Toners – Benefits & Ingredients


Why do we need toners?

The main function of toners is to lower the pH of the skin after cleansing. Secondly, toners help remove any excess cleanser or residue left on the skin after cleansing.

Other product claims

Toners are claimed to add hydrating ingredients to the skin along with water. A spray of a toner that contains humectant ingredients followed quickly while the skin is still damp with a hydrating moisturizer or treatment product can flood the upper layers of the skin with water and ingredients to keep it there.

It also claimed to close pores or refine the skin.

Most importantly, it is far more important to look for toners that leave the face feeling smooth and soft, can remove the last traces of makeup and do not irritate the skin.

Choosing the right one

When choosing a toner, look for those that contain a good assortment of state-of-the-art ingredients which are cell-communicating ingredients, water-binding agents, anti-irritants, antioxidants and skin-identical ingredients. 

Toners that add plant oils or emollients are best for normal to dry skin. Toners that add mild detergent cleansing agents with no emollients, but that also include all the other state-of-the-art ingredients, are considered best for normal to oily skin.

For some skin types, a toner can be the only ‘moisturizer’ the skin needs. Even for someone with dry skin, toners can be a great lightweight start to add an extra helping of brilliant, healthy ingredients to skin.

Toners, astringents, fresheners, tonics and other liquids meant to refresh the skin or remove the last traces of makeup after a cleanser is rinsed off should not contain any irritants whatsoever.

pH requirement

Most toners have a lower pH, usually around 4.0 to 5.5. This low pH helps to restore the normal pH of the skin’s acid mantle after cleansing, which is normally around 5.5 to 6.2. Although lemon extract is considered a potent skin irritant, citric acid or lemon extract is sometimes added to toners to help lower the pH of the product. 

Toners for Oily Skin

Astringents are functional agents, but sometimes are active ingredients if used in a drug formulation, that have a tightening effect on the skin or pore appearance. Astringent ingredients include witch hazel or hamamelis extract, potassium alum, lemon extract and other citrus extracts. Witch hazel and lemon extract are considered skin irritants.

Astringents actually work by causing a slight swelling around the pore openings, helping to tighten the skin and minimize the appearance of the pore opening. Toner products for oily skin are sometimes referred to as astringents, although to call a product an astringent is technically a drug term.

For oilier skins, alcohol is often used as a important agent. Isopropyl and SD alcohols are drying alcohols, unlike cetyl alcohol, which is a fatty alcohol used in creams. 

SD alcohol and isopropyl alcohol, with drying effects, are strong cleansing agents that help remove excess quantities of sebum from oily skin or oily areas. In larger quantities, they are claimed as antiseptics, helping to kill surface micro-organisms. 

Is alcohol bad for the skin?

Alcohol, an ingredient with drying effect on the skin, has an unnerving reputation in the cosmetic industry. Many companies tout that their products are ‘alcohol-free’.

Alcohol helps to control oiliness in oily and acne-prone skin. 

Although cetyl alcohol is not a skin irritant, but Isopropyl alcohol, SD alcohols (also known as ethanol), and other alcohol ingredients like denatured alcohol, ethyl alcohol, methanol and benzyl alcohol are considered extremely drying and irritating to skin and also said to generate free radical damage.

Generally, in a product where these ingredients are at the top of the ingredient list, they will be problematic for all skin types. But if they are at the bottom of an ingredient list, there most likely is not enough present to be a problem for skin.

Isopropyl alcohol is considered a strong drying alcohol, can dehydrate and irritate if overused, or used on skin that is not excessively oily.

Do not reject a product simply because it has some SD or isopropyl alcohol. Make your decision based on the skin type you are treating.

Toners for Dry Skin

Toners for dry skin often contain humectants that help restore moisture to the dehydrated skin after cleansing. A humectant is an ingredient that attracts water. Toner humectants may include butylene glycol, propylene glycol and sorbitol. These humectant ingredients are also known for their softening effect on the skin. You may find some dry skin toners with an acidic pH.

Azulene, chamomile and bisabolol, ingredients with soothing effects, are added in a toner especially for dry and sensitive skin.

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