Cleanser and Toner 101: Why These Two Steps Are Essential in Your Daily Skincare Routine

Cleanser and Toner 101: Why These Two Steps Are Essential in Your Daily Skincare Routine

The Role of Cleanser in Your Routine

What's the purpose of a cleanser?

The primary purpose of a cleanser is to remove dirt, oil, makeup, impurities, and pollutants from the skin's surface. Cleansing, or double cleansing, is a fundamental step in skincare and serves several important functions:

  1. Dirt and Oil Removal: Cleansers help eliminate the accumulation of dirt, excess sebum (skin oil), and environmental pollutants that can clog pores and lead to acne or other skin issues.

  2. Makeup Removal: Cleansers effectively dissolve and remove makeup, ensuring that no residual products remain on the skin overnight, which can lead to breakouts or skin irritation.

  3. Skin Hygiene: Cleansing maintains proper skin hygiene by reducing the presence of harmful bacteria and preventing infections or skin conditions. Double cleansing the skin can also be highly beneficial in ensuring that there is no makeup or residue leftover.

  4. Preparation for Other Skincare Products: A clean canvas allows other skincare products, such as serums, moisturizers, and treatments, to penetrate and work more effectively, as they are not hindered by a layer of impurities.

  5. Refreshment and Comfort: Cleansing can provide a refreshing and soothing sensation, helping you feel clean and rejuvenated.

It's important to choose a cleanser that matches your skin type and concerns, as cleansing melanin-rich skin requires more than just one universal approach . For example, those with dry skin may prefer a hydrating or creamy cleanser, while those with oily or acne-prone skin may opt for a foaming cleanser. Regardless of your skin type, a gentle and suitable cleanser is essential for maintaining clear and healthy skin.

How to know which cleanser is right for your skin?

1. Identify Your Skin Type:

  • Dry Skin: If your skin often feels tight, flaky, or rough, opt for a hydrating cleanser that contains ingredients like ceramides or hyaluronic acid to retain moisture.

  • Oily Skin: Foaming or gel cleansers with benzoyl peroxide can effectively control excess oil and prevent breakouts.

  • Combination Skin: A gentle, pH-balanced cleanser works well for combination skin, addressing both oily and dry areas without overstripping.

  • Sensitive Skin: Look for fragrance-free and hypoallergenic cleansers with soothing ingredients like chamomile or aloe vera to minimize irritation.

2. Consider Your Concerns:

  • Acne-Prone Skin: Cleansers containing benzoyl peroxide can help combat acne-causing bacteria and prevent breakouts.

  • Aging Skin: Opt for a gentle, hydrating cleanser that won't strip your skin's natural oils, as mature skin tends to be drier. Look for products with added antioxidants.

  • Hyperpigmentation: Brightening facial cleansing products with ingredients like vitamin C or niacinamide can help fade dark spots and even out your skin tone.

3. Check the Ingredients:

  • Avoid harsh ingredients like sulfates, which can be drying, and opt for gentle surfactants that won't disrupt your skin's natural barrier.

  • Look for added benefits like antioxidants, vitamins, or hydrating agents that align with your skincare goals.

4. Test It Out:

  • Perform a patch test with a new cleanser to ensure it doesn't cause any adverse reactions. Apply a small amount to a discreet area of your skin and monitor for 24-48 hours.

5. pH-Balanced Formulation:

  • A cleanser with a pH close to your skin's natural pH (around 5.5) is generally preferred, as it helps maintain a healthy skin barrier.

So many toners... which to choose?

Alcohol-based toners.

1. Astringent Properties: Alcohol-based toners are known for their astringent properties, which means they can help tighten and temporarily shrink the appearance of pores. This can make the your melanin-rich feel smoother and look more refined.

2. Oil and Shine Control: These toners are often used by individuals with oily or acne-prone skin because alcohol can help reduce excess oil and shine. It can provide a matte finish to the skin.

3. Potential Drying Effect: While alcohol can be effective at controlling oil, it can also be quite drying. This can lead to skin dehydration and, in some cases, increased oil production as the skin tries to compensate for the loss of moisture.

4. Best for Specific Concerns: Alcohol-based toners are best suited for individuals with oily skin who are looking to control shine and minimize the appearance of pores. They can be effective for those with acne-prone skin as well.

