There’s a point, somewhere around late-adolescence, when washing your face with soap or perhaps a face wash becomes a whole new ritual: cleanse, tone, moisturise. This tripartite regimen becomes an almost mantra, the skincare rule of thumb – indeed, some brands, like Clinique, have built their entire proposition around these three steps. Most can grasp and appreciate the importance of cleansing simply for the sake of good hygiene, while moisturisers remain most people’s desert-island product; but it’s the tricky second album, the troubled middle child, the bemusing toner that is now taking the spotlight. And we think it’s time to understand toners.

Toners have a tendency to split beauty experts into two camps: the don’t-waste-your-money-on-nice-smelling-water camp and the toner-is-the-most-underrated-of-skin-product camp, and rightly so because for too long toners were either expensive water or astringent, drying, pore-tightening tonics. This is no longer the case and a whole array of toners are now available, often performing different functions and addressing different skincare needs. They can be hydrating, exfoliating, soothing and refreshing; doubled up or worn alone.

For hydration: Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner, 250ml, £34 from 30 March

Fresh is coming up roses with the addition of a toner to their already successful Rose Deep Hydration range. As rose petals swirl in this chunky glass bottle, this alcohol-free formula provides a delicious injection of rosewater, rose fruit extract, rose flower oil and hyaluronic acid for optimum hydration. Like a supercharged rosewater – used by damsels across the centuries as a quick skin fix – it leaves the skin nourished and plump with hydration.

For exfoliation: Biologique Recherché Lotion P50, 150ml, £50 exclusive to Liberty

First things first, confusingly this isn’t a lotion at all it’s most certainly a toner, an acid toner to be precise. For a such a light fluid formulation it carries the weight of universal acclaim as one of the finest exfoliating products around. From heavyweight Parisian brand, P50 contains both lactic and salicylic acid as well as malic and phytic acids, but don’t be afraid by the vocabulary: the acids encourage cell turnover, regulate sebum, dissolve flaky dry spots and obliterate spots. The smell – a strange mix of vinegar and sage (used to stabilise the acids) – is really, truly the only con to this endless list of pros.

For balancing: Sisley Purifying Rebalancing Lotion with Tropical Resins, 125ml, £55 from Harrods

There’s a tendency for those with very dry skin to overload it, and those with very oily or acne-prone skin to under-provide for it, scared that more product means more spots. But for those who need to rebalance, a toner like Sisley’s new fantastic Tropical Resins one is great for purifying and resurfacing the skin. With added salicylic acid, incense and myrrh extracts and Lady's Mantle leaf extract it has a dual function of fighting against spots and reducing redness around existing ones.

For soothing: Darphin Intral Toner, 200ml, £28

Another cult favourite, Darphin’s Intral range is perfect for highly sensitised or reactive skins. If you err on the side of fragrance-free, gentle ingredients then this toner is your new best friend, but it’s also for those who can get occasional inflammation or rosacea too. Containing Chamomile and Hawthorn it’s super calming and gentle without tightness or sting.

For freshness: Indie Lee CoQ10, 120ml, £30 from Cult Beauty

Indie Lee is another favourite American brand to finally reach Britain’s shores and it promotes a synthetic free approach to skincare. We love this alcohol and paraben free concoction of citrusy goodness. It smells refreshing and is rich with camomile, sage, aloe vera, hydrating molecule hyaluronic acid and CoQ10. CoQ10 is a naturally occurring coenzyme that keeps cells in good health which is just what we want a toner to do.

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