across your face
  • No need to rinse or face wash after as well
  • And apply a moisturizer afterwards

According to the famous 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine, you generally use it as a follow-up to cleansing. 

How About Its Side Effects?

Using toners on a regular basis doesn’t give ANY negative side effects.

Surprised, aren’t you?

A toner is mostly used for providing healthy skin benefits through the use of organic formulations after all. But of course! Never ignore the saying, “Too much of a good thing is a bad thing“.

Overusing toners can LEAD to skin irritation as well. So better be CAREFUL with the amount you apply and how often you use them.

Faceoff: Astringent vs. Toner

Faceoff

Now that we’ve given a brief description as to what toners and astringents are, let’s compare them head-on!

Skin Types

Basically, using astringent only works fine with…

  • Oily skin
  • Acne-prone skin
  • And combination skin

You can use them on a normal skin type but EXPECT you’ll experience some after effects such as dryness, itchiness, and honestly, any kind of skin irritation.

Toners, on the other hand, works with…

  • Dry skin
  • Sensitive skin
  • Combination skin
  • And ANY type, actually!

What's Our Pick? Well, It Depends on You!

Are we really serious with our answer? YES!

In this case, it depends on YOU if you want to choose toner or astringent.

For instance, if you want to get rid of impurities lying on your acne-prone skin, you can use EITHER toner or astringent. Toners are compatible with any skins after all.

But if you have normal skin, you should preferably go with toners.

Skin Benefits

Astringents will be responsible for…

  • Cleansing your face
  • Clearing acne and excess oil from the skin
  • Providing anti-bacterial benefits

And a toner will…

  • Be cleansing your face as well
  • Hydrates skin
  • Provide a pH-balanced skin
  • Control oil and acne
  • Moisturize skin
  • Give antioxidant benefits

What's Our Pick? Toner!

We’d like to pick toner in this category because they give MORE skin benefits than astringents.

Yes, not ALL astringents are alcohol-based, but a toner covers ALMOST ALL of what astringents can offer.

Does astringent restore pH balance? No. Can they offer skin hydration? No. Can they retain moisture? No.

See?

Risk

An astringent may provide aftereffects such as these:

  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Dry skin
  • Tingling sensation

And toners will give you… NOTHING!

You’re only prone to skin irritation if you abuse toners.

What's Our Pick? Still Toner, Obviously

Does this even need an explanation? Who would hate NO side effects, right?

Are Toners and Astringents Really Necessary?

Are They Necessary

No. Toner or astringent is NOT necessary.

Why bother talking about astringent and toner then, you ask?

Cold cream and soap are what’s usually used for cleansing the face way back. And as you may not know, soaps are BAD for your face.

They DISRUPT pH levels and STRIP natural oil and moisture away.

Beauty experts changed their ways upon the discovery of its horrible effects. They start looking for LESS harmful options — leaving skin young and healthy.

Toner and astringent, the one we know now, came to life.

However, they’ve become excluded from the necessities given there’s a lot of skin care products specially made for cleansing and treating skin conditions now.

You DON’T NEED to include them in your daily regimen, but they HELP prep your skin for all the serums and face mists you’ll be applying.

Finally, don’t fall into the trap of using Witch Hazel! Though it is a natural ingredient, Witch Hazel can actually be very drying for sensitive skin types.

Which One is for You?

Which One is for You

We prefer TONER over astringent. But toner and astringent are both good anyway.

Toners clearly provide healthier results for all skin types. Toners tend to be more flexible to use too. However, this doesn’t mean we’re disregarding the capability of astringents, especially the natural ones.

Natural astringent and toner are BOTH nourishing to use. But in the case of the astringents, they still offer LIMITED benefits compared to toners.

In the end, it’s still up to you — toner or astringent, whatever that may be. Our final tip? Use a cotton pad instead of a cotton ball.

Use astringents if…

  • You’d like to specifically focus on treating acne and oily skin
  • You can bear the side effects

And use toners if…

  • You want to treat any skin condition you have
  • You want a refreshed and hydrated skin

CHANGELOG:

July 19, 2021 – Updated internal links, updated external links, removed author box

Paola Diaz
Paola Diaz

Hi, I'm Paola! A skin care enthusiast and nature lover. Creating content that promotes proper skin treatment and keeping a healthy glow is my way of sharing with the world how healthy skin can go a long way. I’m a firm believer of natural beauty that radiates inside all of us. All we need is the right kind of nourishment that inspires our wellness from inside out. So it’s really not about physical beauty alone – it’s the beautiful life we can create for ourselves when we connect with our own nature and see there is beauty that shines from every one of us.