Monday, November 23, 2015

From Uber Affordable to Harder on the Wallet: Skin Toners in My Rotation

Disclaimer:  I purchased these.
Toners.  I've been using toners ever since waaaay back in my teens.  I was a big devotee of the skin tingling Sea Breeze "no other clean feels quite like this" (and dubbed the most skin irritating product EVER created by Paula Begoun) before I graduated to Clinique's more expensive Clarifying Lotion 2. Here's a blast from the past for you:
Now I know it's better to not assault my skin, which no doubt only aggravated an already volatile situation.  I'm not gonna lie though, I do miss the tingle that came from the peppermint, clove, and eucalyptus oils in Sea Breeze's original formula and the menthol in Clinique's 1980's blend.  However, here are my better educated choices for gentle but effective toners for my oily skin, starting with the least expensive and finishing with the most. Let's see if more money = a better formula.
Thayer's alcohol-free Rose Petal Witch Hazel (currently $7.99 at drugstore.com) is a gentle toner that I don't mind dousing my cotton pad with due to it's huge size and low cost. I tend to use it more in the morning than evening, as I find the moisturizing aspects of this nice prior to applying my makeup. Featured ingredients are Thayer's proprietary non-distilled extract from the Witch Hazel shrub, which is supposed to have the highest level of therapeutic tannins.   Interestingly, Witch Hazel not only rids skin of excess oil, it also helps eliminate water loss to improve the hydration of the outer layer of skin.

This version of Thayer's also includes hydrating aloe vera and glycerin along with rose flower water, which has a multitude of skin benefits (you can read more about them here) including healing wounds and soothing sunburns. There are a variety of Thayer's Witch Hazel formula's available, making it very easy to customize for your own skin needs.
Thayer's has been around since 1847, making it the oldest US company in the natural products and health food store industry.  I'm not sure what ingredient in the formula makes it bubble when shaken, but it does :-)
CoxRX's AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner ($13) is the newest to my rotation and the one that's been seeing the heaviest use in the past few months.  I purchased it as part of the CosRX Memebox (full review here), and it's a standout with it's gentle skin acids in both AHA and BHA formats. It comes in a spray bottle format and I've used it as both a facial spray and by spraying it on a cotton pad and swiping it all over my face. I've already bought a second bottle, so I'm putting my money where my mouth is.
Next is Kate Somerville's Clarifying Skin Treatment Toner ($26), which is a nicely formulated toner with an interesting application cap that took me longer than it should have to figure out how to use.
The top has a concave disk around the opening where you place your cotton pad and then depress, which dispenses the toner into the disk and wets the cotton.  I kept turning it upside down while depressing, wondering why it dripped when I did that and thinking the whole thing was stupid. Until I figured it out, duh.  You will notice witch hazel, glycerin,  and  aloe vera in this formula (just like Thayer's), along with exfoliating Phytic and Lactic Acids. I tend to use this one more in the evenings after dual cleansing and before serums/moisturizers.  My skin likes it.

Ingredients:  Water/Aqua/Eau, Methyl Gluceth-10, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Bark/Leaf/Twig Extract, Phytic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Water, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Caprylyl Glycol, Lactic Acid, Panthenol, Glycerin, Aloe Barbadensis Extract, Carbomer, Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid, Oleanolic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Disodium EDTA-Copper, Chlorphenesin 
Last up is luxury brand Le Métier de Beauté's Daily Refresh Tonic ($50), which I received in my July 2014 VIP subscription box and am about to finish up. It's got some unique ingredients, including:
  • Hemolymph Extract: absorbs oxygen from environment and delivers it to skin Peppermint, Cinnamon, Thyme and Geranium Oils: mildly stimulate with a gentle warming effect.
  • Rosemary: gently cleanses skin
  • Cypress Oil: balances the skin with soothing properties
  • Anise Oil: provides a cleansing and warming effects on the skin
  • Vitamins E, A and B: condition and protect
The distinctive bottle works well with it's pump top and the formula does a good job of cleansing without stripping my skin. I find the price cost prohibitive but I'm glad I got to try it out as part of the VIP subscription service.
I've been using Rite Aid's Premium Square Cotton Pads for both toner and to remove my nail polish, as one side is smooth and lint free. They are not particularly thick but do get the job done.
Of these four toners, I've got to say that the less expensive Thayer's and COSRX versions are my favorites.  I'm just not seeing the point of paying big money for a toner when there are some really good formula's out there at much better price points!


  1. cosrx aha/bha clarifying toner is one of my go-to toners. I really like it a lot.

    1. I rely heavily on your skincare reviews, as it sounds like we have similar skin issues. I'm definitely starting to incorporate more Korean skincare products as a result, but it's such a rabbit hole...