In this article:
We all know the importance of having a regular skin care regimen for healthy glowing skin, but it can be very confusing where to start and what products to choose.
The first products that probably come to your mind when it comes to skin care are face toners and face serums. What is the difference between them? How do you use them? Can they be used together?
Read below to find out the answers.
What’s the Difference Between Face Serums and Toners?
The main difference between a face serum and a face toner is the amount of active ingredients present in them. These active ingredients are an important part of face care products because they are responsible for treating various skin care issues.
As serums contain concentrated amounts of active ingredients, they are usually higher priced than toners. (1)
Another very important difference between the two is that toners are used to cleanse and restore the normal pH of the skin, (2) whereas serums are used to treat skin problems by providing the right active ingredient to the skin. (3)
Face serums are like moisturizers but are lightweight on the skin and therefore are great for hydrating the skin without adding too much weight to it. They are rich in important ingredients that can do wonders for your skin such as hyaluronic acid, vitamins C and E, and others.
According to a 2013 study, face serums containing all these ingredients were found to be effective in improving visible signs of photodamaged (sun-damaged) skin. (3)
Face serums can be oil-based or water-based liquids that are applied to the skin by spreading them evenly on the face. They are used in small amounts and therefore usually come with a dropper. A few drops of serum are good enough for the entire face. (1)
Face serums are very different from face creams or lotions that people use for moisturization. They are very less viscous and their consistency is pretty loose.
Face serums are mainly designed to provide nourishment to your skin while protecting it from various kinds of cellular damage. (1) They are generally applied after the cleansing routine.
Benefits of using face serums
Here are some of the benefits of using face serums: (4)
- Face serums are quickly absorbed by the skin (1) since they are very thin and lighter than moisturizers. They are the first step to building up your skin care regimen.
- They can be used every day and do not give a heavy feeling to the face.
- They are also good for sensitive skin since they are very light. They work great on skin that is oily or prone to acne. (1)
- Face serums can also improve fine lines and wrinkles, which can be bothersome for some people. (4)
- Exposure to the sun and pollution can trigger the generation of free radicals, which cause cellular damage and premature skin aging. (4) These effects can be slowed down by using a face serum that is rich in vitamin C or vitamin E. (1)
Face toners are a very important part of skin care that a lot of people ignore. They are a water-based cosmetic product that is infused with ingredients such as aloe vera, (5) witch hazel, (2) and guava, (6) which are very soothing to the skin.
A lot of different formulas of toners are available depending upon your skin type. You can choose the one that suits you best. For instance, toners containing witch hazel are best for acne-prone skin due to their anti-inflammatory properties. (2)
Moreover, a 2019 study found that a guava toner significantly reduced oiliness in the forehead and nose better than the base toner. The activity on the nose was significantly noted in the third week of application. (6)
It is not irritating to the skin and can be used even by those who experience skin sensitivity. Toners also lock the moisture in the skin, so they can also be used by people with dry skin.
As per one study conducted in 2016, repeated application of toner is efficacious for skin hydration when compared to spray water. (7)
Toners also act as a good base that prepares the skin for the application of moisturizer or other cosmetic or skin care products. (7)
Benefits of using face toners
Here are some benefits of using face toners: (2)
- Toners remove the dirt, impurity, or pollution damage that remains in the pores even after washing the face.
- If used regularly, toners can improve the tightness of the skin and make it well moisturized, young looking, and healthy. (7)
- Toners also maintain the pH level of the skin and help control acne. (2)(6)
- Toners can smoothen your skin and thus help refine rough patches on the skin.
What Should Be Applied First: Toners or Serums?
Skin care is getting more and more popular nowadays, and one question that everyone is unable to answer is the correct order of using skin care products.
People invest in a selection of beauty products that they think will do wonders for their skin, but using them in the wrong order can cancel their benefits and will not lead to their desired results.
Moreover, there is an overwhelming selection of skin care products available today, and some may appear to be similar to toners and serums. For this reason, it is immensely important to know the products you need before you spend your money on them.
The rule of thumb in applying skin care products is to go from a thin consistency to thick consistency. This means that the lighter products should be applied first, and the heavier ones should be applied later on. This is because when a thin product is applied after a thick one, it may not be able to penetrate the skin properly.
The correct order is to a cleanser, then a toner, then a serum, then oils and moisturizers, and finally sunscreen, according to experts.
Additional Benefits When Using Serums and Toners Together
Using a serum and toner that complement each other based upon their benefits is always a great option.
In a 2019 study, an advanced skin care routine such as applying toner and serum was found beneficial as demonstrated by the visible skin benefits it provided over a short period of application. It also helps in the prevention of signs of skin aging. (8)
To know what serum goes with what toner, check the active ingredients of the two and the benefits they provide.
Things to Know When Applying Face Serums and Toners
Ensure that you apply the serum before the moisturizer. It is a good practice to apply a moisturizer or cream after the serum in order to seal it in for maximum benefit.
To apply toner to your face in the morning, first soak cotton balls in the toner for a few minutes. Wash your face, and then take a cotton ball out and gently rub it on your skin.
You can also use a toner before going to bed at night. Toners are great to be used before moisturizing or doing other skin care treatments.
Who Should Not Use Face Serums?
Since serums contain concentrated amounts of active ingredients, first perform a patch test before full application of the product, especially if you have sensitive skin. Apply the serum to a small area of your skin and observe if you experience a reaction or not.
If no irritation occurs, you can use the serum. But if you experience redness, inflammation, or other signs of irritation, refrain from using it. (9)
Who Should Not Use Face Toners?
To use or not to use a toner depends upon the type of serum you’re using and the type of skin you have. If you have dry skin, use toners that do not contain alcohol because alcohol can further dry out your skin.
If you have oily skin, look for toners that contain hydroxy acids that reduce oil production.
Also, because toners may contain active ingredients, it is best to do a patch test on your arm before you apply it to your face to see if your skin reacts to it negatively.
Most-Asked Questions About Face Serums and Toners
When should I apply a face serum?
The application time of a face serum depends upon your goals and the type of serum that you are using.
For instance, antiaging serums are best to be used at night, whereas antioxidant or antipigmentation serums should be used in the morning as they protect your skin from UV and other sun-related damage.
Hydrating serums can be applied at night and in the morning because they keep the skin healthy and moisturized.
Is astringent the same as a toner?
A lot of people mistake astringent and toner to be the same thing but they are not.
Astringents contain alcohol, which is why they are only ideal for oily skin since alcohol can be dehydrating and therefore not fit for those who already have dry skin. Astringents are mainly used to control excessive oil production.
I use toner. Do I need a serum?
Whether to use both toner and serum depends upon the goals you have for your skin.
If you want reduced hyperpigmentation and decreased fine lines and wrinkles, then adding a serum to your skin care regimen is a good idea. This is because serum contains active ingredients that you may not find in a toner.
Although you can very well use a toner alone and skip the serum, there are benefits to using both.
Face serums and toners are a great way of taking care of your skin, especially when lives get busy.
Everyday pollution and stress puts a lot of strain on our skin health because of which we require proper skincare. This is why a good knowledge of skincare options like serums and toners is extremely vital.
Both serums and toners have their own benefits, an understanding of which is helpful in adding them to your skin care regimen.