Most people know when you tone your face – i.e. after you’ve cleansed but before you moisturize. But do you know why you tone?
Toner is a bit of a beauty ambiguity for a lot of people. Without knowing what it’s for, we insert it into our skincare routine with the knowledge that it’s doing something beneficial, we’re just not exactly sure what. And, since micellar water made its way across the pond and onto our shelves, it’s equally as enigmatic. We know it’s beneficial, we just don’t know-how.
The even greater mystery lays in the differences between micellar water vs toner. Are they the same thing? If not, when do we choose one over the other, or can we benefit from both in our routines?
If you’ve long since wondered about the differences between micellar cleansing water vs toner, we’ve got a clear answer for you.
MICELLAR WATER VS TONER: WHICH IS BETTER?
In the comparison of cleansing water vs toner, micellar water is for removing makeup, dirt, and debris. It’s basically a really gentle cleanser that’s super hydrating. A toner, on the other hand, is used after cleansing to restore pH balance. With the right blend of ingredients, it can also be hydrating and tightening.
Micellar water, then, is an all-in-one facial wash, makeup remover, toner, and moisturizer. Whereas toner isn’t used until after you’ve already removed your makeup and cleansed your face with a face wash. It preps your skin you allow serums and moisturizers to penetrate deeper and faster – but micellar water, as something that increases skin penetrability, also accomplishes that.
So, while you can potentially use micellar water in place of a toner, the reverse isn’t true, because toner doesn’t have the same qualities for cleansing. If you use micellar water as a cleanser, then you don’t need a toner. But if you still use a face wash, especially one with harsh chemicals or a lot of foam, then you definitely need a toner.
One way in which toner does beat out micellar water is in skin type. Micellar water isn’t great for oily or breakout-prone skin. Toners, on the other hand, have been made in a wide variation. There’s toner on the market for almost every skin concern.
WHAT IS MICELLAR WATER?
Micellar water has been a French beauty staple for decades and only recently made its way over to us. It combines purified, soft water with hydrating ingredients such as glycerin and very low concentrations of extremely mild surfactants.
The molecules of the mild surfactant group together when washed across the surface of your skin. The result is that they form microscopic spheres called micelles. Those micelles are like tiny cleansing balls. They’re attracted to dirt and oil and they draw these impurities away from your pores. They do so without drying out the skin and the addition of hydrating ingredients guarantees that.
The formulas for micellar water can be so light and gentle that they don’t even require rinsing. Not only does that make them convenient, but it also means that the moisturizing ingredients have a chance to be absorbed by your skin before being washed away.
BENEFITS OF MICELLAR WATER
Micellar water is an effective and gentle way to remove more than just dirt and oil from your pores. It can also be used as a makeup remover and even as a toner.
More than that, the consistent use of micelles on your skin can improve its permeability. Meaning that the products you use after micellar water can reach even deeper into your skin and really make a difference.
Micellar water is an excellent option for people with both dry and sensitive skin. Minimal ingredients mean that sensitivities and reactions are minimized. It’s a nearly-natural product that hydrates and, as a cleanser, doesn’t strip the skin of its natural oils. Instead, it nurtures it.
In fact, the addition of moisturizing ingredients like glycerin can help with other skin concerns. Glycerin itself can help speed up the healing of wounds, including scars. It also protects against irritation and drastically improves hydration levels.
Micellar water is also very convenient. Because it’s multi-tasking, it’s great for when you’re vacationing and only wish to bring one product along with you. It’s also perfect for camping or when you’re somewhere where running water isn’t readily available. That’s because it doesn’t have to be rinsed away.
DRAWBACKS OF MICELLAR WATER
There are some skin types that may not benefit from micellar water. If you have oily skin, for example, you might find that micellar water doesn’t cleanse your skin very well and the moisturizing ingredients it leaves behind may feel like more of a residue for you.
While it may be an option for every once and a while, individuals who have oily or breakout-prone skin would be better off sticking to a traditional cleanser than cleansing their face with micellar water regularly.
Micellar water is also very gentle, so it won’t remove heavy makeup. For thick foundations or stubborn eye makeup such as waterproof mascara, you should consider using a makeup remover before cleansing with micellar water.
WHAT IS TONER?
The surface of your skin is naturally on the acidic side of the pH scale. It sits between a 5 or 6 on a scale that ranges from 0 to 14, 7 being neutral. When you cleanse your skin, that balance is disturbed by the alkalinity of the soap you use. Your body attempts to counteract that and return to normal levels by producing more natural oils – usually more than what we actually need.
The most important job of your toner is to restore that pH balance after cleansing. That’s why it comes between the cleansing and moisturizing stages of your skincare routine.
At the same time, toner can help remove any leftover dirt and bacteria after cleansing. That’s of special importance when you’re in an aesthetician’s office. By making sure that any and all bacteria is removed before doing extractions, they make sure pimple-causing bacteria isn’t spreading to other areas of your face.
BENEFITS OF TONER
Toner looks and feels like water, but it’s packed with so many other ingredients. They often contain glycerin, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories.
With the right blend of ingredients in a formula, they can help moisturize, improve the health and appearance of your pores by tightening cell gaps, reduce the penetration of environmental contaminants, and even protect your skin from minerals in your tap water.
DRAWBACKS OF TONER
In the past, toner had a bad reputation. Why? Because they were made too astringent and often contained alcohol that helped removed oil from the skin. Because of this, they tended to be drying and irritating.
But with newer generations of toners and those that are well made, those problems cease to exist. Most are now alcohol-free and, although they have astringent properties, they’re balanced with other ingredients that restore your complexion.
The one drawback of toner that we can think of, though, is that they don’t have the cleansing effect of micellar water. Toner is never meant to cleanse your skin.
Read our article if you’re interested in discovering the best organic and natural toners.
Micellar water vs toner isn’t a battle of comparable items. Both serve different purposes: micellar water for cleansing, moisturizing, and toning and toner for, well… toning. You can use micellar water without needing to tone but, if you have oily or breakout-prone skin and you stick with a regular cleanser, you’ll need a toner to restore your pH balance. All that to say that, in this battle of the skincare products, everybody wins.