Our beauty-test­ing panel re­port to Sarah Caden on the cleansing power of ton­ers, one of the holy trin­ity of skin care

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - THE PANEL - Pic­tured, from left: Ori­gins Make a Dif­fer­ence Plus +; Boots Botan­ics Cleansing Toner All Bright; Pure In­stant Ra­di­ance Skin Tonic; Guinot Re­fresh­ing Ton­ing Lo­tion; Clar­ins Gen­tle Ex­fo­lia­tor Bright­en­ing Toner Email thep­anel@in­de­pen­

While we ac­knowl­edge ton­ers as part of the holy trin­ity of cleanse, tone and mois­turise, they are some­thing that many of us are happy to skip in our skin-care rou­tine. There are sev­eral rea­sons, even good rea­sons, for this.

One is that they seem like ex­tra has­sle. Another is that, in the past, we may have been stung, lit­er­ally, by al­co­hol-heavy for­mu­la­tions. The last rea­son, then, is that we’re not sure what they do, if any­thing at all.

They are, how­ever, com­ing back into vogue, of­ten re­named as “lo­tions” and with claims of boost­ing the ef­fi­cacy of what­ever you ap­ply to the skin af­ter them. While we’re not quite con­vinced of this, our re­cent trial of ton­ers had some­what sur­pris­ingly pos­i­tive re­sults.

While four out of five favourites fea­ture al­co­hol fairly high up their list of in­gre­di­ents, they are not skin-strip­pers, and those that boast ex­fo­li­at­ing abil­i­ties de­rive their power from rel­a­tively gen­tle plant de­riv­a­tives. What we liked with all of them was the prop­erly clean — but not squeaky — feel­ing they be­stowed. The Best Over­all is pricey, but it im­pressed us by leav­ing skin both fresher and softer. BEST OVER­ALL Ori­gins Make a Dif­fer­ence Plus+ Re­ju­ve­nat­ing Treat­ment Lo­tion, €45, Arnotts; Clerys; House of Fraser, Dun­drum Town Cen­tre, D16 This is sold as a lo­tion rather than a toner, in­di­cat­ing that it’s part of a trend from the Far East that prom­ises to im­prove the skin’s abil­ity to ab­sorb a serum or mois­turiser. Cer­tainly, it’s less wa­tery than your av­er­age toner, but the fresh­ness it lends is clas­sic. It has wa­ter­melon and ly­chee, which the mak­ers claim will per­fectly prep your skin. “I love the weirdly heavy-wa­ter feel of this,” said a pan­el­list. “With reg­u­lar use, my skin looked a lit­tle more lively than usual at this time of year.”

BEST VALUE VI­TAL­ITY Boots Botan­ics Cleansing Toner All Bright, €2.99, Boots na­tion­wide This is a bar­gain toner, which prom­ises bright­en­ing as well as ton­ing. Hibis­cus is the skin-tone im­prov­ing in­gre­di­ent, in a prod­uct that was de­vel­oped with Kew Botan­i­cal Gar­dens in Lon­don. This toner also in­cludes al­co­hol and glyc­er­ine. “It’s a lit­tle more as­trin­gent that oth­ers I tried, but some days that’s what you need,” a pan­el­list said. BEST YOUNG CHOICE Pure In­stant Ra­di­ance Skin Tonic, €8, Marks & Spencer Beauty Halls, see www.mark­sand­ We like the pump-ac­tion bot­tle and the nat­u­ral-but-not-barn­yard fra­grance of this toner. With el­der­flower, orange flower, camomile and vitamin E, it is pre­dom­i­nantly gen­tle, but there is al­co­hol in the mix, which is what makes it a bet­ter op­tion for younger types. Al­co­hol can be dry­ing, so try us­ing it ev­ery sec­ond cleanse or weekly, if you find it’s dessi­cat­ing your skin. “Noth­ing rad­i­cal hap­pens when I use this, but it com­ple­ments my cleansing-balm habit, as it re­moves all re­main­ing make-up traces,” a pan­el­list said.

BEST MA­TURE OP­TION Guinot Re­fresh­ing Ton­ing Lo­tion, €23.50, sa­lons na­tion­wide, for stock­ists, Lo-Call (0818) 719-303 This toner is a clas­sic and is the only one of our top five that has gin­seng, aloe, and is al­co­hol-free, which makes it a more ap­peal­ing op­tion for more ma­ture skin types that are more eas­ily dried out and more sen­si­tive. “Triv­ial as it may seem, I like that this has a flip-top lid,” re­ported one pan­el­list. “Any­thing to cut down the faffing around be­tween a full face of make-up and bed — to which I de­parted feel­ing very clean-faced.”

BEST EX­FO­LI­AT­ING Clar­ins Gen­tle Ex­fo­lia­tor Bright­en­ing Toner, €31, Clar­ins coun­ters na­tion­wide When it comes to ton­ers, where you see the word “bright­en­ing” you can read “ex­fo­li­at­ing”. In this case, the ex­fo­li­at­ing el­e­ment of this toner comes from al­pha-hy­droxy acids de­rived from tamarind and white net­tle. They are gen­tle, but nicely pore-clear­ing and tone-im­prov­ing. They ne­ces­si­tate vig­i­lant wear­ing of SPF, as they leave skin photo-sen­si­tive. “This is like a cold drink of wa­ter,” one pan­el­list said. “It’s slightly brac­ing and very re­fresh­ing.”

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