Cleanse, tone and moisturise…the first and last are pretty self-explanatory, but what’s the deal with toner I hear you ask? If you believe everything you read, you may think toning is a waste of time and money, or, that it can fix every single problem you’ve ever had. Enlarged pores, breakouts, dryness and flaking, redness, hyperpigmentation – does it really do all of the above? The jury appears to be confused.
The main point of using toner is to balance the pH of your skin after cleansing. Your skin has an acid mantle (a very fine film, secreted by sebaceous glands, on the surface of the skin forming part of the skin’s barrier to bacteria, viruses and other sources of disease and destruction) with a pH of 4.5-6.2.
A lot of cleansers (foaming ones in particular) disrupt this system. This interferes with your skin’s natural protection mechanism, and leaves it more prone to infection, dryness and flaking, and damage – increasing the risk of scarring and hyperpigmentation. Not all cleansers strip your skin like those that contains SLSs or other foaming agents. However as very hot water, over zealous exfoliation, wind and too much sun, among other things, can damage it, I advise using a toner to restore this balance.
Not all toners are created equal, and you do have to check the back of the bottle to know what you’re buying. Alcohol is unfortunately a key ingredient in many, particularly in those formulated for oily skin. Alcohol is not your friend (in skincare anyway – it is absolutely your best ally if you find yourself in Coppers accidentally), not least if you have oily skin. Although it may initially give you that “super clean” feeling you are after, it can dry your skin out leading to one of two scenarios: your skin begins to flake and peel (something that refuses to be masked with makeup) or it goes into overdrive oil production to compensate. Neither one is exactly what I’d call #skingoals.
So what’s a girl (or guy, hey I won’t tell the lads you’re reading this if you won’t) to do? Having tried many with varying success, I’ve finally settled on a homemade version. Yes, sounds dodgy, I know. But give it a try before you knock it – and by a try I mean a good month of bi-
daily use. Diluted apple cider vinegar is the ridiculously simple recipe. You need proper ACV that’s cloudy and has those random bits floating in it – sounds gross, but the crystal clear stuff is over processed and will not yield the same result. I use 1 tablespoon of Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar – available from any health food store, and possibly fancy supermarkets – diluted in about 500ml filtered water. ACV has a similar pH to that of your skin and helps restore the
acid mantle. It’s also not loaded with chemicals, and cheap as chips as a full bottle will outlive many of its alcohol laden competitors.
If you’d prefer to buy instead of make-and-do, Avène do a first-rate “Thermal Spring Water” spray. It is perfect for drier skin types, or even regular skin as the winter creeps in. I like to carry it in hand luggage when flying and use a couple of times in the air. Oilier skins may prefer something like this Clarins toner for oily/combination skins – I used this previously and really liked it, but have tried to reduce the amount of chemicals on my skin and have switched to the ACV for the moment.
Always on the lookout for something new (my bathroom cabinet is going to collapse one of these days, from the weight of products I have stuffed in there), I have been tempted by the PIXI Glow Tonic. I have yet to purchase it (I know I’ll succumb eventually) but it does seem to be the stuff dreams are made of. Has anyone been lucky enough to try it yet? Would also love to hear how you get on with the ACV, or if you have any reliable alternatives?