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‘Cleanse, tone and moisturise’ has always been a mainstream beauty mantra. The long-held belief was that a toner removed anything your cleanse left behind, shrank pores and restored skin’s pH levels before the application of serums and creams.
Then two things happened. First, beauty regimes got progressively more complicated so using a toner fell by the wayside. Second, toners started to get a bad reputation because many formulations contained high levels of alcohol, making them astringent and extremely drying – terms which don’t exactly scream glowing complexion.
Thankfully, the majority of brands went back to the drawing board and reformulated their toners not only to make them alcohol-free, but also to boost them with active ingredients in order to supercharge your skincare routine.
So, are they worth adding back into your routine? Before you add one to your online shopping basket, here’s all you need to know.
What is a toner?
‘A toner is a liquid-based formula you sweep across your face using a cotton pad. Applied after cleansing, it’s often left on the skin rather than washed off. While it’s not absolutely necessary, it can be a great addition to a high-performance skincare routine. Toners are fast-penetrating, so they deliver a quick hit of hydration and help to remove some dead cells off the surface of the skin.’ says Cosmetic Doctor and founder of Zenii, Dr Jo Ward.
‘Because they contain ingredients such as antioxidants and acids, they provide that extra dose of nourishment and fortification. They can also help to address specific skin concerns such as dryness, congestion and sensitivity,’ she adds.
How does a toner work?
‘There are a few myths around toners need that addressing. They should never be deployed to finish off the job of your cleanser. If your toner is removing traces of make-up, then you need to double cleanse. Toners aren’t able to close pores because, as the saying goes, ‘pores are not doors’ – they don’t open and close. You can minimise their appearance with regular cleansing and by deploying a salicylic acid, which works to flush out dirt and oil,’ says Dr Ward.
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What does a toner do your face?
‘As to what a toner actually does, it’s essentially the skincare equivalent of a make-up primer. By bringing your skin back to its natural acidic state and sweeping some dead cells away, your skin is better prepped for the products that follow,’ Continues Dr Ward.
‘Think of your skin as a dry sponge, if you put a heavy duty moisturiser on it, then it won’t sink in, but if you make it damp first, it’ll sink in more easily. The great thing about toners is that anyone can use them. And as the benefits of facial toners are as vast as the benefits of serums, it’s all about finding the right one for your skin type or concerns,’ clarifies Dr Ward.
What should I look for in my facial toner?
Dr Ward suggests looking for ingredients specific to your concerns. Look out fo the following ingredients
- Rosewater for hydration
- Chamomile for soothing
- Tea tree oil to fight oil and bacteria
- Aloe vera to calm inflammation and redness
- Vitamin E for hydration
- Plant stem cells for antioxidants and anti-aging properties
- Acids for exfoliating
The best toners to suit your skin type
1. Best toner for oily skin
A salicylic acid (BHA) toner can help to regulate the oil production in skin while also dissolving dirt in pores so that blackheads do a disappearing act.
2. Best toner for dry skin
A toner laced with hyaluronic acid, vitamin E or rosewater can give the skin an extra dose of moisture, helping to keep the skin barrier intact and your face plump.
3. Best toner for dull skin
Dead cells on the skin’s surface aren’t able to reflect light, making your complexion looker duller than dishwater. Glycolic acid quickly dissolves them giving you back your radiance.
4. Best toner for sensitive skin
Seek out toner that is brimming with skin-calming plant extracts and minerals so that it provides relief, hydration and brings balance back to your complexion.
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