Toners were once recommended as a way to restore skin’s pH balance after using a bar soap because old skool cleansers raised the skin’s natural pH to a level that isn’t good for your skin. However, a modern toner is more about restoring the skin as a good cleanser shouldn’t disrupt the skin’s pH.
Toners can be beneficial but you must use one which includes antioxidants and skin-repairing substances such as glycerin, fatty acids, and ceramides will gently put good things back into the skin after cleansing, rather than cheap, alcohol laden toners that strip the skin’s protective mantle and potentially cause inflammation – a key cause of ageing. Eek!
Finding a good toner can be a minefield though as there are many that do more harm than good in my opinion.
Alcohol-based formulas with ‘astringent’ ingredients such as witch hazel and alcohol. Often promoted as being useful for oily skin, what they actually do is irritate the skin by stripping it of its protective sebums, exposing it to free radical damage, which can then impact the skin’s ability to produce collagen.
Fragrant toners with ingredients such as rose water or citrus extracts may be irritating to sensitive skin types.
A lot of toners now also include chemical exfoliants such as alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs). I personally don’t like these as I believe most people over exfoliate and this is something that the skin should do naturally if it is functioning correctly. In my opinion a toner should always GIVE back to the skin in terms of moisturisation and protective antioxidants, not TAKE from the skin by exfoliating, which, when done on a daily basis can be damaging.
Water-based toners with ingredients that nurture the skin. Look for antioxidants, vitamins a, c and e as well as niacinimide.
Do I use a toner?
In the past I obligingly followed all the AHA trends, stripping my skin twice a day with a toning pad drenched in glycolic acid. These days I cringe at the thought of that. My view now is that that is a terrible thing to do to the skin. Currently I don’t use a toner as such, although I think the word toner is slightly outdated. I use Osmosis Clear Facial Conditioner, $55 which suits all skin types and aids in product penetration through Osmosis: the diffusion of water from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration. It helps to heal, rejuvenate and drive products into the skin and provides a great ‘slip’ for facial massage. It can be used at any point throughout the day to hydrate and reduce bacteria buildup on the skin’s surface. It is a harmonized water which contains epidermal growth factor, keratinocyte growth factor, antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral frequencies.
In the past I have also used Dermalogica AGESmart Antioxidant Hydramist, which creates a hydrating, antioxidant shield over the skin to help reduce dryness and protect the skin from free radical damage. I really enjoyed this product and a lot of people who travel a lot swear by it on long flights.