Toner vs Cleanser: Do You Need to Add Both in Your Skincare?

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New to skincare?

If so, you’ve probably encountered many skincare products and methods from social media influencers, all of which can sometimes be confusing.

Two of the most basic products always mentioned are cleanser and toner. 

What are toners and cleansers?

Many people actually think that these skincare products are the same. But that’s not the case!

In fact, both cleansers and toners serve different uses to help you achieve cleaner and healthier skin. 

a close-up image of a woman cleaning her face with cleansing foam

So what are the main differences between toner vs cleanser? 

A cleanser cleanses the skin from impurities such as dirt, makeup, dead skin, and oil. Meanwhile, a toner helps to balance the pH of the skin and add hydration back to the skin after cleansing.

Sure, cleansers and toners are different. But do you need to add both products to your skincare routine? You might also be wondering how to use a cleanser and toner as recommended by dermatologists.

To answer your questions, keep reading! 

What Is a Cleanser?

A facial cleanser is a skincare product used to remove makeup, dirt, oil, dead skin cells, and other kinds of impurities from the skin, leaving your face clean, refreshed, and radiant. 

When your pores are kept clean, the chances of getting skin issues like acne are greatly reduced.

Today, you’ll find different types of cleansers with varying prices in the beauty market. Because of this, choosing the right cleanser may get overwhelming and more challenging. 

But once you find the best cleanser product that works wonders for you, your skin will immensely thank you. 

What Are the Different Types of Cleansers?

Do you know which cleanser is best for your skin type?

To help you with cleanser hunting, we have listed the types and variations of cleansers available today. 

Use this as your guide to finding good cleansers that will cleanse off all of the impurities in your face without any reactions from your skin. 

Gel Cleanser

If you want to deep-clean your pores, gel cleansers are a must-have!

Gel cleansers are water-based and have a gel-like consistency, making them perfect for people with oily and combination skin types. However, some gel cleansers are formulated with ingredients that make them beneficial for all skin types.

The Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Gel is one of our favorite gel cleansers. This hydrating and lightweight gel formula contains hyaluronic acid and is proven to boost skin hydration and lock moisture in. 

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Lightweight Hydrating Facial Gel Cleanser, Gentle Face Wash & Makeup Remover...
  • 6-ounce bottle of Neutrogena Hydro Boost Daily Hydrating Facial Cleansing Gel to boost skin's hydration for soft, supple skin
  • This hydrating gel formula contains hyaluronic acid and is proven to increase skin's hydration and lock it in, leaving skin feeling refreshingly clean and touchably...
  • Lightweight cleanser is easy to apply. The gel transforms into a silky lather that effectively washes away dirt, oil and bacteria and lifts away make-up without stripping...

Get this gel cleanser if you want your skin to feel supple and refreshingly clean every time you cleanse your face. 

Foaming Cleanser

a young woman wearing a big cute white bow as headband while using foaming cleanser

Like gel cleansers, foaming cleansers are designed to deeply clean your pores, leaving your skin feeling clean after every wash. 

As you apply it, it will create a lather on your face. Some people like using this since it feels a lot like cleaning your face with soap. 

Foaming cleansers are best suited for combination, oily, and acne-prone skin. 

Compared to other types of cleansers, foaming cleansers can be more drying due to some of their ingredients, such as lauryl sulfate.

If you want a foaming cleanser that’s not drying, you should purchase sulfate-free foaming cleansers. 

The Garnier Skinactive Gentle Sulfate-Free Cleanser is one of those foaming facial washes suitable for all skin types, even sensitive skin! 

Garnier Skinactive Gentle Sulfate Free Foaming Face Wash, 2 Count
  • This gentle foaming face wash is sulfate-free, alcohol-free, fragrance-free, paraben-free, oil-free and soap-free
  • An extra-gentle facial cleanser for sensitive skin that is rich in Glycerin and has a non-irritating formula that leaves skin fresh and clean
  • A foaming facial cleanser that is suitable for all skin types, especially sensitive skin, gently removes oil, dirt and face makeup to effectively cleanse skin

This product gently foams to remove makeup, impurities, and oil for soft, healthy-looking skin.

Cream Cleanser

Those with dry skin types will enjoy a cream cleanser as it removes impurities and non-waterproof makeup while adding moisture to the skin. 

Also, a cream cleanser can be ideal for people with sensitive skin since it is mild and does not strip off the essential microbiomes of your skin.

Cream cleansers have a thick, creamy consistency that contains humectants and emollients to hydrate, soften, and soothe the skin. 

One of the highly rated cream cleansers in Amazon is the Albolene Face Moisturizer.

Albolene Face Moisturizer and Makeup Remover, Facial Cleanser and Cleansing Balm, Fragrance Free...
  • MULTI USE SKIN CARE PRODUCT: Albolene Moisturizing Cleanser does everything you need when it comes to removing makeup, cleansing and moisturizing your face.
  • TRUSTED FOR GENERATIONS: For over a century, Albolene has been known as the best solution for keeping skin soft, supple and beautiful and complexions healthy and...
  • 6 SIMPLE INGREDIENTS: Albolene contains mineral oil, petrolatum, paraffin, ceresin, beta-carotene which are known for their skin conditioning properties.

