Multi-functional products – friend or foe?

Dear Miss Beauty Nerd,

What do you think of one-step facial cleansers? There’s one by Philosophy that claims to replace your make up and eye removers, facial cleanser and toner. What do you think? Is the result comparable to doing each step separately?


Hi L!

That’s a fantastic question! I’m sure this is one that many other Beauty Nerds ponder themselves. Personally, I don’t think every product functions well as a multi-functional product. Don’t get me wrong – this is not the case for all multi-functional products. For example, certain products such as a ‘hand + body cream’ or ‘moisturizer + face mask’ or ‘cleanser + exfoliator’ work well as multi-taskers. It completely depends on what products are being combined. However, when attempting to combine products such as a cleanser, toner and eye makeup remover, I remain a bit skeptical. Here are 2 reasons why: 1) You need to be extremely careful with what you put around your eyes – especially if you have sensitive skin 2) I personally do not believe that toners can do their job when combined into a cleanser formula.

Let me explain further. I assume that you are referring to Philosophy’s Purity Made Simple Cleanser, so my answers will pertain specifically to this product.

Eye Makeup Remover functionality: You will notice that the first two ingredients after water are sodium lauroamphoacetate and sodium trideceth sulfate, which are both mild surfactants (ingredients that cleanse the skin and makes the formula foam). I think these ingredients are suitable for cleansing your face, but I would try to avoid the use of surfactants around the eye area, especially if you have skin sensitivities. If your skin is very resilient, you may still be ok. Just keep in mind that surfactants have a greater potential to irritate the skin, and although the ones they have chosen are mild, the skin around your eye area is extremely delicate.

Toner functionality: I am guessing that their claim for a built-in toner is supported by the fact that they chose relatively mild surfactants (as opposed to regular surfactants that have a higher pH). One of the main purposes of a toner is to rebalance the pH of your skin. Most cleansers cause your skin pH levels to rise (which could be drying), so toners work to re-equilibrate your skin’s pH back down to around 6. By using a cleanser + toner combo, you technically are not rebalancing the pH of your skin. One could argue, though, that rebalancing the pH of your skin, in this case, is unnecessary because these formulas inherently do not raise the pH of your skin to the same extent as other regular cleansers. I guess I can buy that rationale. However, a cleanser + toner combo will not remove the last traces of your cleanser (since you are essentially eliminating this step), nor will it sufficiently prep your skin for better absorption of your moisturizer. Especially if you have invested in a good moisturizer, why would you not want to soften your skin beforehand, to maximize absorption and its associated benefits?

I know many of you are very busy and are looking for a quick and easy way to get your skin care routine down fast. And you may even be able to get away with some of these multi-tasking products, especially if your skin is pretty robust. If you are to use a product such as this one, however, I hope that you are using a good eye cream to rehydrate (you should regardless, but it is even more important to do so, if you opt to use surfactants around your eye area). Also, as mentioned earlier, I do not believe in combining cleansers and toners into one formula because I have seen subpar results in my own skin when I omit the toner step. Think about it this way, if you purchase a spray-on toner, it takes under 2 seconds to add that step to your regimen! So am I saying you shouldn’t purchase Philosophy’s Purity Made Simple cleanser? Absolutely not. It sounds like a good gentle cleanser with some very nice ingredients (I love that they used meadowfoam seed oil and a nice essential oil blend), but I would still use a toner and separate eye makeup remover alongside with it!

Whatever you choose, don’t take your skin for granted now (although I know you are still young and gorgeous!). Treating it with tender loving care will pay off later – and I promise that you will not regret it!

I hope that helps L! Happy Friday!


  1. Sources: Philosophy, Health Advices Blog, Rewaj

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  • Lara

    oh man. i always skip the toner. i used to use it all the time when i was in my 20s (i used a Shiseido “softener”) but then i just said – why do i really need this? and stopped. never noticed a difference. now you’ve got me thinking.

  • Linda

    That’s so good to know! Thank you so much. It answers all my questions. I knew it was too go to be true. I still like the product, but after reading your post, I think I’ll be sticking to my eye make up remover and my toner. Thanks again!

  • Soos

    I also think these MFs (Multi Functions!) wouldn’t work for me.

    I don’t use toner, either. Some of them strip my skin and cause more breakouts, the others don’t do a thing.

  • Connie

    @Lara – I think many people think the same way you do. Although I notice a perceptible difference on my skin, others may not notice anything. In my old job, we always used this analogy – think of your skin as a sponge. When it is wet, it can pick things up a lot more easily. When it’s dry, nothing gets drawn in. You just want to make sure you soften the skin to absorb your moisturizer more effectively. Also, ensuring that your skin is at optimal pH levels is important to maintain healthy skin.

    @Linda – Awesome! I’m glad you found it useful!

    @Soos – I think it depends on which toner you are using. There are some brands that strip the skin or make individuals breakout – especially formulas that contain alcohol. I always choose alcohol-free toners.

    Thanks for all your lovely comments! xx

  • Hippiechick

    Funny, I never used a toner until recently… couldn’t understand why it was needed… but then (In my 40s ) I started to develop an oily T-zone… my sister got me started on a botanical skin care regimen (Arbonne RE9 Advanced) and the toner resolved my oil problem immediately… can’t live without it now… I have never liked combination products (i.e. all in one shampoos) as it seems that each ingredient counteracts another so how can you reap any benefits…

    Love your articles Connie… I learn so much… keep it up!

  • shelley mccoll

    Thank you for clearing up the confusion with multitask items.
    Toning is the most important aspect to cleansing routine for all of the reasons you mentioned.
    It really does make everything else work better, and helps your makeup stay on by allowing your hydrating product to absorb into the skin instead of sitting on top.

    I always wondered about 2-in-1 shampoos as well.

  • Connie

    @Hippiechick – Glad to hear that you are finding toners help with your skin!!

    @Shelley – Not a problem, I had a feeling that this was a very valuable question :). 2-in-1 shampoos, in my opinion, also do not function as well. They do not cleanse as well as a shampoo or condition as well as a conditioner. You end up getting something mediocre between the two!

  • Connie

    Oh and apologies if some of the text is overlapping the images. I think it’s a bug or something. If you refresh a couple of times, the text should align itself properly… always some technical difficulties… ;)