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Toner Vs Serums: When and How Do You Use Them?

Published: December 30, 2023

woman applying serum

Toners and serums are often confused with each other, with many people believing that they do the same thing and can be used interchangeably. However, that’s not the case at all…

Instead, toners and serums are very different skincare products. They’re each designed for a different purpose, meaning that you don’t need to choose between one or the other. Using both can be extremely beneficial, so long as you apply them in the right way.

Want to know more about how a toner and a serum can influence your skin? Read on as CBGärdN talks you through the differences between the two products, along with tips on how to effectively incorporate them into your skincare routine.

What is a Toner?

Let’s start with toners, which are skincare products that, until recently, didn’t have the best reputation. This is down to how early toners used to be packed with drying astringent ingredients, with their main purpose being to get rid of any excess sebum that was lingering on the skin. They were loved by people with oily skin but other skin types often struggled to tolerate them.

However, the toners of today are very different. There are now toners out there that are suitable for all skin types, and they no longer solely focus on drying out sebum. Instead, toners, which are usually colorless and have a very watery consistency, perform a few other key functions, including:

  • Balancing the pH level on the skin’s surface. This can often fall out of line when the skin has been cleansed or exfoliated
  • Hydrating the skin, replenishing any moisture that was lost during cleansing
  • Minimizing the look of large pores
  • Soothing and calming the complexion, minimizing the feel of inflammation
  • Providing the skin with an extra layer of nutrients, although this depends on the toner that you use
  • Prepping the skin for any other skincare products that are about to be applied, including serums. This can help to make your entire skincare routine more effective as your skin will feel more receptive to your other products

What is a Serum?

Serums are slightly thicker than toners, although they’re still much thinner and lighter than a cream. Unlike toners, serums are formulated with high concentrations of active ingredients, making them more potent. 

While most toners share the benefits that we discussed above, the benefits provided by serums can greatly vary, depending on the formula. However, that’s the beauty of serums. Each one is designed to tackle one or two specific visible skin concerns, giving you a targeted way to care for your skin.

Depending on the serum that you pick, some of the benefits that a serum could provide include:

  • Reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Improving skin hydration levels
  • Giving the skin a softer, smoother, and firmer feel
  • Lightening the look of dark spots and discoloration
  • Reducing how oily the skin feels and preventing the appearance of acne
  • Repairing the visibility of sun damage

Should You Be Using a Toner?

As you can see from the advantages provided by a toner, this is a skincare product that would benefit just about everyone. After all, everyone wants their skincare routine to be as effective as possible!

With that said, toners are still not considered to be essential products, unless you’re dealing with one of the following:

  • An imbalanced pH level on the surface of your skin. Symptoms of this include inflammation, sensitivities, dryness and flaking, redness, and acne
  • Dehydrated skin
  • Pores that look large and dark
  • Irritation after cleansing or exfoliating, although this also means that you should reassess the cleanser/exfoliator that you’re using

How to Choose a Toner

CBGöld Cleansing Elixir Kit

If you decide that you want to add a toner to your skincare routine, choosing the right formula is crucial. Remember how we mentioned that the very first toners available were highly astringent and drying? There are still plenty of those formulas around, which you don’t want to be using. 

To avoid them, stay away from toners containing alcohols. They may be great at leaving oily skin feeling temporarily less greasy but, in the long run, they’ll lead to dehydration. This can trigger the skin into producing even more oil, worsening your oily skin problems. 

Instead, opt for formulas packed with hydrating ingredients, such as the CB Facial Toner from CBGärdN. It’s filled with humectants, from sodium hyaluronate to glycerin, which bind moisture to the skin. It’s also infused with nettle leaf extract, a botanical that’s packed with antioxidants to restore and revitalize your complexion.

Should You Be Using a Serum?

Just like with toners, serums would benefit just about everyone. Even if your skin looks pretty flawless and you’re not struggling with any visible skin concerns, adding a general hydrating serum to your skincare routine will still give your complexion a boost while preventing the appearance of various skin concerns in the future.

