Q. Can you give me the low-down on toners? I gave up using them because they tended to irritate my sensitive skin but now I wonder if I should reconsider?
A. Back in the day, toners were aimed at oily skin, which, it was thought, needed an extra stage of cleansing. We always used to suggest that women with touchy skins (like us) avoided toners, which could dry the skin and also provoke irritation. Now things have changed with the advent of sophisticated toners, many based on gentle botanicals, that are formulated for different skin types. NB They are not always called toners nowadays; you might find them as tonics, clarifying lotions, even some facial mists count as toners.
The good thing about toners has always been that as well as removing any teeny traces of the day’s dust, grime and make-up left after cleansing (although a grubby cotton wool pad means you simply aren’t cleansing properly), they lifted off a
any dead skin cells clustering on the surface. Additionally, the new formulations contain ingredients that, for instance, help to moisturise and hydrate the complexion or, as in your case, soothe and reduce inflammation. Your skin should be more even-toned and look brighter, with or without make-up.
According to skin expert Caroline Hirons (who we respect hugely), a good toner will also help to rebalance the pH level quickly after cleansing. ‘Your skin can do this by itself, of course, but it will take about half an hour,’ she explains. As a counsel of perfection, Caroline recommends her own regime of using an exfoliating toner first and then spraying with a hydrating toner.
So – which ones to recommend? Here’s a thing: Sarah was in John Lewis Oxford Street at the Clinique counter recently and a sweet and zealous make up artist persuaded her to try Clarifying Lotion 1.0, £16.50 for 200ml, before she applied foundation. Somewhat to Sarah’s surprise, her super-touchy skin was fine with this alcohol-free ‘slightly gelled exfoliator’ (as the blurb has it), which also contains calming aloe vera, and yes, it did look brighter and smoother under make-up.
Elemis Soothing Apricot Toner, £22.50 for 200ml,which is alcohol-free, is definitely on our list, as is Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic, £14.50 for 200 ml. This is also alcohol-free and includes aloe vera to hydrate plus soothing botanicals and vitamin E.
Finally, we turn to Pai, a natural brand founded for the needs of sensitive skin. Lotus & Orange Blossom BioAffinity Tonic, (an investment at £30 for 50ml but worth it if your budget can stretch), is formulated for sensitive, dry or mature skins to instantly soothe and calm redness, as well as hydrating and revitalising.