Hydrating toners

1. Hydration: The primary purpose of hydrating toners is to infuse the skin with moisture. They often contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and plant-based extracts to attract and retain water, helping to keep the skin hydrated and plump.

2. Skin Barrier Support: Hydrating toners can strengthen the skin's natural barrier, which is essential for protecting against environmental stressors and maintaining overall skin health. A robust barrier function can help prevent moisture loss and reduce sensitivity.

3. Soothing and Calming: Many hydrating toners contain soothing ingredients such as aloe vera, chamomile, or allantoin, which can help calm and alleviate redness or irritation in the skin.

4. Enhanced Product Absorption: By prepping the skin with hydration, these toners can improve the absorption and effectiveness of subsequent skincare products like serums and moisturizers. Hydrated skin tends to absorb active ingredients more efficiently.

The Synergy of Cleanser and Toner

How they work together for better results

Together, cleansers and toners form a dynamic duo that ensures your skincare products perform at their best. Cleansers prepare the skin by removing impurities and maintaining a healthy barrier, while toners optimize the skin's condition, promoting hydration and improving product absorption. The combination of both steps sets the stage for the rest of your skincare routine, helping you achieve clear, balanced, and nourished skin.

Common misconceptions about toner

1. Toners Are Only for Oily Skin: While toners with astringent properties have historically been associated with oily skin types, modern toners come in various formulations. There are hydrating and soothing toners suitable for dry, sensitive, and combination skin types. Toners can be beneficial for all skin types, not just oily ones.

2. Toners Are Unnecessary: Some people believe that toners are an optional step in skincare and can be skipped. However, toners serve valuable functions, such as balancing pH levels, hydrating, and preparing the skin for better absorption of subsequent products. They are far from unnecessary.

3. Toners Close Pores Permanently: Toners can temporarily tighten the skin and reduce the appearance of pores, but they do not have a lasting or permanent effect on pore size. Pores can appear smaller when clean and free from debris, but they return to their normal size once the toner wears off.

4. Toners Always Contain Alcohol: It's a common misconception that all toners contain alcohol, which can be harsh and drying. While some toners do contain alcohol, many alcohol-free options are available, especially hydrating and soothing toners.

5. Toners Are Only for Cleansing Residue: While toners are excellent for removing residual makeup and cleanser, their benefits extend beyond that. They provide hydration, balance the skin's pH, and can contain active ingredients like antioxidants, exfoliants, or soothing agents, depending on the formulation.

6. Toners Are Harsh and Irritating: Not all toners are harsh or irritating. Gentle and hydrating toners are designed to soothe the skin, making them suitable even for sensitive skin types. It's essential to choose the right toner for your specific skin concerns.

7. Toners Should Tingle to Be Effective: Some believe that a tingling sensation indicates a toner is working. However, tingling can be a sign of irritation, particularly with toners containing high levels of alcohol or strong exfoliating ingredients. Effective toners should not cause discomfort.

Benefits of a Daily Cleanser and Toner Routine

A daily cleanser and toner routine offers numerous benefits for your skin. It effectively removes impurities, balances pH levels, hydrates, and prepares the skin for better product absorption. This routine promotes skin health, smooths texture, and enhances your skin's overall appearance. Additionally, it creates a clean canvas for makeup application and can serve as a soothing self-care practice.

How to Incorporate Cleanser and Toner Into Your Daily Routine

Here's our step-by-step guide for morning and evening routines.

Morning Routine:

Step 1: Cleansing

  • Start your morning routine with a gentle cleanser to remove any sweat, oil, or residue that may have built up overnight. Use USTAWI's Nourishing Cleansing Balm, or USTAWI's 3 in 1 Illuminating Micellar Cleanser Gel, for a clean and refreshed start.

Step 2: Toning

  • Apply USTAWI's Hydrating & Skin Protecting Toner to hydrate and balance your skin's pH. Gently pat the toner onto your face and neck.

Step 3: Serum

  • Next, use USTAWI's Radiance Bi-Gel Serum, which is packed with vitamin c and niacinamide to brighten and protect your skin. Apply a few drops and gently press it into your skin.

Step 4: Moisturizer

  • Follow up with USTAWI's 24h Moisturizer Mattifying Effect to keep your skin hydrated throughout the day. It also provides a protective barrier against environmental stressors.

