Today, the ‘more is more’ approach to skin care—especially cleansing—seems to be in full swing among skin care junkies, and I myself am no exception: I sometimes feel as if I am cleaning my apartment instead of my face with the runaway train of products I have amassed, all in the name of clear skin.

I approach my nighttime cleanse armed with five cotton pads, a bottle of micellar water (La Roche Posay’s is the best and smells like bubble gum), a cleansing oil (SK-II’s is supremely velvety and smells like red roses), and two bottles of toner. I dutifully swap between Clarins Toning Lotion with Chamomile and my Biologique Recherche p50 lotion (what the Olsen twins swear by to maintain their eternally youthful complexion).

I can rattle off all the reasons for my double-cleansing routine (double-duty cleansing ensures complete removal of dirt, oil and makeup), but the toner? Not so much. There have been days I feel like a sucker…do I really need this dubiously named potion to complete my cleansing routine, or is it just an afterthought? (Last time I checked, my toner didn’t really tone my skin the way the elliptical tones my calves).

The answer lies with the expert advice doled out by three skin care gurus. Here’s what they had to say about the importance of toners…(hint: don’t toss that bottle, unless it’s Sea Breeze.)

Why should you use toner?
According to celeb aesthetician Mila Moursi, who has treated the dewy complexions of Jennifer Aniston to Rashida Jones, “toner is one of the most important steps in skincare as it completes the cleansing process. Stress and environmental factors can turn the skin’s pH acidic. Plus, any time you cleanse you inevitably strip the skin. So the point of toner is to get rid of the excess oil, dirt, and leftover cleanser and, most important, bring the skin back to its neutral pH level (where it is healthiest and the most glowing).”

What kind of toner should you use?
For Moursi, there is no one toner that fits all. “It is very important to choose the right toner for your skin type. You mostly want to make sure that you have more natural ingredients versus synthetic ingredients.” For those with normal to oily skin, Moursi recommends her pH balancing toner, which allows serums and moisturizers to penetrate the skin much deeper and faster. And those with sensitive or dry skin should use her cleansing toner, she says, which is alcohol-free and gently removes excess dirt and oil.

How should you apply it?
“Right after cleansing, use cotton pads to apply toner. The cotton pads should come away completely clean, which usually takes about two applications. It’s also most important to tone at night after cleansing (from all the dirt and oil accumulated during the day). If you are in a hurry in the morning, you can completely skip cleansing and just use toner.” Easy.

Anything to watch out for when investing in a toner?
According to skin care expert Kate Somerville, “toners can be very drying so it is important to look for one that does not contain alcohol and delivers additional skin care benefits like anti-aging peptides and hydration.” (For a super hydration boost that also soothes and repairs the skin, try Eminence Rosehip Tonique.)

What if you don’t have the time or money to use a toner?
Fear not! For those of you who would rather skip the toning process altogether, your skin will not be in dire straits. According to Joanna Vargas (she’s treated Julianne Moore, Naomi Watts), “toners have traditionally been used to rebalance the skin after cleansing. Since a lot of cleansers are already pH balanced for the skin, toning isn’t necessary for everyone.” Vargas recommends investing in a cleanser that already balances the pH in your skin (she recommends her Vitamin C Face Wash). The take-away? Cleanse away, tone away. But make sure you keep your skin’s pH neutral for plump, glowy, clear skin.

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