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KNOW YOUR INGREDIENTS: Astringents, Toners and Fresheners Oh My!

When we think of astringents, toners and fresheners we often think of the astringents of old that often contained large quantities of isopropyl alcohol.   These stripping skincare products now have a bad rep. And for good reason. 

Although many liked the crisp, tight, drying feeling of these old astringents, especially if you had oily or acne prone skin, we have learned that we were often causing more harm than good by using them.  In the short term, the high alcohol content may seem to make a breakout subside, or your skin feel squeaky clean, but studies done by the International Dermal Institute, have determined that the common ingredients in astringents strip the skin’s natural protective barrier and mess with its delicate pH acid mantle or biome.   This can create a vicious cycle of excessive drying, irritation, excessive oiliness and believe it or not, new breakouts!

 Although there are still many isopropyl alcohol-based astringents on the market, such as Clear Pore or SeaBreeze, and many still swear by them, what most of us are using today are classified as toners or fresheners as the second step to our skin cleaning routine.

So what is the difference?!  Toners and fresheners contain  much less alcohol (typically under 15%) or no alcohol at all and are often packed with good acids, antioxidants, and even anti-inflammatory agents.  The new and improved toners of today help balance the skin’s pH, close pores after cleansing, and can even provide effective exfoliation, helping to remove dead skin cells and reveal clearer, brighter skin, no matter what type of skin you have, all without stripping the skin or overly drying oil glands.  So, you get the clean feeling you want with the added bonus of protecting the skin’s protective barrier.

The terms freshener and toner are often used interchangeably, but in the skincare world, fresheners by definition, should contain no alcohol and are typically sprayed or “spritzed” onto a clean face - often used in spa and aesthetic settings.   Toners, fresheners and the newest term essences, can help restore your skin’s pH with ingredients such as glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C, polypeptides, aloe, chamomile, calendula and tea tree oil for example. The skin balancing benefit of quality toners, fresheners and essences of today literally prepare the skin for accepting and absorbing follow up skincare products, such as serums and moisturizers making them much more effective, therefore these products can be used morning and night as your second step after cleansing!   

 But which one is right for your skin type?   Here are a few key elements that you should consider when purchasing a toner, freshener or essence:

Great examples:  Our ZO Calming Toner pH Balancer or Dermalogica’s Antioxidant Hydramist

Whether it’s called an astringent, toner, freshener or essence, it all boils down to the INGREDIENTS!  Knowing how each ingredient works and which are best for your skin type will make all the difference! 

Catherine Puckett, L.E.   May 2021

Author
Catherine Puckett L.E.

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