This product is a multi-use product that does everything from cleaning and removing makeup to moisturizing your face, keeping it youthful, supple, and healthy. 

Oil Cleanser

Oil cleansers bond to excess oil, makeup, and dirt to be rinsed away by water or another cleanser. Hence, this type of product acts as more of a makeup remover than a cleanser. 

Because of this, other users consider oil cleansers as pre-cleansers, which need to be double-cleansed afterward. 

An oil cleanser can loosen and eliminate dirt while moisturizing your skin simultaneously. Usually, this is used to remove waterproof and hard-to-remove makeup to avoid disrupting the skin barrier. 

Oil-based cleansers are best suited for dry, normal, and combination skin types. 

If you are looking for one of the hottest oil-based cleansers in the beauty market, DHC Deep Cleansing Oil is one of the best ones yet! 

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, Facial Cleansing Oil, Makeup Remover, Cleanses without Clogging Pores,...
  • Unique water-soluble formula rinses thoroughly
  • Nourishes and hydrates for younger looking skin
  • Rich in vitamins and antioxidants

This Japanese deep cleansing oil is an effective cleansing oil and a makeup remover in one, which makes the skin feel nurtured and soft; never greasy or dry. 

A woman is washing putting a drop of cleansing oil on her hands in front of the bathroom mirror

Benefits of Cleansing

  • An essential part of your skincare routine that won’t only make your skin look radiant but also remain healthy
  • Removes makeup, dirt, oil, dead skin cells, and other kinds of impurities from the skin
  • Allows treatments and anti-aging products to penetrate well into clean skin. 
  • Helps maintain the natural hydration of your skin.
  • Helps minimize the chances of acne formation

Who Should Use Cleansers?

Certified dermatologists highly recommend that everyone add face cleansers to their skincare routine. 

Not only will you get clean and clear skin; but you will also enjoy a healthy skin barrier!

Remember that your skin can’t function well or be healthy if it has a ton of oil or dead skin buildup. So cleansing is a must!

What Is Toner?

a young woman with hair wrapped in towel is applying a toner on her face using cotton pad

Now that we know what cleansers are, let’s move on to toners to further determine the difference between cleanser vs toner. 

Beginners tend to get confused about whether they should use toner or face wash first. 

To clear things up, dermatologists suggest a basic order to build the best skincare routine:

Step 1: Cleanser

Step 2: Toner

Step 3: Serum and Booster

Step 4: Moisturizer

Step 5: Mask

Based on the order, cleansing the face comes first, followed by applying toners. Then toners should be used first before any other follow-up skincare products. 

The primary purpose of toners is to mop up any residue and dirt, shrink the pores, and restore the skin’s pH balance — all of which are crucial in soothing sensitivity, fighting acne, and adding back moisture. 

Aside from that, toners help revitalize and refresh the complexion and support the skin’s protective barrier.

Different Types of Toners

Similar to cleansers, toners also come in different types, which we listed down below:

Hydrating Toners

A hydrating toner refreshes and moisturizes your skin. Moreover, it helps replenish your skin’s lost moisture after cleansing. 

As its name suggests, hydrating toners don’t contain ingredients that can be drying to the skin, such as alcohol. 

Instead, hydrating toners have moisturizing ingredients like humectants, which are substances that attract water to the skin from the dermis or the air. 

Some good humectant ingredients in skincare include glycerin and aloe vera. 

All skin types benefit from hydrating toners. 

Searching for an alcohol-free and ultra-hydrating toner? We got you covered! Try Rosewater Facial Toner with Hyaluronic Acid from Heritage Store! 

Heritage Store Rosewater Facial Toner with Hyaluronic Acid, Dry to Combination Skin Care, Hydrating...
  • Set the Tone: Ultra-hydrating toner refreshes and smooths skin, refines pores and helps minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles with regular use.
  • Deep Moisture: Alcohol free toner delivers deep hydration with Hyaluronic Acid and Sodium PCA for plumper-looking skin and a natural glow.
  • Minimal Ingredients: Clean formula for dry to combination skincare contains Damask Roses, Vegetable Glycerin, soothing Aloe Vera and nothing you don’t want on your...

This moisture-rich toner is perfect for dry to combination skin types that give deep cleaning, hydration, a natural glow, and plumper-looking skin thanks to its Hyaluronic Acid and Sodium PCA ingredients. 

Traditional Toners

While searching for skincare products, you’ve probably come across astringent products.

Technically, astringents are traditional toners. This toner primarily focuses on eliminating excess dirt and oil from your skin.  

Some traditional toners have alcohol as an ingredient. But if you don’t want to dry your skin from toning, look for a clean traditional toner that does not have alcohol. 

Traditional toners are best for you if you have oily skin. Nevertheless, you also don’t want your traditional toner to be irritating or dehydrating. 

Fortunately, traditional toners don’t necessarily have to contain alcohol to achieve that clean and refreshed feeling you want. Instead, you can look for toners with clean ingredients like non-alcoholic witch hazel or glycerin.

