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What does a toner do?

A well formulated / well made toner provides the area of skin it's used on moisturizing ingredients, anti-oxidants and 'cell communicating ingredients'. More simply, it gives skin that little bit extra to function more healthily hence anti-oxidants, cell communicating ingredients etc.

Note that only a well made / formulated toner does that. The badly formulated toners e.g. contains irritating ingredients such as witchhazel or alcohol can damage and irritate the skin and not provide that little bit extra to help skin function healthily and properly.

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My understanding of a toner's main purpose is to balance the pH that is usually thrown out of balance during the cleansing process. Unless you use a cleanser that is pH balanced or neutral, it is most likely that the pH of the cleanser is base, which causes cell damage and excessive dryness that can lead to excessive oil production (soap is definitely a base). There is a good topic on skin pH by lionqueen. you should do a search.

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Toners can do various things, but most of all they balance the pH of the skin after cleansing since the cleanser strips away all the oil and dirt it will cause an imbalance in acidity levels on the skin. A toner can also remove the residue of the cleanser, oil, makeup, or dirt.

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So you use the toner after the cleanser, but before the exfoliation and moisturizing? And what can you call a bp gel. When in the timeline is that best to use? Is exfoliation something you do every day, or is it more like twice a week or so?

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In my opinion, a toner doesn't do anything other than irritate my skin. I think a good cleanser, moisturizer, suncreen, and treatment (BP, SA, retinoid, etc.) is sufficient. Never had any luck with toners, I don't get the point of using a toner.

Some people may like how a toner makes their skin "clean"...I say find a good enough cleanser and you don't need this step.

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So you use the toner after the cleanser, but before the exfoliation and moisturizing? And what can you call a bp gel. When in the timeline is that best to use? Is exfoliation something you do every day, or is it more like twice a week or so?

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