Cleanse, tone, moisturise. This well-known skincare mantra has been drummed into us since the beginning of time and because of this, many believe that cleansing, toning and moisturising are the key cornerstones of any skincare regime. In honesty, I would say that it was clever and highly-effective marketing as in my nerdie opinion, toners usually don’t play an important role in the skincare routines’ of most hoomans. Some even do much more harm than good.
What actually is a toner?
A toner is oddly difficult to define. What they ALL seem to have in common is that they are a fluid that you apply to your face post-cleanse and pre- your other steps. The original astringent toners served the purpose of balancing your skin’s pH and removing remnants of cleanser and makeup left after cleansing.
Our skin’s PH balance is very, very important. Our skin is protected by a layer known as the acid mantle or the skin’s barrier. We want the acid mantle to have a pH layer of around 5.5 – slightly acidic. Many cleansers upset the balance of the skin due to the fact that they are too alkaline and this was more common back in the day because of soap. Traditional soap is highly alkaline so it’s not so fabulous for your barrier function. A compromised barrier equals dehydrated skin, eczema flare-ups, irritation and congestion. Not good.
For the most part, we would recommend daily-use cleansers that are very close to our skin’s own pH or that help to balance it, such as the IMAGE Ormedic Balancing Facial Cleanser (€35.00), so there’s little need for a separate product that balances the skin’s pH post-cleansing. When it comes to acid-based cleansers (ie. those that contain salicylic acid, lactic acid, poly-hydroxy acid and so on), we are very particular about when and how often people should use them so as not to disturb their skin’s pH.
My belief is that toners over-promise and under-deliver. They tend to be laced with drying alcohols that can help to slick our oils short-term but are actually dehydrating and damaging our skin. You are better off amalgamating your toner and moisturiser budget into your serum budget – some serums contain ingredients that promote the health of your skin’s barrier (those that contain niacinamide, PHA and other ingredients) and they hydrate deeper than a moisturiser can.
Exceptions to the rule: nerdie “toners” that we love
Now, have you heard of Spritz O’Clock? Spritz O’Clock, aka the act of facial misting all day, e’rryday, is my mode of getting the benefits that toners promise. Essentially, Spritz O’Clock is about re-hydrating the skin repeatedly without having to remove your makeup, apply a serum, and pop back on makeup. Spritz O’Clock is a recurring infusion of moisture to the upper layers of the skin, which keep the skin hydrated. Dehydrated skin means a compromised barrier so skin hydration is incredibly important for the acid mantle.
A favourite Spritz O’Clock of mine is YonKa’s Lotion Yon-Ka (€32.00). Lotion PS is for dry skin and Lotion PNG is for oily skin – both are available on The Skin Nerd store and contain essential oils which soothe and refresh the skin.
Mineral water Spritz O’Clocks are perfect for those just looking for sheer hydration and whose skin is prone to irritation, itchiness or those who have inflammatory skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis. Avène Thermal Spring Water Spray (€14.99) has a neutral PH and contains microflora that are shown to reducing itching in trials.
Dermalogica’s Multi-Active Toner (€36.00, available on the store with Nerd Network membership) is a nutrient-packed Spritz O’Clock. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, as Shakespeare said… It is full of aloe leaf juice and cucumber extract to hydrate and cool. Additionally, aloe leaf is humectant in nature meaning that it binds water to it, as is sodium lactate which is also in this spritz.
REN’s Ready Steady Glow Daily Tonic (€32.00, available on the store with Nerd Network membership) is not quite like the others! It is a fluid that you apply post-cleanse to boost your skin’s natural exfoliation process. It does this because it contains not just hydrating ingredients but exfoliating AHA lactic acid and azelaic acid precursors.
When a toner is worthwhile
A toner is worthwhile when…
You’ve got an additional skincare budget to play with
- Toners should not be coming before a cleanser, serum and SPF… ever. They are a nice way to get additional skingredients into your routine when you want to give it a boost, though.
It serves more of a purpose than simply balancing your skin’s pH
- For example, it introduces peptides, exfoliating ingredients or other beneficial ingredients to the skin.
You see a difference whilst using it
- If you like it, you like it. My point is more that many people use toners even though there are better solutions for what they’re trying to do.
The nerdie verdict on toners
The astringent toners of days gone by can be taken off your shopping list! Opt for cleansers that do not throw your skin’s pH off instead, toners and Spritz O’Clocks that supply your skin with hydration or active skincare ingredients and serums that assist in its barrier function.
Do you want a personalised skincare routine created for you by an experienced skin expert? Do you want all of your lovely active, cosmeceutical skincare products shipped directly to your door?! Well, it may be time to join the Nerd Network.