By a Guest Blogger
Toner. The mere mention of it used to make me roll my eyes way back into my head. A lot of years ago when I was a practicing esthetician, some innocent client would inquire as to which toner she should use as part of her skin care regimen. Even though I probably could have upsold her and boosted my sales numbers, I was always honest. I couldn’t bring myself to lie. I would patiently explain that toners are bullshit. Not in such colorful language, of course, but I got my point across.
The History of Toners
Toners historically were meant to be pH-balanced skin care, which means to bring your skin to about as “neutral” a pH as it can be. pH stands for “potential hydrogen” and, without trying to get too sciencey about things, pH is measured on a scale of 0-14. Any level below 7 is acidic, and above that number you’re getting into more alkaline territory. Your face is naturally at about a 5. You can put something very acidic on your face, and it will disrupt the pH of your skin (like, a peel for example). Lots of skin care products brag about being pH balanced.
You always hear “It’s pH balanced!” in commercials, and you’re supposed to get really excited about that.
But here’s something: water is also pH balanced. If we’re doing a peel on a client, we use water to neutralize the acid and to make it stop working. If I’m using a product on myself, I rinse my face with water and BOOM, pH-balanced. No need for a toner. Furthermore, in many cases, your skin can recalibrate its own pH and will go back to normal within about an hour even after disrupting your skin’s pH level.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that a toner should have a function beyond balancing your pH. If you’re finishing your skin care routine with moisturizer, why would you bother putting toner on your face between cleansing and moisturizing? It’s not just that it’s another useless product taking up space on your counter. I used to think of it as something that not only cost me money, it cost me precious time as well. Time that I simply do not have. I’m a mom. I’m working full time. I’m lazy.
However, an interesting thing happened over the past few years. Toners got smart. They didn’t just have better marketing, they actually became a better product. More effective. A real purpose.
Personally, I think people were getting wise to the bullshit and Big Toner was like “Oh shit, they’re catching on. They know we’re full of it. We better give the people something better.”
Enter the new era of toners. Some have acne-fighting properties for the youngsters among us. Conversely, for mature skin there are a lot of great options in the toner space. Ole Henrikson has a Dark Spot Toner. The Inkey List has a Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Toner. And Sonia Roselli, genius that she is, added an anti-aging toner into her all-in-one Water Balm. It’s right there in the jar - no extra step, no extra time! Now we’re talking.
What a time to be alive! At my age, I’ll only accept another product on my face if it is going to make a real difference. Oh, you’re gonna brighten my dark spots? Nice to meet you! Gonna smooth my fine lines by slowly and methodically burning them off? Come sit next to me. An all-in-one product that saves my lazy ass some time in the morning? I got space for you right here in my makeup bag.
Mature ladies, looking for over 40 makeup and beauty secrets don’t have the time for nonsense. Either make a difference in my life, or keep moving.
Don’t get me wrong, if you want to blow your money on some pretty-smelling water, go for it. And if it makes your face feel nice, that’s great too! But, if you’re spending your time and money on toner, it should have a true reason for being there. If you’re putting it on your face, don’t just do it because it smells nice. If you’re gonna tone, tone with purpose. Make it count!