8 Exfoliating Toners to Turn to For the Glowiest Skin

Thankfully, toners, like the rest of your skincare routine, have evolved over the years. Today, many toners are alcohol-free, and instead, are used to refresh and treat the skin before you apply the rest of your serums and creams — without making you extra dry.

One such example is exfoliating toners, which are infused with chemical exfoliants such as AHA and BHA acids, which help to loosen and break up the dead skin cells clogging your pores, while also minimizing dark spots, and improving overall skin texture and tone. These formulas often include soothing and hydrating ingredients to balance out the exfoliation.

“The use of a toner can have the added benefit of mechanical removal of skin debris,” says Dr. Melanie Palm, board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon in San Diego, Calif. “Simple application of a skincare product such as a serum does not lift off dull skin cells.”

Dr. Palm also notes that a toner can help balance pH level for the skin microenvironment.

When choosing an exfoliating toner, it’s important to consider your skin type and its needs. Dr. Palm says that those concerned with aging can benefit from using a formula with AHAs such as lactic or glycolic acids.

Acne-prone skin can see an improvement with BHAs such as salicylic acid, or a combination of both AHAs and BHAs. As for sensitive skin types, they may fair well with PHA acids, which are larger in molecular size and more gentle on the skin. The same goes for mandelic acid, an ingredient that is great for rosacea or redness.

While an exfoliating toner can be used daily, it’s best to introduce it slowly into your routine to prevent irritation. And if you have sensitive skin, Dr. Palm recommends using a liquid exfoliant once or twice a week at first to gauge how your skin handles it. She adds that if you are using anti-aging products such as retinoids or retinol, gradually start to use the toner over a period of days to weeks. But when in doubt, follow the usage instructions on the back of the bottle.

Finally, don’t expect clear, brighter skin over night.

While you may see some instant improvement, like a bit of a glow, it can take much longer to experience the full benefits of incorporating an exfoliating toner into your skincare routine.

“It takes 30 full days for the epidermal layer of the skin to turn over,” says Dr. Palm. “Therefore, I tell most patients to use a new topical product for two to three months (two to three cycles of epidermal turnover) to gauge response by the skin to active ingredients. However, many patients may notice changes prior to the three month mark.”

CORSX Refresh AHA BHA Vitamin C Daily Toner

On top of clearing clogged pores, CORSX’s toner contains brightening ingredients vitamin C and niacinamide to help minimize dark spots and boost your overall glow.

Buy on Amazon $27

Good (Skin) Days Prime Time Cleansing Toner

Good (Skin) Days, the newest in-house brand from K-beauty e-tailer Soko Glam, is a must for anyone who wants the benefits of an exfoliating toner, but is concerned about potential dryness or irritation. Antioxidant maple extract and anti-inflammatory Damascus rose water soothe and nourish skin while pumpkin and papaya enzymes provide gentle exfoliation to remove buildup from pores.

Buy at SOKO GLAM $18

Farmacy Deep Sweep 2% BHA Pore Cleaning Toner with Moringa + Papaya

Farmacy is another skincare brand that harnesses the power of superfruit papaya in its liquid exfoliant. In this formula, the enzyme is paired with 2% salicylic acid, a tried-and-true chemical exfoliant, plus moringa, for squeaky-clean pores. Together, these ingredients also help control excess oil, too.

Buy at Sephora $28

Bliss Clear Genius Clarifying Toner + Serum

Not quite as thick as a serum, but not quite as watery as a toner, Bliss’ hybrid treatment gives you the best of both worlds. Salicylic acid, witch hazel, and niacinamide tackle swollen, congested pores, while zinc tackles oil, and cica soothes skin to minimize dryness and irritation.

Buy on Amazon $18

Krave Beauty Kale-Lalu-yAHA

If uneven skin texture and hyperpigmentation are your two major skincare concerns, Krave Beauty’s green juice-inspired liquid exfoliant is for you. Glycolic acid dissolves dirt, oil, and residue that’s chilling in your pores while hyaluronic acid and kale simultaneously soothe and hydrate skin.

Buy on their website $25

Peter Thomas Roth PRO Strength 10% PHA Exfoliating Clarifying Liquid

Don’t let the name of this toner intimidate you. While Peter Thomas Roth’s liquid exfoliant contains a whopping 10% PHA acid, this chemical exfoliant effectively — yet gently — clears pores and gets rid of excess oil without over-drying skin. While any skin type will get results with this toner, the combination of PHA with AHA and BHA acids will especially benefit acne-prone skin, from healing current blemishes to minimizing post-breakout hyperpigmentation.

Buy at Sephora $58

Versed Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Solution

The Versed Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Solution has an all-star lineup of exfoliants including lactic and glycolic acids. It’s an especially good choice for anyone who struggles with post-breakout dark spots and inflammation, thanks to brightening kojic and azelaic acids. While this toner is gentle enough to use morning and night, just make sure you apply sunscreen if you use it in the morning, since chemical exfoliants can cause sun sensitivity. Additionally, Versed is a great option if you’re looking for an effective liquid exfoliant that won’t break the bank — it comes in at under $20. 

