Every beauty counter sales person will tell you that there are at least three solid steps in daily skin care: Cleansing, Toning, and Moisturizing. Okay, cleansing is a given, especially for those of us who wear makeup daily. DO NOT SLEEP IN MAKEUP!!! And even if we are naturalists and use little to no makeup, it is good to remove the oil, dust, pollen, andother environmental deposits that collect on the skin each day. And moisturization makes a lot of sense, it is essential for those with very dry skin as well as those with combination and even oily skin. Moisturizer helps the skin to replenish the oils that are stripped during the cleansing process. And there are moisturizers with ingredients that help firm, tighten, smooth, plump, provide sun protection, and even mattify oily spots. But do we really need toner? What does it do? And is it pertinent that we include this step twice a day?
I have pondered over this for years. As a girl, I would go to the Estee Lauder counter at Hecht's with my mother and watch them talk her into $100 worth of products, including the tall bottle of colored liquid that looked like pink Kool-Aid. It intrigued me, what could this pastel colored water actually do for the skin. "It is essential for closing the pores and preparing the skin for moisturizer", said the overly made-up sales lady. I would read the label (yes, I read the ingredient lists well before I was taught how important it was in Esthetics School) and see that water was the first ingredient on the list. That was a no-brainer! Also high on the list was alcohol. Okay, so if alcohol is so good for the face, why don't we just get a 50 cent bottle of rubbing alcohol instead? And doesn't alcohol burn and sting?
As I came into my teenage years and actually began using more than a warm moist washcloth to clean my face (which by the way is perfectly fine for non makeup wearers with non problematic skin), I was introduced to Sea Breeze Astringent. The ads were all over Seventeen magazine, so it had to be what the models used. You needed cotton balls to apply the strong scented concoction to the face, and, oh man, the tingling. It felt refreshing! Like many teens, I equated that stinging with clean pores and clear, acne free skin. This is the other reason so many of my teenage peers also smeared their faces with Noxema cream, which I now know can clog pores and is very greasy---but that minty fresh tingle was addictive. And oh man, that Sea Breeze was strong! It could clear the sinuses. And it always left my skin feeling tight. But I still got hormonal acne every month. Still, I just knew that with a name like "Sea Breeze" that I was doing something good for my skin.
As a young adult, I came to a crossroads. I now had a job and I was no longer able to put things in the cart for my parents to pay for. I needed to economize. But I still wanted fresh, clean pores, and I wanted to prevent comedones (blackheads and whiteheads). And I loved my makeup!!! So I still bought cleanser (dumped the Noxema thank God) and Ialso bought a light moisturizer. Though in my 20's I rarely used moisturizer, I knew that in time the plump young skin would evade me and that I would need to replace moisture lost and add lipids to prevents dry lines. Clinique's Dramatically Different moisturizer in the iconic yellow bottle was and still is a staple for girls in their 20's. And still the sales lady kept pushing the 3-Step Process--it was the hard press sales technique, sure to up her commision. Cleanse, TONE, and moisturize. After a while, the tingly feeling that the strong astringent brought was not as impressive as it once was. The novelty wore off. And I hated to keep buying cotton balls. I occasionally used witch hazel (which was essentially what Clinique's toners were) trying to wipe the "grease" off my oily skin. But it still stayed shiny anyway.
Not all toners are made like Sea Breeze though. Toners are called Astringents when they have a moderately high alcohol content to them. Non-stingy toners, often contain glycerine, rosewater, comfrey, aloe, or some soothing ingredients. That's not bad. In fact all of those ingredients are good for your skin. No harm there. But does a toner really close pores like the sales people claim?
The answer is no. Your pores are pathways for our body's natural oils and perspiration to get onto the surface of the skin. They need to stay as is..they can be softened up during a steaming to allow debris to come out easily, but they shouldn't and don't close. But they can look small or large--due to genetics and the amount of debris build up inside them. And once they are stretched out, they stay that way, even after the debris has long gone. ( That is why someone who had horrible acne in their teens, can still have huge pores in their 50's, many years after the acne occured). There are ways to help them appear tighter and/or smaller, but a toner is not the real solution to closing pores.
So the answer to the question--is a TONER needed? I say it depends on what you use it for. I don't use toner. I use a good cleanser (not soap), and a Clarisonic brush to deep clean, lightly exfoliate, and remove makeup. Sometimes a second scrub is in order if you have a face full of makeup. Do a circular motion hand cleanse once, rinse, and then again with fingers or with the Carisonic. Dab skin a bit with a towel, but before your skin is bone dry, moisturize. It is good to moisturize while the skin is still hydrated. This will lock in the moisture/water. We will talk another time about my pics for these products:)
I have oily skin, and I have learned that strong astringents actually work against oily skin. Oil is your skin's natural defense. If you strip it away too much too fast, your oil glands will get scared and mad and produce even more to keep you safe. So that is why my skin still looked "greasy" even after all that Sea Breeze.
If you want to use an alcohol-free toner, to sweep residual makeup from the skin and to soothe or cool down skin, this is perfectly fine. Some people are just used to it, and can't skip this step. I say go for it, just make sure that no matter your skin type, the toner is either alcohol-free or has a low concentration of alcohol and that is does not sting.
But if you want to simplify and only have two steps in your twice daily facial care routine, skip the toning, and go straight from cleansing to moisturizer. And tell the Clinique lady the Bronzediva told you it's okay to do so.
Talk to you again soon,