Cleanser vs Toner - Which Should I Use?

Cleanser vs Toner - Which Should I Use?

An everyday skincare routine is crucial, not only to keep you feeling clean and reduce skin concerns like acne, but also to slow the signs of aging, prevent sun damage, and support your immune system. The kinder you are to your skin, the kinder it will be to you.

When developing your skincare routine, the abundance of skincare products on the market can be overwhelming to wade through. But creating a routine that works for you can actually be quite simple when you choose just a few high-quality products. 

Two of the most common products in a daily skincare routine are cleanser and toner. This guide breaks down the differences between the two, whether you need both, and how to incorporate them into your routine.


Cleansers and toners serve a similar purpose in any skincare routine but are certainly not the same. There are several key differences between the two skincare products and their benefits for your skin. Everyone should use a facial cleanser at least once a day, and depending on your skincare goals, it might be beneficial to incorporate a face toner as well.


Facial cleansers are specially designed for washing your face and are considered the absolute must of any nighttime skincare routine. If you have more oily skin, or just want to start the day with a fresh face, a cleanser can fall into your morning routine as well. Cleansers come in a variety of cleanser types—gel, cream, foam, oil, and more. 

The one you choose should depend on your skin type and daily habits. For example, cream cleansers are moisturizing, gel cleansers gently hydrate, foam cleansers are exfoliating, and oil cleansers are a great makeup remover. 

You should also look for ingredients that suit your skin concerns, like vitamin C to brighten your complexion or green tea extract as an anti-inflammatory agent. Cleansing can be a drying process by nature, especially if you use more deep-cleaning products like a foaming cleanser, so if you're looking to actively combat this as you cleanse, grab a face wash with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid. 

Cleansers are essential not only for removing buildup and grime but also for exfoliation and removing dead skin cells. Any skin concern you can think of should be met first with a good cleanser: they help fight acne, reduce the appearance of impurities on the face, and keep skin looking youthful. If you neglect to start with a cleanser, you limit the chance for the rest of your skincare products to yield the best results possible.


Toners are used after cleansers in a skincare routine. Their benefits range from removing excess makeup, to improving the appearance of pores and impurities on your face and balancing your skin’s pH levels. 

While some people like to incorporate a face toner into their daily skincare regimen, they’re not necessary in the same way that face cleansers are. Toners certainly shouldn’t replace the cleanser in your standard skincare routine, as cleansers are essential for removing the dirt, excess oil, and pollutants that accumulate on the skin daily. Even if you're using it as a makeup remover, it should be used to clean up what your cleanser missed, not a first line of defense. 

Using a toner will keep your skin looking firm, tight, and youthful, and can help to contract pores. Depending on what you want to target, there are a myriad of skin toners with different active ingredients to choose from. For acne-prone skin, a toner containing BHAs (or beta-hydroxy acids) like salicylic acid are great for drawing out breakout-causing pollutants and keeping excess oil at bay. If you're looking for something to tone down inflammation and instill moisture at the same time, an aloe vera-based toner may be for you. For a natural approach to fighting breakouts and evening out your skin tone, you can use witch hazel, a liquid distilled from tree bark, dried leaves, and twigs as your daily skin toner.

If you are adding it to your lineup, facial toner should be used after cleanser but before moisturizers and serums. Once your face is cleansed, apply your toner of choice with a cotton pad or clean fingers. 


Everyone should use a facial cleanser at least once, if not twice a day, at night and optionally in the morning. Using a cleanser at night will remove dirt, oil, makeup, facial sunscreen, and pollutants that have accumulated on the skin throughout the day, and using a cleanser in the morning will remove sweat, debris, and dead skin cells that have built up on the face overnight.

Cleansers are essential and should be the first step in any skincare routine. Using a cleanser turns your skin into a blank canvas for the rest of the products in your routine, the launching point for healthy skin. When you don’t use cleanser, your pores may become clogged and your skin may be more prone to acne or other concerns. If you're not feeling fresh-faced after one wash, your skin might benefit from double cleansing: a calculated method where you follow an oil cleanser with a gentler, more hydrating wash to get squeaky clean without over-stripping your skin of moisture. If you do try this method, follow our how-to double cleanse guide. 


Using a toner is never completely essential for healthy skin. However, if you choose to use a toner in your skincare routine, it can be used daily, too. 

For maximum results, you can use toner twice a day. However, if you have naturally dry skin or your face is easily irritated, you should use it just once a day or every other day—this will still make a difference for your skin.

On the other hand, if you have particularly acne-prone skin or oily skin, you can afford to use a more astringent formula that will show more drastic results for your pores. These stronger formulas should be used only every second day at first, then you can gradually increase your usage over time.

You can use a toner if you’re looking to improve the appearance of more minor impurities on your skin that your cleanser might miss or to tighten your pores. It can also be used as an exfoliating agent or to balance the pH of your skin after using an acidic cleanser. 


Cleansers and toners are both important elements in a skincare routine (although cleanser is essential, while toner is not). If you choose to use both a cleanser and a toner, they should be the first two steps in your skincare routine (followed by a peptide moisturizer, hydrating serum, and during your daytime routine, sunscreen). 

When you use a cleanser, your skin will stay fresh, soft, and clean. When you use a toner, your pores will appear smaller, and your skin’s pH will remain balanced (but you might need to cut back on toner or use extra moisturizer to combat dry skin). When you combine the two, you prime your skin for the best results. 


If you’re working on building your ideal skincare routine, Seven:Thirty has your back. Our skincare line has all the essentials, from our GENTLE gel cleanser and BALANCE cream cleanser to our moisturizers, SPF, serums, and acne treatments. 

Plus, if you’re not sure where to start, you can book an appointment with a licensed esthetician at our clinic in downtown San Francisco. You’ll get a breakdown of everything you need to know about your skin—just stay consistent with your new routine and you’ll be glowing in no time.



Harvard Health. Skin and Hair.

Glamour. 15 Best Toners for Every Skin Type, Endorsed by Dermatologists

Women’s Health Magazine. What Face Toner Does and How to Use It, According to Dermatologists.

Healthline. Skin Care Routine: What Order Should I Follow for My Skin Care Routine?

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