Somewhere between regular facials and a complicated Korean inspired 12-step routine, the classic three-step ‘Cleanse, Tone, Moisturise’ mantra started to feel oversimplified and outdated. The tight-knit trio – in which toner played a central role in – broke up. While ‘Cleanse’ and ‘Moisturise’ managed to maintain their relevancy in a continually crowding skincare space, toner suffered, outshined by increasingly important products like sunscreen, retinol cream and serum.

A key factor in toner’s inability to maintain its place in the spotlight was due to it’s already battling reputation. Traditionally, toner was an alcohol-laden product that tightened the skin by drying out the epidermis and giving the appearance of smaller pores. Although beneficial to oily and acne-prone skin, the harsh formulas were often likened to “paint-strippers”, aggressive and ultra-drying on normal skin types, especially to those with sensitive skin or rosacea.

However, in recent years, these toners have almost completely been replaced. Now – often rebranded as balancers, lotions, essences and tonics – toners have become much gentler, and can add a multitude of benefits to a full range of skin types. According to Hong Kong aesthetic physician Dr. Winnie Mui, the benefits are vast, and dependent on the toner’s formulation. As well as balancing your skin by readjusting its pH level, and prepping skin for better absorption of your next skincare step, toners benefits include: hydration (look for formulas with hyaluronic acid); soothing effects (look for chamomile); providing an antioxidant boost (such as vitamins include C and E); adding moisture (glycerin, rosewater) and gently exfoliating (with acids such as glycolic).

Feeling inspired to add a new generation toner to your routine? Our beauty team shares their top three picks.