pH-Adjusting Toners

So what are pH-adjusting toners?

The goal of the pH-adjusting toner is to get your skin’s pH lower than normal (and lower than it would be after cleansing–even if you are using a low-pH cleanser) so that acids can do more during their brief window of effectiveness. Basically, these toners  lower the skin’s pH slightly, allowing the real actives to work better than they would in a higher-pH environment. Think of it as a way to prepare your skin for exfoliation/vitamin C.

BOTTOM LINE: For the most part, any time I use a pH-dependent active (like acids or vitamin C), I will use a pH-adjusting toner beforehand.

I’ve included some of the more popular pH-adjusting toners in this post, but are certainly others out there. Usually (but not always) they will have some type of acid featured in the name (like BHA/AHA/Lactic/Mandelic) and then it will be called a Toner. Generally, you’ll find that they  contain AHAs or BHAs. Usually you want to aim for the pH to be around 4.0 (and ideally less than 4.5).

Right now I have two in my kit:

Mizon AHA/BHA Daily Clean Toner

  • Cost: $18.99 for 5.07 oz ($3.75/oz)
  • I love this toner mainly because it is non-irritating and my actives (BHA/AHA/Vitamin C) all seem to work better after I use it. 
  • I actually like to decant this and put it in a spray bottle. I spray it on my face and then wipe it off with a cotton pad.
  • The pH is right at 4.2, which is great to prepare my skin for exfoliation
  • Ingredients
    • Water, Butylene Glycol, Alcohol, Glycerin, Carica Papaya Fruit Extract, Butylene Glycol, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Artemisia Absinthium Extract, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Gentiana Lutea Root Extract, Glycolic Acid, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Lactic Acid, Sodium Lactate, Salicylic Acid, Disodium Edta, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Fragrance

Naruko 2% Mandelic Acid Toner:

  • I won this through a giveaway, otherwise it would have never been on my radar. 
  • Cost: $19.99 for 7 oz. ($2.86/oz).
  • I don’t reach for this as much as I reach for the Mizon, but I still think this is a good toner.
  • pH = 4.2 (right on target)
  • Ingredients
    • Purified water, glycerin, arginine, mandelic acid, propylene glycol, tranexamic acid, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexylglycerin, chlorphenesin, saccharide isomerate, socium PCA, trehalose, sorbitol, panthenol, sodium hyaluronate, urea, polyquaternium-51, sea water, cucurbita pepo seed extract, citric acid, benzyl alcohol, potassium sorbate, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, hydroxyethylcellulose, sodium acetate, isopropyl alcohol, cellulose, xanthan gum, PPG-26-buteth-26, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, essential oils of lavender, eucalyptus, marjoram, thyme, clary sage, rosemary, ho wood, sodium hyaluronate, hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid

🌟Why/How I Use These🌟

Whenever I use pH-dependent actives (BHA/AHA/or Vitamin C) I will use one of these beforehand so that my active doesn’t need to work as hard to get down to the right pH. 

👉If you have dry skin, you may want to avoid these. I have oily/combo skin so they aren’t too drying for me. But if I am not using a pH-dependent active, I will use a hydrating toner rather than one of these.

👉If I use an acid that is already strong on my skin, I will skip this step because using the pH-adjusting toner will likely make that acid even more potent.

👉When I have an acid that DOESN’T seem to really be working, using a pH-adjusting toner beforehand has helped to bump up its effectiveness. 🏆This is the main reason I incorporate a pH-adjusting toner. 🏆My acids and vit C just seem to work better when I use one of these toners first. For example, I had one AHA that I thought was a complete dud before I started to use Mizon before it.

Even if you don’t use a chemical exfoliator you may still want to incorporate a pH-adjusting toner into your routine. This is especially true if you are using a cleanser that has a higher than ideal pH (meaning, higher than pH = 5.5). If this situation the pH-adjusting toners can be great to bring your pH back down for optimal skin function overall.

-Other pH-adjusting toners-

Some other options include (*designates an affiliate link will bring you to Amazon):

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7 thoughts on “pH-Adjusting Toners

  1. What are your thoughts on organic apple cider vinegar(mixed with equal parts purified water) being used as a ph adjusting toner? Ive heard yes and no on this one. Ive been using it for a while so im hoping its effective.

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  2. Recently started following you on instagram and loving your content!! So informative. Is it OK to use one of these toners and then a strong acid toner? Is that too much on the skin? Thanks!

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    • You should experiment with it. It may be too much for your skin. But, for example, I had a 14% AHA that just wasn’t working for me. And then I used a pH adjusting toner and it finally started to show results. But for some other acids that are working efficiently, using a pH adjusting toner beforehand can lead to irritation. So you have to play with it!

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