Step 5: Mist

  • Lastly, apply USTAWI’s Glow Protection & Shielding Mist, which provides a natural and invisible barrier to protect against pollution.

Evening Routine:

Step 1: Cleansing

  • Begin your evening routine by thoroughly double cleansing your face to remove makeup, dirt, and pollutants. Both USTAWI's 3 in 1 Illuminating Micellar Cleanser Gel, or USTAWI's Nourishing Cleansing Balm, are ideal options for this step.

Step 2: Toning

  • Apply USTAWI's Hydrating & Skin Protecting Toner again to rehydrate and balance your skin after cleansing.

Step 3: Serum

  • In the evening, switch to USTAWI's Dark Spot Correcting Serum. This serum reduces imperfections, helps even out and brighten the complexion. Acts as an anti-pollution shield. Leaves skin smooth and moisturized.

Step 4: Eye Cream (Optional)

  • If you use an eye cream, gently apply it around the delicate eye area. USTAWI offers a nourishing 5-in-1 Eye Serum Perfector for this purpose.

Step 5: Moisturizer

  • Follow with USTAWI's Ultra-Nourishing 24h Moisturizer to lock in moisture and provide your skin with essential nutrients overnight.

Step 6: Weekly Treatments (as needed)

  • Once or twice a week, consider incorporating USTAWI's Detox & Glow 5-in-1 Mask or another treatment product suited to your specific skincare concerns.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

Over-Cleansing & Over-Toning

Over-cleansing and over-toning can harm your skin by stripping its natural oils, causing dryness, increased oil production, sensitivity, and disrupting the skin barrier. To avoid these issues, choose gentle products suited to your skin type and needs, and be mindful not to overuse harsh cleansers or toners. Listen to your skin to maintain a balanced and healthy skincare routine.

Using the wrong products for your skin type

Using products unsuitable for your skin type can lead to issues like sensitivity, excess oil, breakouts, and reduced effectiveness. To avoid these problems, identify your skin type, read labels, consult professionals if needed, and maintain a consistent skincare routine with products tailored to your specific needs.

Addressing Skincare Concerns

Targeted solutions with cleansers and toners.


  1. Acne-Prone Skin: Look for cleansers with benzoyl peroxide to help combat acne. These ingredients can unclog pores and reduce breakouts.

  2. Sensitive Skin: Choose fragrance-free and gentle cleansers that won't irritate sensitive skin. Aloe vera or chamomile-infused cleansers can be soothing choices.

  3. Oily Skin: Foaming or gel-based cleansers can help control excess oil production. Ingredients like tea tree oil or witch hazel can be beneficial for oily skin types.


  1. Exfoliation: Some toners contain exfoliating agents like glycolic or lactic acid to help remove dead skin cells, promoting a smoother complexion.

  2. Acne Control: Toners with tea tree oil can target acne-prone areas, helping to prevent breakouts and reduce inflammation.

  3. Pore Minimizing: Toners may temporarily tighten the skin, reducing the appearance of pores, making them appear smaller.

  4. Brightening: Some toners contain ingredients like vitamin C or niacinamide to brighten the skin and fade dark spots.

Understanding Ingredients

Key ingredients to look for in your cleansers & toners

In cleansers, ingredients like glycolic acid can be effective for exfoliation and acne-prone skin. Hydrating cleansers containing hyaluronic acid or ceramides are excellent for dry skin. In toners, look for hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid to replenish moisture, or soothing agents such as aloe vera for sensitive skin. For targeted concerns like brightening or acne control, ingredients like vitamin C can make a significant difference.

Potential allergens to avoid

When selecting cleansers and toners, it's essential to be mindful of potential allergens to avoid. Fragrances, whether natural or synthetic, are a common culprit and can cause skin sensitivity or allergic reactions in some individuals. Additionally, certain botanical extracts, essential oils, and preservatives may also trigger allergies or irritation. At USTAWI, we prioritize melanin-rich skin-friendly formulations, offering fragrance-free options and products crafted with sensitivity in mind. Our commitment to safety ensures that your skincare experience is not only effective but also free from common allergens, making it suitable for a wide range of skin types, even those with sensitivities.

Ready to take the next step in your skincare regimen?

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