Facial Mist vs. Toner vs. Essence: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to lightweight, watery skincare products that help to nourish your skin, there are three that seem super similar: face mists, toners, and essences. It’s even more confusing when some toners are packaged with spray nozzles, but the product is still called a toner - what gives? 

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If you’re trying to figure out if your skincare routine needs a toner, face mist, or essence - or even all three - this blog post will help demystify what each of these skincare products is meant to do and how they can benefit your skincare routine!

This comforting face mist from Dermalogica nourishes skin with the power of ceramides and hyaluronic acid to deeply hydrate skin from within.

What is a Toner?

Traditionally, toner is a skincare product that’s thought of as part of the cleansing part of your skincare routine - applied to a cotton pad and swept over the face, toner can help grab any lingering makeup particles, whisk away excess sebum, and rebalance the skin’s pH after cleansing.

Formulated to repair skin with the power of Centella Asiatica, this toner is perfect for restoring hydration to thirsty, dehydrated skin.

Is It Important To Tone After Cleansing?

The truth is, almost all cleansers are properly pH balanced these days. Toning skin to rebalance your skin’s pH was much more relevant when incredibly alkaline bar soaps were the only cleansing product available for the skin! This means that if you’re using a modern cleanser, using a toner afterwards isn’t necessary to rebalance your skin’s pH.

However, that doesn’t mean a toner is completely useless! It just means that a toner can help your skin in other ways, depending on your skin type.

One common reason to keep using toners is to regulate sebum production. Witch Hazel, a naturally astringent skincare ingredient, is formulated in toners. This type of toner is best for combination skin or oily skin that needs help managing shine.

This Clarins toner is formulated with soothing chamomile to sweep away lingering traces of makeup and soothe skin.

Another reason to use toner is to exfoliate skin - some toners are formulated with chemical exfoliants! You might hear these types of products described as ‘exfoliating toners’ or ‘exfoliating peels’. This type of toner 

Another type of toner that is becoming increasingly common are toners that simply hydrate skin - adding essential hydration back to skin with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and polyglutamic acid is becoming more and more popular in Western skincare brands!

Perfect for combination and oily skin, this toner from French brand Anne Semonin helps to balance sebum production for softly matte, yet hydrated skin.

What is a Facial Essence?

First popularised by East Asian beauty brands, you can think of an essence as a watery serum/skincare primer in one. Skincare essences have been popularised by the Japanese luxury brand SK-II with their Facial Treatment Essence. 

Like all essences, the Facial Treatment Essence is a lightweight - almost watery - skin care product with a hero ingredient. In particular, SK-II’s hero ingredient is a fermented ingredient called Pitera - but essences can have any type of ingredient as their ‘hero ingredient’.

Another benefit of using an essence is that they work as a primer for the rest of your skincare routine - especially your serum, which follows essence - making sure that all of your skincare is even more effective.

This iconic essence from SK-II works hard to soften the signs of ageing, maintain glowing skin, and improve skin’s resilience for a youthful, bouncy glow.

Toner vs. Essence

The number one difference between a toner and an essence is how many brands suggest applying them. While toners are typically applied by saturating a cotton round with product before applying to skin, essences should be applied to your skin with your hands. 

This lightweight essence from Murad opens your skin’s hydration pathways to improve water uptake for plump, hydrated skin.

What is a Face Mist?

The truth is, the purpose of a face mist tends to overlap the most with toners - especially the hydrating kind. In most cases, the only thing that sets a facial mist apart from a hydrating toner is the packaging that it’s in!

However, that doesn’t mean that face mists should be totally ignored - they have their place in both skincare and makeup routines.

This hydrating spray uses the power of both Hyaluronic Acid and Collagen to nurture your skin.

One reason that you might opt for a facial mist is that using one can be less wasteful compared to using a toner. All you need to do is spritz the face mist on your skin, then pat in excess with your hands. No cotton rounds required! 

Another reason to use a facial mist is actually during your makeup routine - not your skincare routine! A face mist can help stop makeup from looking so powdery, and provide a lightweight veil of hydration that gives makeup an undetectable, skin-like finish.

Omorovicza Queen of Hungary MistOmorovicza Queen Of Hungary Mist
Formulated with mineral rich Hungarian thermal water, this face mist from Omorovicza instantly refreshes and hydrates skin.

When Do I Use Them In My Skincare Routine?

Whether you only want to use one - or maybe all three - in your skincare routine, here’s a refresher of the right skincare routine order.

  1. Makeup Removal (Evening Only)
  2. Cleanser
  3. Toner
  4. Essence
  5. Face Mist
  6. Serum
  7. Eye Care
  8. Moisturiser
  9. Facial Oil
  10. SPF (Morning Only)

Whether you use only one or all three, these is a helpful guide for when you can use each of these in your skincare routine!

Or, if you’re trying to create a skincare routine to start with, try our skin analysis.

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