Beauty · Make-up · Skin care

What is a toner and what is the point?

In my experience, toners are somewhat of a mystery product (to a lot of my clients and others I speak to).  It is widely accepted that they form part of a basic skincare regime and yet, few are able to pin point their actual purpose.  This results in one of two things: people buy any old product claiming to ‘tone’ the skin and therefore (unknowingly) probably buy something inappropriate/not suited to them or they just skip a toner all together, not seeing the point of it.  My post today is to formally introduce you to toners, their history and evolution, enabling you to go forth and (importantly) decide if they’re for you or not.  And I think they are…

Traditionally, cleansing preparations for the skin were rich, thick and difficult to remove (think Daggett and Ramsdell’s ‘Perfect Cold Cream’ of the 1940s).  Also around this time, it was widely believed (by skincare professionals!) that pores opened and closed due to tiny muscles that operated them – thank goodness we know better now! Being closed was the preference, as this created the smooth texture so widely considered ‘beautiful’.  Astringents were used on the skin to ‘close’ the pores and they also offered a cooling, refreshing sensation that appealed because it reduces redness and was quite relaxing.  With the growing popularity of products like ‘Perfect Cold Cream’, astringents became an effective method of refining the skin after their use, ensuring that every trace of such a gloopy cleanser was removed and leaving the skin feeling smooth and refreshed.

1905 Delineator
 Luckily, we’ve come a long way since.  Despite the fact that astringents and (slightly milder) tonics are still used today and available on the skincare market (like this one, for example), they’re not really necessary any more for the reasons that they once were.  Very often today, our cleansers are water soluble, which means that removal by rinsing or wiping with a damp flannel/cotton wool is sufficient in leaving the skin product free.  Which means we now have a choice: save your pennies and skip toning altogether or, is this actually an opportunity for your toner to now be something else to your skin, like extra nourishment?

I’m a massive fan of the latter and, suffering consistently with dehydration as I do, my toners tend to be a refreshing spritz that feeds my skin (I like a spritz as opposed to applying toner with cotton, because then all the product is going onto and benefiting my skin, rather than most of it being absorbed by the cotton and then thrown in the bin).  I’ve used many over the years but some of my favorites include Multi-Active Toner by Dermalogica £32.00 for 250ml and Hydrating Milky Mist by Pixi £18.00 for 80ml. If you’re going to use a toner in your skincare regime, it’s important to know what’s out there and what will suit you best.

Types of toners:

  • Skin fresheners – the gentlest form of toner and tend to be water based, containing very little or no alcohol at all.  These are perfect for dry, dehydrated, sensitive and normal skins.
  • Skin tonics – slightly stronger than skin fresheners and tend to contain alcohol (up to about 20%).  The alcohol is in there to strip the skin of oil secretions and any excess traces of make-up and product (which could clog pores and cause breakout activity and sensitization).  These tend to suit normal, combination and oily skins.
  • Astringents – the strongest form of toner, containing anywhere up to 60% alcohol in their ingredient profile, which is purely for the purpose of drying a skin that produces plenty of oil.

I really hope this post has taught you something new or been informative in some way. I feel strongly that the beauty industry should be approachable and transparent, which is one of the main objectives for my blog: to share and give honest clarity to the advice, products, trends and techniques that are sold to us, so that you can make informed and confident decisions about what suits you.

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Thanks for reading x

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