The Thayers Witch Hazel Facial Toner is everyone’s holy grail when it comes to traditional toners as it features an alcohol-free formula that’s gentler on the skin compared to other similar products. 

THAYERS Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Witch Hazel Facial Toner with Aloe Vera Formula, 12 Ounce
  • Gentle Face Toner: Alcohol-free and formulated to soothe, tone, hydrate, and balance the pH level of skin; This face toner helps reduce the look of pores, balance oily...
  • 98 Percent Natural Origin Ingredients: Made with certified organic Witch Hazel grown and harvested exclusively for Thayers on a family farm in Connecticut, and certified...
  • Unique Formulation: Thayers Witch Hazel extract is farm-to-bottle.  It's picked by hand and made the old-fashioned way (via maceration) using water only and NEVER...

Also, this toner helps minimize the appearance of your pores, maintain the moisture of your skin barrier, and balance oily skin— what’s not to love about this product?

a woman is cleaning her face using a toner and cotton pad

What Are the Benefits of Using Toner?

  • Acts as a moisturizer
  • Adds a layer of protection to the skin
  • Prevents ingrown hairs
  • Refreshes the skin
  • Restores the skin’s pH balance
  • Shrinks pores on the skin
  • Controls acne and dry skin

Who Should Use Toners?

Toners are not necessary for everyone. However, they can offer excellent skin benefits when added to your skincare routine. 

Using toners can be beneficial, especially if you have skin concerns you wish to target, such as acne. 

So if you want these additional benefits, use toner. 

Difference of Toner vs Cleanser

So far, we have answered the main question, which was “What is cleanser and toner?”

Now, allow us to differentiate toner vs cleanser based on the following aspects: definition, uses, and order. 


A cleanser is a substance in the form of a gel, foam, cream, or oil applied to your skin and face to remove impurities, excess sebum, makeup, and dirt.

Meanwhile, a toner is typically a liquid substance that eliminates the remaining impurities that can’t be wiped away by cleansers. 


Cleansers are primarily used to eliminate dirt from the skin.

In contrast, toner is used for many purposes, such as balancing the skin’s pH level and deep-cleaning pores while removing skin impurities.

Order of Layering 

Cleansers should always come first before anything else. After your skin is cleansed, toner can be applied to prepare your skin for other skincare products. 

a young woman with hair wrapped in brown towel is applying toner after cleanser

Similarities Between Cleanser and Toner

  • Both are cleaning agents that help prepare your skin and face for the other skincare products you use for your routine. 
  • Both products are generally suitable for all skin types. 
  • Both are available in different types and variations that match your skincare needs.
  • Both are incredible products that help target any skin concern and improve your skin based on the products’ formulation. 

Can I Use Both Toner and Cleanser?

Both cleanser and toner are beneficial to the skin in their own ways. 

Skincare gurus, dermatologists, and even beauty enthusiasts do swear by adding both products to their regular skincare routine. 

Depending on your skin’s current needs, you may use both cleanser and toner. Or you may skip toners in your skincare routine if you think it’s unnecessary. 

If you have sensitive or dry skin, we suggest you use hydrating variants of both skincare products to restore your skin’s moisture levels. 

In most cases, however, using a cleanser and toner as a set is necessary to complement and make the most of their benefits. 

If you’re looking for the best cleanser and toner set, you can try the Fenty Skin Start’r Set by Rhianna, a 3-in-1 product (cleanser, toner, and sunscreen) that helps you achieve your best skin in 3 steps. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you really need a cleanser?

Throughout the day, your face accumulates old dead skin cells, grease, dirt, pollution, and dirt from your surroundings.

Hence, cleansing your skin regularly is necessary to ensure all these skin impurities are cleared and to maintain fresh-looking skin. 

Are toners really necessary?

Technically, you don’t need to use a toner after you’ve cleansed your skin. But adding toner to your primary skincare step can help your skin look its best. 

Not only do toners help eliminate dead skin cells; they also help balance your skin’s natural pH and prep your skin for boosting and moisturizing. 

Toners can also hydrate dry skin and control acne!

But if you have a limited budget, you can choose to skip toners for now. 

infographic about differences and similarities of cleanser and toner

Toner vs Cleanser: The Verdict

Cleansers and toners are totally different skincare products. However, both of them clean and protect your skin. 

The verdict? Both won!

It’s worth noting that without these products, your skincare routine’s effectiveness is sure to slump because skincare products tend to work well if applied on clean skin. 

Now that you understand the difference between toner and cleanser, have you decided which cleanser or toner types to use? 

Are you planning to use them both in your skincare routine? 

Let us know what you think!

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  • Stephanie Martin

    Stephanie Martin blends her beauty industry background with expertise in communications to lead in the fashion and beauty world. As a fashion and beauty editor, she is known for engaging and informative articles. Her lifelong passion for fashion, makeup, and hair shines through her work, earning her widespread respect among readers and clients. Stephanie's style, a mix of classic and contemporary, makes her a dynamic and influential figure in the industry, inspiring others with her knowledgeable and approachable insights.

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