Perhaps one of the first and most basic skin care routines you were introduced to was a simple cleanse, tone, and moisturize system, but did you ever stop to think what that “toning” step was doing to your skin?
Of course not, because we are conditioned to believe that conventional, drugstore toners (and even some of those found in fancy department stores in a cute little spray bottle) will do wonders for your skin. Well, let’s get something straight. A toning mist is a wonderful addition to any beauty regime providing you’re using a clean, natural formula.
The problem with toners
Considering there are a bevy of products on the market to choose from, it’s imperative that you’re taking the time to check out the ingredient list on your product of choice. Conventional toners are typically brimming with harsh chemicals, carcinogens, phthalates, irritants, parabens, and drying additives such as alcohol and salicylic acid, thus reading to a red, flaky, and irritated complexion.
This is because toning mists—especially if you’re choosing the wrong formula for your skin type—can overly strip your skin of its natural oils, which causes your skin’s natural pH balance to be thrown off. The result of such an action is an overproduction of oil because your skin feels as though it needs to go into survival mode. It’s not uncommon to experience even more breakouts or blemishes if you have an acneic skin type.
But you shouldn’t be scared to add a toner to your skin care products. Let’s take a look at what you should be cognizant of when choosing a product and why going the clean and green route is the best choice for your skin—while also reducing health risks.
Toner versus astringent
It can be confusing to know the difference between a toning agent and astringent because they are often sold in the same section and formula-wise, they are identical. It doesn’t help that these are also known as astringents, tonics, elixirs, and lotions in the U.S. and other parts of the world.
Why using a conventional toner is a bad idea
However, while astringents are typically used for oily, acne-prone skin, in an ideal situation, toning agents should be a product that all skin types can benefit from—even those who have a sensitive and dry complexion.
Unfortunately, despite being marketed as such, many conventional toning mists still contain alcohol and other irritating and stripping ingredients such as glycolic acid. Let’s take a closer look.
Alcohol will strip your skin
As aforementioned, alcohol-based products tend to dry out the skin and make acne worse due to the overproduction of oil that it causes. When looking at the ingredient list, keep an eye out for words such as “isopropyl” and “denat” as those are forms of alcohol.
Those with an acneic complexion are not the only ones who should avoid this ingredient, however. Alcohol has also been linked to causing irritation and inflammation in those with sensitive skin, too—two-fold for those with a condition such as eczema and rosacea.
Be wary of witch hazel
Sure, witch hazel is a natural alternative to alcohol, but can still cause dry skin (that is why it’s used as an acne and mosquito bite remedy, after all!). Witch hazel also contains tannins (approximately 8-12 %), which are sensitizing to the skin.
What’s also deceiving is that there are small amounts of alcohol in witch hazel as almost all types are distilled with denatured (ethanol) alcohol—approximately 14-15 %. Even though the distillation process dismantles some of the tannins (a good thing), the fact that alcohol still remains makes this ingredient a bit counterproductive. Even though the alcohol amount is not high, research suggests even smaller amounts than 14 % can be damaging to the skin.
Sun sensitivity alert
Products formulated for acneic and/or oily complexions often contain high concentrations of ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid to decongest pores, but these antiseptic chemicals can promote skin irritation, peeling, excessive dryness, redness, and an overproduction of oil to boot. On top of these undesirable side effects, they have been linked to serious health problems
These ingredients make your skin more sensitive to the sun, thus opening Pandora’s box to another host of problems, to include sun damage and a thinning of the skin. The same could be said for “anti-aging toning mists” that are marketed to even the skin appearance, provide and instant glow, encourage revitalized skin, and defy your age as these formulas are typically comprised of sun sensitive ingredients such as glycolic acid.
To be fair, even some natural ingredients such as certain essential oils can cause sun sensitivity (think grapefruit, lemon, lime, bergamot, cumin), but this is nothing compared with the additional side effects that come with using a product with chemicals and harsh ingredients. It’s never a bad idea to sport an all-natural, mineral-based sunscreen when spending time outdoors.
Fragrance is not your friend
While it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to put something on your face that has a bad odor, fragrances contain an astonishing amount of chemicals that can cause people to have allergic reactions, migraine headaches, contact dermatitis, and more. The best alternative to synthetic fragrances is none other than pure essential oils—Mother Nature’s scent maker.
But aside from smelling wonderful, quality E.O.’s have copious benefits that extend way beyond scent alone. Research indicates that at least 90 essential oils are recommended for dermatological use, of which approximately 1500 combinations can be comprised. Thanks to their antimicrobial, hydrating, balancing, and age-defying properties, it’s only logical that they would be included in a clean toning mist.
How to use a natural toner
A cleanser should be applied after you’ve thoroughly removed all makeup and impurities with a natural cleanser. Gently pat your skin semi-dry and apply a clean, natural toning mist such as Annmarie’s Botanical Hydration Mist with Immortelle, Neroli Toning Mist, or Rosemary Toning Mist to slightly damp skin using a cotton pad or clean hands. Follow with one of our moisturizers.
If you take a look at our ingredient lists, you’ll notice our toning mists only contain aloe leaf juice, floral waters, and natural herbs and extracts, most of which are organically grown or wildcrafted. If you want to give your skin a little pick-me-up throughout the day, simply give yourself a few spritzes—even if you’re wearing makeup, as a natural toning mist also doubles as a setting spray that won’t dry out your complexion like alcohol-based formulas.
Natural—not commercial—toning products are an integral part of your skin care routine as they will hydrate, calm, balance, tone, and refresh your skin without stripping it of its natural oils. The toning step also enhances all of the additional steps of your routine that follow as it helps to enhance the absorption process.
Read your ingredient labels and remember a good high-quality toning mist doesn’t need a lot of ingredients to leave your skin glowing—just the right ones!
“Safety Assessment of Hamamelis virginiana (Witch Hazel)-Derived Ingredients as Used in Cosmetics,” Cosmetic Ingredient Review, August 18, 2017, https://www.cir-safety.org/sites/default/files/Witch%20Hazel.pdf
“Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases,” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health,” May 4, 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5435909/
Rebecca Taras has over ten years of editorial and copywriting experience, including serving as an editor for hot digital spaces like Refinery29, PopSugar, Forbes Travel Guides, and Bustle. Along with contributing to print and digital outlets, she currently handles copywriting for some of the biggest brands in the beauty and travel industries.
A Chicagoland native, Taras began her career catering to celebrity clientele as an esthetician at the Peninsula Chicago Hotel before launching her own line of bath and body care products with her previous bath and body care company, Cleansing Queen. Rebecca also created custom in-room amenities for the Sofitel Hotel Chicago, including items featured in a special presentation for the president of AccorHotels upon his visit from France to Chicago. Her efforts were recognized by the Chicago Fashion Foundation, and she received the Style Maker and Rule Breaker award in the Beauty category.
Ultimately, Rebecca’s initiatives evolved into the co-founding of Terminal Getaway airport spas, now located at Seattle-Tacoma International, Tampa International, Orlando International, and Chicago O’Hare International airports. Though she is no longer involved with Terminal Getaway, her passion for beauty and travel not only persisted over the years but grew.
As Rebecca continued to refine her skincare knowledge, she spent a considerable amount of time as a journalist covering beauty and other topics. Rebecca’s diverse body of knowledge, experience, and an insatiable curiosity for faraway places culminated in Well-Traveled Beauty, an upcoming skincare line and travel website. The company’s initial offerings will be a line of results-driven, travel-friendly beauty products that take the guesswork out of figuring out what to pack.
A global traveler with a passion for Paris, Taras finally decided to live the Parisian way of life on the daily and call the City of Light home.