You may have heard skin care experts debating the pros and cons of using a facial toner. Some feel they are an essential part of any good skin care routine, while others feel they are unnecessary. For example, some dermatologists only recommend alcohol based toners for oily skin, and feel that all other skin types do not need them.
If you talk with most aestheticians, they will tell you that toners are an essential part of any skin care routine. So, where does the truth lie? Perhaps somewhere in between. I strongly believe that a truly gentle and well formulated toner, can be an important step in your skin care routine. Does this mean that you have to use it religiously day and night? Not necessarily. However, regular use can provide great benefits as I will discuss later on.
Toners have evolved a long way from the heavily laden alcohol based ones, although many still do exist. When I say alcohol, I am referring to drying alcohol such as SD Alcohol 40. In, this regard, some dermatologists may suggest these types of formulations for oily / very oily skin thinking the added alcohol will control excess oil production.
However, over the long term, alcohol based products may produce even more oil. Drying out your skin with harsh alcohol or even witch hazel can send a signal to your sebaceous glands to pump out even more oil. In this case, you may end up with skin that is not only more oily, but that may be prone to breakouts as well. Ingredients which dry and strip the skin can negatively affect your skin’s acid mantle, which in turn may cause further problems such as pimples or breakouts; slightly acidic skin can help prevent bacteria which can lead to breakouts.
There also seems to be some confusion regarding products marketed as “astringents” and those sold as “toners.” Is there any difference between the two? The experts appear to be divided on this subject. The term astringent usually describes products which contain alcohol, while toners do not. However, if you look at the myriad of products out there, you will still find many “toners” that contain alcohol.
Astringents are meant to help control oil production by removing it from the surface layer of skin. Some may or may not help to reduce the appearance of larger pores. However, most products labeled, “astringents” often have ingredients in addition to alcohol which can be further irritating or drying. For example, many contain peppermint, menthol and or eucalyptus.
Instead, use natural ingredients with mild astringent properties such as green tea and chamomile. So what are the potential benefits of using a well formulated gentle, alcohol free toner?
KEEPING YOUR SKIN’S ACID MANTLE HEALTHY
A well formulated toner should always have a slightly acidic pH. This is close to your skin’s pH when it is balanced and healthy. A toner can help restore your skin’s pH after cleansing (if you used a more alkaline cleanser). pH can also be negatively affected by a poor diet, stress and environmental factors.
REMOVING ANY LAST TRACES OF MAKE-UP
A gentle toner can remove any minute traces of makeup which may have been left behind. If you sometimes find a tiny bit of make-up left on your cotton pad, it does not necessarily mean your cleanser is ineffective. While very strong alkaline cleansers may make your face feel squeaky clean, they will also dry it and strip your skin’s acid mantle. Make sure you also use a cleanser that is gentle with a slightly acidic pH.
A gentle toner can supply your skin with oil-free moisture. Products with ample amounts of ingredients such as aloe vera or natural humectants can help to instantly moisturize skin after cleansing. In this case, you may not need as much moisturizer, or in the case of oily skin, none at all, particularly at bedtime.
Adding antioxidants with anti-aging ingredients such as resveratrol, green tea, and spirulina may help keep skin looking younger. Additional ingredients which may help brighten skin such as bilberry and Vitamin B 3, can be very helpful as well. These types of ingredients are suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin. Toners may also help your moisturizer or any treatment product absorb better.
GO FRAGRANCE FREE
Always use a toner that is fragrance free. Many people react to fragrance, most commonly from some type of allergic reaction. There is never a reason to use toners with synthetic fragrances or strong essential oils. Some ingredients such as organic aloe vera provides a gentle, beautiful soft scent without added fragrance.
KEEPING IT SIMPLE
If your skin is dry, using a toner in the morning may be all you need. After applying toner, use a good moisturizer followed by a sunblock with an SPF 15 or higher.
Using a super gentle and soothing toner can be a great step after using exfoliants such as glycolic acid. Healing and nourishing ingredients such as aloe vera and cucumber can provide both moisturizing and healing properties.
Using a gentle toner free of alcohol, fragrance and artificial colors can provide a wonderful step in your skin care regimen. Not only can it provide additional gentle cleansing benefits, but it may help keep skin more hydrated and younger looking.