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November 11, 2020
We always hear terms like toner, softener, hydrating mist, treatment lotions, and essences, but what are they really? What are their true purposes, and what are their differences?
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First of all, we suggest not to pay too much attention to the wording of it. There is no universal standard as to how to classify such product——even with the same ingredients, it may be called a toner or softener by Brand A, but Brand B may add a misting pump to the same sort of formula and call it a hydrating mist, and Brand C may make the product slightly thicker and call it a treatment lotion or essence. More often than not, product names are worded just to make the product more appealing with no substantial difference, which is why we suggest rather than focusing on the name, try to look at the ingredients and see if they suit your needs instead.
In the past, toners used to contain high concentrations of alcohol to help remove oil from the skin, which we all know now is too astringent and drying as it can damage the skin’s lipid barrier. However, toners that are on the market these days, whether they are called a toner, softener, hydrating mist, treatment lotion, or essence, mostly sit in a hydrating base with added properties to address different skin concerns, and many of them are alcohol-free. Therefore to simplify things, let’s call this step between cleansing and serum “toner”.
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First of all, toner is important in helping with the skin’s pH. Keeping the skin at the optimal pH of 5-6, is the key too healthy skin, yet many face cleansers, especially soap, often have an alkalinity well over 9. In fact, even tap water in certain areas has a pH of around 8 and can raise the skin’s pH, which can damage the skin’s barrier, making it more vulnerable to pollutants, bacteria, and infections. By using a toner after cleansing, the skin can be brought back to its naturally slightly acidic state.
Think about how you wash the dishes. When you squeeze dish-washing liquid to a dry sponge, it won’t get distributed evenly on the sponge, and you won’t be able to clean the dishes effectively. The skin after cleansing is like that dry sponge. Without that extra water in the skin, all the skincare products you put on the skin afterwards won’t get absorbed and distributed in the skin; whereas if you put serums, oils or moisturizer on damp skin, they will be able to penetrate much better.
Wise Awakening Advanced Nourishing Toner <- Click to shop
Serums and some moisturisers are usually filled with humectants, such as hyaluronic acid. These humectants work by pulling water from its surroundings to the epidermis (the top layer of the skin). When the air’s humidity is over 70%, they can pull water vapour from the air to hydrate the skin. Nevertheless, when the humidity is low, these humectants will instead draw water from the dermis (the second layer of skin) to the epidermis. On the other hand, moisturizers usually consist of occlusive ingredients, which basically form a physical barrier on the skin to lock in moisture. This essentially means, you will have to replenish the skin with actual water molecules by using products such as toners that usually sit in a water-based formula, be it water itself, aloe vera leaf juice, green tea, or hydrosols, so that the humectants can actually have something to draw from, and the occlusives have water to lock in.
Besides water molecules, toners these days are often enriched with other ingredients such as botanical extracts and vitamins (although typically in less concentrations than serums), and depending on the formula, they can provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, soothing, calming, or brightening benefits.
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Trans-epidermal water loss can happen straight after cleansing, so it is best to apply a toner within 60-seconds. And don’t wait for it to completely absorb or dry down. The next product, most likely a serum, should be applied when the skin is still wet from the toner, because most molecules penetrate the skin better when it is wet, so applying active ingredients immediately after toner will deliver better results.
After a serum and before an oil, you may also want to lightly pat or mist a layer of toner. This way, the oil will be able to penetrate better into the skin, and better yet, it will feel less heavy on the skin.
Contrary to popular belief however, toner should not be seen as an extra cleansing step. A lot of people like to pour some toner on a cotton pad and keep wiping it up and down, left to right. Yet dragging a cotton pad around the skin day in and day out will inevitably damage the skin and create unwanted lines in the future. Just cleanse properly and carefully when you're actually cleansing!
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Now, as said before toner always sit in a water-based formula, be it water, aloe vera leaf juice, green tea, or hydrosols. Depending on the formula, it can also contain glycerin, botanical extracts, sodium hyaluronate, antioxidants, vitamins, and and anti-inflammatories. While fatty alcohols like benzyl, stearyl, cetearyl and cetyl alcohols are great for the skin, we do recommend avoiding anything with drying alcohol, which usually appear as Alcohol, Alcohol Denat., Isopropyl Alcohol, Methanol and SD Alcohol in a product’s ingredient list.
For sensitive skin, choose one with skin-calming botanicals, such as aloe vera, cucumber, calendula, gotu kola, allantoin, and oat silk; for added brightening effect, look for ingredients like rose, jasmine, niacinamide, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, pitaya, and pearl.
Where as for acne and rough skin, as well as skin with large pores, one that has AHAs, BHAs and PHAs can help exfoliate dead cells, improve skin texture, reduce acne, and clear pores.
For extra nourishing and anti-aging benefits, or for those that want to simplify their routine, a bi-phase formula that consists of both water-soluble and oil-soluble ingredients may be ideal to hydrate and nourish at the same time.
Serum Bioluminelle™ <- Click to shop
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