What's the Difference Between Toner & Astringent? Everything You Need to Know

Seeing as practically every celebrity and YouTuber has released a beauty line (or is currently constructing one), it’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the new products that dermatological innovation has to offer. However, there are few evergreen beauty products that could help amplify your thrice-daily procrastination routine (i.e. your skincare regimen), like toners and astringents.

Although multi-masking might seem like the only form of multitasking that you can manage with minimal stress, you’re still tempted to use every product in your bathroom drawers. Like drinking and texting, some combinations can have negative ramifications—so coating your pores with toners and astringents could constrict your beauty regime’s success.

There are a few ways to determine whether a toner or an astringent will be a happy addition to your beauty coven.

So WTF is an astringent and what can it do for your skincare regimen?

Astringents work to smooth out your skin texture by contracting your pores. A chemical agent, typically alcohol, helps astringents make your skin look like porefection.

Caitlin Hoff, a Health & Safety Investigator for Consumer Safety, tells Her Campus, “Astringents are typically alcohol-based and can be harsher on your skin. Because of this, some astringents are made with witch hazel, which is milder for your skin.” Anyone who can consistently use an alcohol-based product on their skin is clearly chaotic. However, there are plenty of astringents that don’t use alcohol as their active ingredients, so you can still incorporate astringents in your routine without the fear of over drying (unless looking like a dried-out Spongebob meme is your thing).

Hoff adds, “Astringents are designed to remove excess oil and reduce acne. Because they're alcohol-based, however, astringents will dry your skin out more so people with sensitive or dry skin will want to avoid adding an astringent to their daily routine.”

Because astringents do have an underlying drying effect, to absorb excess oil off your flesh, you should work with your dermatologist or a licensed skincare expert to create a comprehensive way to incorporate this skin tonic on your face without any negative side effects. After all, Mayo Clinic explains that prolonged or severely dry skin can cause open sores and scratching (from the itching that follows dehydrated skin).

Although parched skin might not be the worst thing in the world, open wounds leave your skin vulnerable to infection. Dermatologists can work with you to figure out what types of astringents will benefit your skin and curate a stringent astringent schedule, so you aren’t tempted to douse your pores with the substance every day. After all, navigating the broad variety of astringents can be overwhelming, seeing as astringents vary in types and functions to cater to a variety of skin types and needs. Regardless of what astringent you and your dermatologist decide on, astringents typically favor oily or acne-prone skin.

While anyone with oily or acne-prone skin might physically benefit from astringents, astringents can add another element in the medicinal effect of your beauty routine. 

If astringents work to remove oils and make your skin feel smoother, how are toners different than astringents?

Though toners also eradicate oil, toners are typically water-based solutions rather than chemical-based like their astringent sisters (which can make them less harsh for sensitive skin).

Hoff says, “Toners are usually water-based and may contain natural ingredients that contain antioxidants. Some toners may also include glycerine or glycol which soothes irritated skin and balances your skin's pH balance.” Because toners pacify irritated skin, toners might be a better option for anyone with sensitive skin.

In addition to clearing your face of grease, toners collude with your face wash to clean off some things that your cleanser couldn’t.  Hoff adds, “Toners are used to wipe away grime, makeup or sweat that your cleanser may not have removed fully from your face. Toners can also keep your skin hydrated. If you have sensitive skin or don't struggle with excess oil and breakouts, a toner might be a great addition to your skincare routine.”

Overall, toners and astringents work to serve similar purposes, but their underlying ingredients can impact your skincare game a bit differently, depending on your skin type.  

Nevertheless, astringents and toners both have a similar application process.

Because these connections collaborate with your soap, you can optimize your astringents or toners by using them after you’ve cleansed your face (or wherever you plan on using the product).

“Both products should be used following your face cleanser and before applying moisturizer or other serums to your skin,” Hoff notes.

Just like the dissimilar compounds in toners and astringents, your application method can vary a bit. Bella Schneider, owner and formulator of Bella Schneider Beauty and owner of LaBelle Day Spas, tells Her Campus, “If you have sensitive dry skin, but still have the occasional oily spots or breakouts, you can spot treat those areas with astringents on a cotton ball. Don’t apply the entire face, though. Toners are great for overall skin health and can be applied with a cotton pad or spritzed on throughout the day.” While you can use astringents as an all over treatment, like toners, they can be just as effective as a spot treatment.

However, the most vital step to your application method is suppressing your urge use both an astringent and a toner in your beauty routine (at least not both in the same day). Hoff notes, “Pick one or the other. Don't use both a toner and an astringent.”

While choosing between using a toner versus an astringent might be more difficult than that time you had to choose between Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine and Chris Evans in a hypothetical game of f*ck, marry, kill (and you just ended up marrying them all because decisions are difficult), you can’t find a way to happily marry a toner and an astringent into your daily beauty plan.

Overall, astringents and toners might seem like they have similar skincare superpowers; however, they are different and can be incorporated in your routine differently (and separately)—which makes sense, because the world of beauty is constantly adapting to accommodate your ambitious appetite for skincare products.