Of course, if you are dealing with specific visible skin concerns, then serums are a must. They’re the best way to target whichever issues are affecting your complexion, thanks to their super-concentrated formulas. Unlike toners, serums are able to produce visible results pretty quickly, especially when you cleverly combine multiple serums (more on this soon!).

How to Choose a Serum

Illuminating Vita C Serum

When it comes to adding serums to your skincare routine, you don’t have to stop at one. Instead, you could use two or three serums, one after the other, which would enable you to tackle multiple skin concerns at the same time.

This is why, when choosing serums, it’s important to prioritize the problems that you’re dealing with. For example, if the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles has been getting you down but you’ve also noticed a couple of dark spots appearing on your face, look for separate serums to target each of those issues. The CB Göld Replenishing Serum is one that will quickly tighten and firm the look of creases while the CB Illuminating Vita C Serum will fade the visibility of discoloration. 

Make the most of the active ingredients offered by serums and use these products to really hone in on the areas of your complexion that would benefit from some improvement.

When to Use Toners and Serums

CBGöld Microexfoliant Peel

So, where exactly do toners and serums fit into a skincare routine?

Well, before using either of them, you need to make sure that you’ve first cleansed your face. Neither toners nor serums are capable of standing in for a cleanser. In fact, if you don’t cleanse first, both products won’t be able to penetrate your skin properly. This will inhibit how they work, minimizing the results that you would have otherwise seen. Go with a gentle cleanser, such as the CB Facial Cleanser, to avoid irritating your skin before you’ve even applied any other products.

If you plan on exfoliating, then do this next. There’s no point applying any other products first as these will only be removed once you’ve exfoliated your skin. However, again, pick a gentle exfoliator, such as the CB Microexfoliant Peel from CBGärdN.

If you’re going to be using a face mask, then this should follow on from either cleansing or exfoliating. The exception would be with leave-on masks. These should be applied at a later stage of your skincare routine.

Now that you’ve cleansed, and possibly also exfoliated and used a face mask, you can go ahead and apply your toner if you’re using one. If not, then skip ahead to your serums. If you’re using both, toners are applied first and are then followed by serums.

Finally, finish off your skincare routine with a moisturizer, as well as SPF during the day. If you’d like to keep things simple, go with an SPF moisturizer to moisturize and protect at the same time. The CB Multi-Active Moisturizer With SPF 30 does the job beautifully! 

How to Use a Toner

We’ve explained when to use a toner, but how exactly do you go about applying one?

Well, this all depends on the toner that you’re using, as they come in different forms. Some are designed to be sprayed onto the face while others are packaged in small bottles with dropper applicators, which is likely why they’re sometimes confused with serums. 

If your toner is in a bottle, then you have two options. The first is to apply some onto a cotton pad or ball, and then gently swipe this across your face. The second is to apply the product onto your fingertips before tapping it into your skin. Give both methods a try to see which one you prefer! 

How to Use a Serum

Again, just like toners, some serums are designed to be applied in a specific way. However, generally, they’ll either come in a small bottle with a dropper or in a larger bottle that has a pump dispenser. 

With the dropper, you can apply the serum directly to your face and then massage it in with your fingers. However, with a pump dispenser, it’s usually easier to release the serum onto your fingers before transferring this onto your face.

If you’re using more than one serum, you’ll need to make a conscious decision as to which you apply first. Usually, when it comes to the order in which you apply skincare products, the light-to-heavy rule applies. This means that the lightest of your serums should be applied first, followed by the heavier formula. 

However, if one of the serums that you’re using contains certain active ingredients that your skin is particularly in need of, you may want to apply this one first. This way, it will have easier access to your skin cells. It won’t need to first make its way through another serum before then having to penetrate your skin.

Toners Vs Serums: The Conclusion

When it comes down to it, both toners and serums deserve a spot in almost every skincare routine. They’re very different products yet they each provide some fantastic benefits. So long as you pick the right formulas for your skin and use them in the correct way, your complexion will reap nothing but rewards!

Click here to shop for more bestselling toners and serums from CBGärdN.

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