Q: In the past, I've read that toner is the skin-care product to skip. So why do I keep seeing them in stores?

A: Years ago, toner formulas relied heavily on alcohol, which had a habit of leaving skin feeling tight and very dry. For this reason, women began to shun toners and they fell out of favor. Today, theyve evolved, and now offer real benefits. Here, how to make them work for you.

Identify your needs. In general, toners fall under two categories: ones made to remove stuff from your skin (excess oil, dirt or makeup residue that your cleanser missed) and ones that leave behind helpful goodies, like vitamins, minerals and hydrators to nourish skin. Almost everybody can benefit from using one, says Ruth Tedaldi, M.D., a Wellesley, Mass., dermatologist and Shape advisory board member. Its the easiest way to boost skins overall radiance, she explains.

If you have normal to oily or acne-prone skin, choose a toner that swipes excess oil (look for the word astringent on the label) and packs pore-clearing salicylic acid. It will help calm breakouts and prevent new ones. Editors favorite: Clean & Clear Cooling Daily Pore Toner ($4; at drugstores), which has salicylic acid.

If you have normal to dry skin, try a moisturizing toner (these dont contain any alcohol). If you have normal skin, you might nd that in hot, humid weather you wont need to apply a toner in the morning only in the evening. We love Clarins Toning Lotion for Dry/Normal Skin ($23; with soothing cucumber and vitamins A and E.

If you're looking for anti-aging benefits, the key is to nd one that does it all: protect, hydrate and exfoliate, Tedaldi advises. Editors favorite: Origins A Perfect World Liquid Moisture ($20; with the antioxidant white tea to naturally protect against environmental damage (which can cause premature aging of the skin), dehydration-preventing trehalose (a corn-derived sugar) and skin-quenching white-birch extract.

Apply it right. Though tissues work okay for swiping on toner, Tedaldi recommends 100 percent cotton pads, which are even gentler on skin (definitely use these if you have sensitive skin) and wont come apart halfway through your application. Lightly sweep the toner onto freshly cleansed skin twice daily.