I know I know, it looks like water and an unnecessary step in your cleansing routine. Never mind that you used a toner when you were fifteen and it dried the heck out of your skin, leaving you tight, flaky and dehydrated.
I’m here to tell you that it’s time to try it again. A non-drying, alcohol free toner can make a real change for the betterment of your skin. When my clients start using a toner it changes their skin from dull to visibly fresh almost instantly. The main reason for using a toner is that it removes impurities like chlorine, sodium and fluoride that are left on your skin after you’ve wash your face using tap water.
Chlorine: is often added to water as a disinfectant. Unfortunately, chlorine is toxic, which makes it really bad for your skin. It’s an irritant and because it’s so drying it can cause itchiness, rashiness and even eczema. It strips the skin of its natural oils and damages the outer lipid barrier layer, leading to increased dryness and flakiness. Over time, it leads to deep dehydration that will exacerbate the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, accelerating the aging process.
Fluoride: is added to drinking water to “protect public health” according to the EPA, mainly to promote dental health. Like chlorine, it’s toxic and irritating to the skin (notice the warning on your tube of fluorinated toothpaste) but it also disrupts the production of collagen which results in a loss of tone and eventually wrinkles.
The best way to counteract these effects is to swipe a gentle toner over your skin after washing to remove the tap water residue. Many toners are packaged in spray bottles. Keep in mind that if you just spray the toner over your skin you’are not removing that layer of impurities. Instead, get some of those flat round cotton pads and saturate it generously with a toner, then wipe it over your face. Finish by spritzing the skin for an added a layer of hydrating moisture that can be sealed in with your serum or moisturizer.
Many toners have the added benefit of performance ingredients which can help your individual skin concerns. Look for: Calming ingredients like chamomile, antioxidant ingredients like Vitamin C, exfoliating and disinfecting ingredients like salicylic acid or circulation improving ingredients like ginseng.
A toner will improve the permeability of your skin to accept important performance ingredients found in your treatment products. Improvement of penetration of performance based serums may be as much as ten times that of treatment products applied to dry skin. Note: be careful when following your toner with potentially irritating ingredients like Retinoic Acid (Retin-A).
Toners can also balance out your skin’ pH levels.
The normal pH of skin is around 5.5, which is slightly more acidic than milk. This acidic layer known as the acid mantle is our body’s first line of defense against invading bacteria. So what happens when things get out of balance?
Your skin is constantly producing oils, sweat, lymph fluids, and other defense mechanisms inside the skin. They work together to achieve normalcy that creates a protective lipid barrier. If you disrupt that barrier your skin is going to be more vulnerable to bacteria, mold, fungus and irritants from the environment.
Using soap or foaming detergent based cleansers (like sodium lauryl sulphate) on your skin can create a harmful imbalance in your skins acid mantel. Soap have a pH factor between 9 – 11 and this high alkalinity can not only dry out the skin, but it can disrupt the acid mantel that is protecting your skin from infection.
Another factor regulating your skin’s pH is the presence of micro flora on the skin. These are involved in the breakdown of fatty acids and partly responsible for the creation of acidic pH of the skin. The use of soap not only changes the skin’ pH but also kills the good bacteria that protects our skin.
Be cautious of exfoliating toners that contain salicylic acid, glycolic acid or other AHAs. While they can be beneficial for very thick oily skin types, they are generally not my first choice for most everyone else. This is because exfoliating toners penetrate so quickly that while the skin initially feels smoother, it tends to dehydrate easily and become sensitized which can exacerbate inflammation and even promote breakouts. Plus, most people who are attracted to this type of toner are probably using other forms of exfoliants as well. The combination equals just too much exfoliation for most people to maintain a healthy skin environment.
Now you’ve decided to bring back toners into your skincare routine you also have better tools for choosing the right toner to complete your cleansing routine and prepare your skin for the healing and skin enhancing products to follow.