“Cleanse, tone, moisturise” is the basic skincare mantra anyone with even a cursory glance of a publication’s beauty section would know. While few would question the need for step one and our skin is typically begging to have its thirst quenched by step three, much is unclear about the need for step two. Why wipe your skin with floral water, when all of the nourishment, support and rejuvenation is already taken care of by serums, oils and creams?
The existence of a vast range of products which all fall under the category of toners does not help. As a result, this includes everything from simple hydrolats and multi-tasking essences to alluring mists. Then come the various elixirs and nectars which bear a certain air of mystique. Is all this really necessary for a complete skincare routine? Read on to find out.
The functions of toners
Stripping products of their fancy labels, be it floral nectar or bio-fermented essence, there are two simple functions of a toner: to balance the skin’s pH and to increase the level of hydration in between product application.
1/ Balance the skin’s pH
The skin’s natural pH is typically within the range of 4 to 6.5, depending on skin type. Regular use of alkaline products and even tap water (pH 6,5 to 8,5) inevitably has its say. This leads to a reduced activity of enzyme systems and a disruption in the protective functioning of the epidermis. Skin becomes drier and more sensitive, sometimes feeling taut and prone to inflammation.
Damaged skin keeps craving more and more moisturising and calming products but to no avail. This is where a hydrolat comes in, balancing out the pH and supporting the skin’s healthy microbiome and ability to protect itself. A compelling reason to have a toner as your beauty staple, even if you prefer your routine to be as minimal as it gets.
2/ Increase hydration
The second vital function of a toner is to set the foundations for anything that goes on afterwards. Even the most expensive creams and serums which boast a stellar line-up of ingredients will not be able to give their all, if applied to dry skin.
A great basal toner will increase hydration helping any further products absorb faster and its ingredients to bring their maximum benefits. Another reason to be smart and consistent when it comes to a beauty routine, rather than fall for trendy ingredients and products that cost a pretty penny.
Toner, essence or hydrolat?
A toner using pure water and essential oils will be able to deliver on all of the above functions. Even better if it is a floral water (hydrolat) produced using steam distillation.
Another benefit of hydrolats is the presence of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from the herbal ingredients it contains. Such minimalist toners can also be mixed into dry masks to activate them. Floral mists, which often come in spray bottles, are also a great pick-me-up for your skin throughout the day.
If you are serious about increasing the effectiveness of the second step of your routine, it is worth looking into some of the more complex products in terms of their ingredients. Toners which aim to cleanse as well as deliver gentle exfoliation typically contain acids or witch hazel, which has antibacterial qualities.
Essences, on the other hand, are rich in nourishing ingredients, which calm, moisturise and soften the skin, such as aloe, hyaluronic acid, plant extracts and vitamins. Despite their typically impressive line-up of ingredients, these will still not be able to replace creams and serums. Although they contain a lower concentration of active substances, they can give your routine a serious boost.