5 toner pads for better skin and makeup application

Toner is a controversial skin care product. While some dermatologists will tell you it’s not necessary, others praise it as an important part of the cleansing and treatment process. No one in the US seems to agree, but in the world of K-Beauty, toner pads, which come pre-soaked in the product, are an important step in the routine.

Formulated to balance skin’s pH and provide hydration, these soaked cotton pads are typically granulated on one side to gently buff skin and remove any remaining impurities, and smooth on the other to replenish moisture right after cleansing. “Unlike liquid toners, toner pads still partially belong in the cleansing part of your skincare routine, given their exfoliating benefits,” explains Anna Kang, founder and CEO of beauty brand K YADAH. “This extra step between cleansing and nourishing the skin with serums and creams is important to remove residue from the face and prepare its surface to really absorb all the ingredients in the products that follow.”

Versatile and effective, toner pads have seen a recent surge in popularity as the community searches for more convenient skin care. “No need to soak a cotton pad before applying directly to your face, no need to measure and pour an appropriate amount of toner—mess-free application is quick and easy,” says Kang. Other practical benefits include easy portability, less chance of contamination from an open bottle, or accidental spills.

The toner pads are also formulated to impart a host of secondary benefits like brightening, calming, and pore minimizing, all of which help prepare skin for makeup application, notes Alicia Yoon, founder and CEO of Peach & Lily. “The key is to include toner pads that are right for your skin type and needs – for added hydration, look for moisturizers like hyaluronic acid or glycerin. For calming benefits, look for calming ingredients like cica or panthers. For rejuvenating benefits, look for acids like AHAs or BHAs, and for brightening benefits, look for ingredients like vitamin C or niacinamide.”

For an instant burst of hydration or a quick pick-me-up, these strategically thin toner pads also make great makeshift face masks when placed for three to five minutes on areas that need extra care. Also, if you’re not a fan of the sticky feel of primer, especially in the heat of summer, nourishing your skin by applying toning pads just before applying makeup is a favorite practice in the K-beauty community.

“Because hydrating toners can help prep skin for further absorption in the next few steps while imparting moisture, you may notice your skin care absorbs better and your skin feels smoother and more hydrated—all great for a less-caking, second-skin-like foundation application,” Yoon explains. “Moisturized skin is the best canvas for makeup.”

Both Kang and Yoon point out that toner pads are not mutually exclusive with primers, and using both together, depending on your skin’s needs, can still help achieve a flawless makeup application. But incorporating toning pads into your skincare routine offers additional long-term benefits. “While foundations are generally completely non-nourishing and silicone-based, they create a temporary, smooth canvas for makeup application and protect skin from dirt and sweat to improve makeup longevity, but there is a high risk of pore clogging and breakouts,” Kang explains. “Meanwhile, the toner pads are designed to nourish and balance the skin for a long-term flawless appearance.”

Here are some of the most popular toner pads that beauty lovers in Korea are using to prep their skin for makeup application right now.

Abib, Sedum Hyaluron Moisturizing Touch Pad — $29.00

Also known as fibrous stonecrop or golden moss, the succulent sedum sarmentosum is used in skin care products as a humectant to draw moisture into the skin. Combined with eight different types of hyaluronic acids, these toning pads provide intense hydration.

SKIN1004, Madagascar Centella Rapid Soothing Pad — $21.00

Praised for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, gotu kola is best suited for those with sensitive skin. Exceptionally soothing, these toning pads soothe irritated skin by reducing redness, irritation and inflammation, while panthenol provides deep hydration.

BRING GREEN, Carrot Vita Toner Pad — $20.00

For anyone experiencing dull skin, these toning pads are packed with antioxidants from carrot extract to brighten skin for a radiant appearance. The addition of willow bark helps unclog pores.

COSRX, Original Clear Pad — $22.00

Suitable for those with sensitive and acne-prone skin, the combination of white willow bark water and beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) in these toner pads promise improved skin texture while unclogging pores and removing impurities.

Our editors select these products independently. Making a purchase through our links may generate a commission for Well+Good.

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