I’ve never been a huge advocate of toners; most that I tried in my teens and early twenties left my face so dry and stripped that my skin would be completely knocked out of balance. I think that there was a real trend, then especially, for “cleanser and toner duos”; you’d cleanse with a lotion and some cotton wool, and then use the astringent toner to remove the remains of the lotion. I don’t think that it was ever a very effective way of cleansing; there’s no way that you can really get down to the nitty gritty with a few bits of cotton wool. It’s convenient, I suppose, if you don’t want to have to hang over the sink, but if you have layers of makeup and then a whole day’s worth of city grime? No.
Anyway, these days it’s all about the rinse-off cleanser or, even better, the balm or cream cleanser that you remove with a flannel or washcloth. Massaged in so that all of the dirt and makeup is dissolved, and then buffed off with the very-slightly-abrasive cloth or flannel, skin is left absolutely clean with no cleanser residue or leftover dirt. I suppose it’s because I feel as though today’s cleansers do such a thorough job that I don’t consider a toner to be an essential piece of kit; there’s no urge to get that “fresh” feeling that toners used to leave you with. But there are toners that do a far more important job than simply freshening; acid toners, for example, that help to exfoliate the skin, or ones that contain antioxidant or cell-communicating ingredients. Toners that help to clarify or to hydrate or to protect (I adore MD Formulations AntiOxidant spray, but they have shut their business down here so grab it while you can!), toners that soothe and calm or that help to discourage breakouts.
I don’t use a toner daily; I’ll swipe with something lovely if the urge takes me, but I won’t go out of my way to track down a bottle if it’s not to hand. Just my personal preference; there are plenty who swear by the toner step, especially if it’s an exfoliating toner. (If you’re after one of those, take a look at the Clarins one that Caroline Hirons recommends, it’s online here.) I find that my Liquid Gold and peeling masks are enough chemical exfoliation for me, but it’s a nice way to get a gentle bit of skin-sloughing in, if you prefer the “little and often” approach. I’ll put together a post on exfoliating toners (or exfoliating liquids) soon, but in the meantime here are a few others I’ve been testing out recently, all of them declaring themselves free from alcohol*.
1) l’Occitane’s Amande Pomme Toning Cider. Still my favourite ever toner, it was discontinued years ago but luckily I had a stash put away. I may start a petition to bring it back, because it works so well on my skin when it’s PMT time. Makes everything feel clarified and clean without being at all drying and smells like an apple orchard. BRING IT BACK L’OCCITANE!
2) Effaclar Toner: a brand new one for me, I’ve only had my hands on it for a week. But I like what I see. Exfoliating, oil-controlling and calming all at the same time. Those who read last week’s post will know that I was looking for five testers to review the new Effaclar Anti-Blemish kits that launch in September. Those testers are: H.NortonShaw, Frances.Barcelos, Bethanrabjohns, DianaLlloyd5 and Andrea Lutton. You will have had an email by now – I look forward to hearing your thoughts later on in the summer.
3) The Body Shop’s Vitamin E Hydrating Toner. Really is hydrating. It reminds me a little bit of Clinique’s Moisture Surge spray, but this is a lot more purse-friendly. The scent of it does nothing for me, so I’d rather it wasn’t there at all, but I’m being nit-picky there. You can find this toner at The Body Shop – use the code “35OFF” to get 35% off. It’s £8.50 (before discount) here.
4) Organic Surge Orange Flower Water; I loved the smell of this in the bottle, on the skin it has a slightly antiseptic tinge. It’s quite astringent, really, which was a surprise because I was expecting something altogether more insipid. It’s very refreshing, but I’d be interested to know how dry-skinned people got on with it because it had quite a tightening effect on my face. I think, though, that something may have happened to it on my sunny windowsill – my toner is so much darker than any of the others I’ve seen in google images! Oh dear. Find it here – it’s six pounds for the lovely non-sunburned version!
5) (Partially hidden!) Clinique’s Even Better Essence Lotion. New and absolutely brilliant. I need to get hold of the one for combination skin to give it a full test, but it’s beautifully put together and has ingredients to help protect and hydrate the skin. It’s not marketed as a toner, but it’s liquid and does the same kind of thing, so I don’t see why it shouldn’t be included. I’ll be back with a full verdict after I’ve tried the combi one. Find more details here online, it’s £30.
*The Body Shop toner and the Organic Surge toner both state on the bottles that they are alcohol-free. I queried this because both contain alcohol – Benzyl Alcohol, to be precise. Benzyl Alcohol is one of the drying types of alcohol, but in both cases here it is at the end of the ingredients list and present in such small quantities that it wouldn’t be considered problematic.