Before you say anything, yes, you do need toner. Sure, sure, it can be drying, and if your skin is halfway decent already, maybe it seems like a superfluous step. But this, friends, is simply because you haven't met the right toner for you. Even if you're sensitive, dry, or anything else that makes you think toner is the enemy, just think about it this way: Expensive product does more when you apply it to truly clean skin as opposed to mostly clean skin that still has an imperceptible film on it from cleansing. Another point to consider is a formula that gives as much as it takes. Toning, when done properly, is not a one-way street. With that in mind, you'll want to pick a formula that is free of alcohol (and maybe even natural astringents) in favor of calming ingredients. Chances are, your dream toner is among this bunch.
Most likely, it's Sisley's Floral Toning Lotion. It's a good starter product because it's a gentler then gentle product that actually delivers the clearer, less irritated skin of your dreams. The only problem is that it's expensive. Maybe ask for it for your birthday because perfect skin really is the best gift anyone can receive. Similarly effective, but precariously bottled in glass is MUN's No. 11 Anarose Rejuvenating Rose Toner (the Sisley is thankfully in plastic—looks less nice, but if you're going to spend that much on a toner, it better not break when you inevitably drop it in the sink). It feels like tea water, which is unsurprisingly invigorating in the morning.
Then there's the Kate Somerville approach to toning with the Nourish Hydrating Firming Mist: Look, Ma! Toning with no hands! Spritz on and leave it like a regular facial spray, or swipe on and off for a cleaner feeling. You can even tone at your desk. Because with Kate Somerville, toning knows know limits. Similarly, the Lotus & Orange Blossom Bioaffinity Skin Tonic, from the Lords of Sensitive Skin over at Pai. Do a quick, comprehensive spray, leave on, and let the aura or cleanliness take you away.
But rose isn't the be-all and end-all here. For anyone who's just not that into flowers, there's Aveda's Green Science Replenishing Toner, which feels more like a watery lotion than a straight liquid. It's the heaviest hitter here with a tad bit of salicylic acid in the mix cut with some much needed argan oil. It's also got that trademark Aveda herby smell that makes you want to roast a chicken or something—a task you are now perfectly suited to do with your clean and clear skin.
Photographed by Tom Newton.