The Ultimate Guide: Do You Exfoliate Before or After Toner?


In the world of skincare, the order in which you apply your products can make a significant difference in their effectiveness. One common dilemma many skincare enthusiasts face is whether to exfoliate before or after applying toner. This choice can influence how your skin responds to the products you use, and it's essential to get it right.

 In this complete guide, we'll dive into the intricacies of exfoliation and toner in your skincare routine, providing clarity on the ideal order and helping you make the best choices for your skin.

Understanding the Basics of Exfoliation and Toner

Before we explore the order of application, let's establish a fundamental understanding of exfoliation and toner in skincare.

Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. It is a crucial step in any skincare routine because it helps to reveal fresh, healthy skin, and can address various concerns such as fine lines, dull skin, and uneven skin tone.

Toner is a liquid product designed to balance the skin's pH, remove any residual impurities, and prepare the skin for the next steps in your skincare routine. It is particularly essential for individuals with oily skin, sensitive skin, and those who want to maximise the absorption of subsequent products.

The order in which you use these products is important because it can impact their efficacy.

The Ideal Skincare Routine Order

Maintaining the correct order when applying skin care products is vital to ensure that each product can work to its full potential. A standard skincare routine order includes cleansing, toning, treatment products, moisturising, and, of course, sun protection during the day.

This sequential approach enables products to penetrate the skin effectively and deliver their intended benefits. 

Do You Exfoliate Before Toner?

Exfoliating before applying facial toner is a preferred method for many individuals. Exfoliate first allows you to remove dead skin cells and reveal a fresh surface. Here's how you can incorporate this into your skin care routine:

  1. Cleansing: Start with a gentle cleanser to remove impurities from your skin.
  2. Exfoliation: Apply an exfoliator, chemical exfoliants such as containing glycolic acid or salicylic acid, to remove dead skin cells and promote cell turnover.
  3. Toning: Follow up with a toner to balance your skin's pH and prepare it for subsequent products.
  4. Serums and Treatments: Continue with your usual treatment products, such as hyaluronic acid for hydration or specific treatments for concerns like fine lines or acne.
  5. Moisturising: Apply your moisturiser to seal in the benefits of your previous products.

When exfoliating before toner, make sure to use gentle, chemical exfoliants suitable for your skin type and concerns.

Do You Exfoliate After Toner?

On the other hand, exfoliating after applying toner can also yield positive results, especially if you have sensitive or dry skin. This approach involves:

  1. Cleansing: Start with a gentle cleanser to prepare your skin.
  2. Toning: Apply toner to balance your skin's pH and remove any lingering impurities.
  3. Exfoliation: After toning, use an exfoliating toner or serum containing ingredients like glycolic acid or salicylic acid to remove dead skin cells.
  4. Serums and Treatments: Continue with your treatment products.
  5. Moisturising: Finish your routine with a moisturiser to lock in hydration.

This order may be gentler on your skin, as the toner prepares your skin's pH and moisture barrier before exfoliation.

Choosing the Right Approach for Your Skin

The ideal approach—whether to exfoliate before or after toner—depends on your skin type and specific concerns. Here are some factors to consider:

Oily Skin: Exfoliating before toner may be more suitable to help control excess oil and unclog pores.

Sensitive Skin: Exfoliating after toner may be gentler and less likely to cause irritation.

Dry Skin: Exfoliating after toner can help remove dead skin cells without over-drying your skin.

Combination Skin: Experiment to see which approach works best for different areas of your face.

Ultimately, the right approach is the one that suits your skin's unique needs and preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I use toner before or after exfoliating?

Whether you use toner before or after exfoliating depends on your skin type and preferences. You can do either, but consider factors like sensitivity and dryness when deciding.

Should you exfoliate after toner?

Exfoliating after toner can be a suitable choice, particularly for individuals with sensitive or dry skin. It allows toner to balance your skin's pH before exfoliation.

What goes first toner or exfoliating serum?

The order of toner or an exfoliating serum depends on your chosen approach. You can use the toner first, then follow with the exfoliating serum, or vice versa.

Which order should you apply skincare?

A general skincare order involves cleansing, toning, treatment products, moisturising, and sun protection during the day. The specific order for exfoliation and toner may vary based on your skin type and concerns.