Toner vs Serum: What's the Difference?

In recent decades, skincare shelves have gone through an evolution all their own. Whereas there were once just cleansers, toners, and moisturisers, there are now serums, essences, ampules, floral waters ... and surprisingly, that's just the beginning of the list!

Which surely brings you to ask what the differences are amongst all these products. If you use one, do you need to use the others? If you use two, do you get double the benefits?


Model holding a toner and an essence


What's the difference between a toner and a serum?

If you visually compare a toner and serum, the telltale difference is the consistency. Toning products tend to be waterlike and come in jumbo containers, whereas serums tend to be thicker yet still lightweight and come in preciously small bottles. Generally, serums are costlier than toners too.

While it's helpful to understand how to tell the difference, this doesn't answer the heart of your question. What you really want to know is what toners and serums DO differently.

In general, modern toning products are formulated to:

There are, in fact, three significantly different types of toning products, which you can learn more about in our Ultimate Guide article, 'What are skin toners for?' Each type of toner excels specifically in one of the above benefits.

Pixi Glow Tonic

Now, compare these benefits to those of a serum, which is formulated to:

The standout difference, which you've likely picked up on, is the concentration of active ingredients that target specific skincare concerns. This accounts for the higher price of a serum. While there's definitely some overlap between the benefits of a toner and serum, there are also some key differences.


 model applying a serum


If you use a toner, do you need to use a serum?

The answer to this question depends on what you want to achieve for your skin. Do you want to treat or prevent a targeted skincare concern? If so, then integrating the perfect serum into your skincare routine will definitely benefit your complexion.

For example, in the case of hyperpigmentation, we'd recommend integrating a product with vitamin C, such as asap super c serum. If you're more concerned about fine lines and wrinkles, then we'd recommend HydroPeptide Power Serum or something similar.

What these products have in common is a concentrated and targeted dose of effective active ingredients, which you're unlikely to find in a toner. So, although you can certainly use a toner alone and skip the serum, there are definitely benefits to using both.


Shop asap super c serum

Shop asap super c serum


If you use both a toner and a serum, will you get double the benefits?

Now you know that using a toner and a serum in combination can benefit your skin. Whether you see extra benefits depends on your selection of toner.

For example, if you use asap super c serum to even your skin tone, then you would also benefit from an exfoliating toner such as Pixi Glow Tonic. These two products contain different active ingredients that address the same concern. We can't promise a literal doubling of benefits, but you'd definitely see some additional benefits by using both products.

Again, if you were to use HydroPeptide Power Serum for fine lines and wrinkles, you'd definitely see additional benefits from a complementary toner such as Dermalogica Multi-Active Toner.

Understanding the key active ingredients and aims of each of your skincare products is the key to achieving optimal benefits from your routine. If you need more clarification, our skincare experts are always happy to help at or 03 9486 7179.


Toner vs Serum: What's the Difference?

Learn more about Toners & Mists

How Do I Pick a Toner?

Toners aren't the most straightforward skincare products. Choosing one for your skin type may prove confusing. Fortunately, you just need to answer 2 questions to understand which toner is right for you.

Can I Skip Toner?

You may wonder why many skincare routines consist of three steps and if they're all necessary. Find out if and when it's okay to skip 'Step 2', the insider term for toning.

Should I Apply Toner With My Fingers or Cotton?

Effective skincare requires correct product application. Whether you apply a toner with your fingers or a cotton pad depends on the formula.

What's the Best Toner for Oily Skin?

The traditional advice for oily skin was to use drying astringent toners. However, this strategy isn't effective or healthy in the long term. Instead, use one of these toners to normalise your complexion.

Toner vs Serum: What's the Difference?

Toners and serums look very similar, and many people are confused about the uses of each. You're probably wondering if you need both products and if using both provides your skin with additional benefits. 

What's the Best Toner for Dry Skin?

When you have dry skin, it's easy to get stuck in the rut of using heavy, emollient-rich creams. However, the right toner can offer amazing benefits for your skin type.

Will Toner Make My Pores Look Smaller?

Enlarged pores are a common sign of oily or mature skin. Several skincare strategies can help to reduce the appearance of pores, and choosing the right toner is one of them.

What Is Toner For?

Cleanse, tone, moisturise: 1, 2, 3. The sandwiched step of toning has changed significantly over the years, and alcohol-laden astringents are products of the past. Three modern equivalents offer new and improved benefits.

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