You always hear about toning as a step in between cleansing and moisturizing, but what is a toner? A toner is a liquid that you usually apply all over the face and neck with a cotton pad or ball. Designed to remove impurities from your skin, shrink pores and reduce oil, most toners contain water, alcohol, humectants, some cleansing ingredients, skin soothers like aloe and preservatives.

There are a few different types of toners available at your local drugstore, beauty store or department store. Apply toner after cleansing and before hydrating.

Fresheners are the weakest form of toners because they lack alcohol, making them suitable for dry and sensitive skin. The can add moisture, relieve dry skin and soothe sensitive skin. Apply after cleansing.

Tonics, the next step up from fresheners, are best for normal or combination skin, since they contain just a small amount of alcohol. They can remove any leftover dirt or residue that your cleanser left on your skin.

Astringents are the strongest form of toner, since they contain antiseptic ingredients and a high quantity of alcohol. They control oil and are recommended for people with tough, oily skin, since they can be drying. Don’t overuse astringents, since they can remove too much oil from the skin with alcohol, disrupting its moisture balance and irritating the skin. Stick to astringents with salicylic acid.

Toners can be a valuable part of your skin care routine when chosen carefully, based on your skin type and changing needs. Like anything, moderation is key.