Buy at Dermstore $18

Summer Fridays Soft Reset AHA Exfoliating Solution

With lactic acid, glycolic acid, and niacinamide, this powerful exfoliating toner from Summer Fridays is a triple threat. The two AHA acids work on declogging pores and refining skin texture and tone, while niacinamide aids in reducing the appearance of pores and further clarifying skin for a more radiant finish.

Buy at Sephora $54

INSTYLE article

6 Korean Beauty Trends Guaranteed To Give You Glowing Skin

The wonderful world of Korean beauty (or K-beauty as it’s known by beauty aficionados) has inspired countless beauty products in the UK and is responsible for improving how many of us approach our skincare routines. While once upon a time we simply cleansed, toned and moisturised, now we have serums, essences and a duo of cleansers to ensure our skin is spick and span – and that’s thanks to K-beauty. So what are the latest trends, tips and ingredients from our Korean counterparts that we can deploy for better skin? British Vogue spoke to Alicia Yoon, the founder of online K-beauty emporium Peach & Lily, to find out.

Glass skin

You may already have heard about glass skin, one of the biggest skincare trends from the past year. The term describes skin that is glossy, glassy, luminous and translucent, explains Yoon, who launched the first-to-market Glass Skin Serum on Peach & Lily. In Korea, glass skin is more about a general attitude to skin: “It’s an awareness that the skin is your largest organ and that you need to care for it from within. Through that you achieve skin that’s so healthy that ultimately it looks like glass skin,” she says.

Achieving a glass-skin effect, therefore, is all about working on the health of skin with a clever line-up of products. Peach & Lily offer a Glass Skin Discovery Kit, which comprises a hydrating (sulphate-free) cleanser, essence, serum (with peptides, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid) and a lightweight, antioxidant-rich moisturiser – the building blocks of a healthy skincare routine. You can also try COSRX Low PH Good Morning Gel CleanserLa Mer The Treatment LotionAllies of Skin Peptides & Antioxidants Firming Daily Treatment and Murad Nutrient-Charged Water Gel.

Home care

“In Korea, people go to a dermatologist or aesthetician for facials once or twice a week – it’s like going to the gym – and now they want that facial experience from home for the days they aren’t in there,” says Yoon. For that, they rely on “home care”, which is created for them by their dermatologist and offers in-clinic results from home: cue post-facial skin literally every day of the week. 

Referencing the Miwaji Hyalu Serum Veil (contains everything from copper tripeptide to brightening arbutin) as a go-to home care product, Yoon says that super-products like these offer results akin to the facials themselves: “This product in particular imparts a thin, glue-like veil over skin that feels super comfortable. It’s the result of a dermatologist trying to recreate a hydrafacial for home use so it leaves skin plumped with hydration. I love it,” she says.

A number of UK and US-based brands also offer skincare that mimics the effects of in-clinic treatments at home. Take Dr Dennis Gross’s Professional Grade IPL Dark Spot Concentrated Serum, which is designed to recreate the effects of IPL treatment on skin, fading dark spots and discolouration. Skincare tools that (effectively) imitate actual skincare treatments, like Sarah Chapman’s Pore Refiner, have also become popular. 

Skin immunity

We’re more than au fait with keeping our immune system in check – thank you, vitamin C – but the Koreans are also concerned with their skin’s immunity: “Our skin plays an immune function role in keeping out bad bacteria,” says Yoon. “There’s an awareness in Korea about what you need to do to keep your skin immunity up and that’s keeping your skin barrier really strong.” Look to ingredients, such as fatty acids and ceramides, to help reinforce your skin barrier, keeping the good stuff in and the bad out. Sunday Riley’s ICE Ceramide Moisturising Cream is an excellent product to consider in your routine and deeply nourishes while keeping the skin barrier healthy and strong. 

Inner dryness

Is your skin dry… on the inside? That’s one thing that our Korean counterparts make it their mission to avoid: “We know that when our skin is dehydrated, it’s not caused by our lipid levels on the skin’s surface, but rather the moisture levels inside that are lacking,” says Yoon. It doesn’t matter what your skin type is – oily, dry, or sensitive – but if it’s dry on the inside, it won’t function at its best. Yoon explains: “When you’re dehydrated your melanocytes stay more activated and thus brightening ingredients may not work as well to reduce dark spots; it can also trigger an inflammatory response during which the hormone CRH is released, triggering more sebum production and breakouts; and your fibroblasts that produce collagen and elastin may not work as well. Hydration is the foundational to skin health.”

To ensure skin is hydrated from the inside out, incorporate plenty of humectants in your skincare regime as these absorb into skin and help bind moisture in. Yoon recommends her brand’s Wild Dew Treatment Essence, which contains niacinamide, a cocktail of antioxidants, firming adenosine and three different sizes of hyaluronic acid to bind moisture into skin and give you your most hydrated and dewy-looking skin yet. Alternatively, try Tonymoly Ferment Snail Essence.

The one-minute rule

The Korean one-minute rule refers to your skincare regime and the way in which you apply your product. The idea is to take one minute to massage your oil-based cleanser into skin (we love Sisley Triple Oil Balm Make-up Remover & Cleanser), spending time on getting the surface grime and day’s make-up to dissolve, and then to remove it and spend the next minute applying a hydrating formula. “If you don’t apply the subsequent hydrating formula within that minute, your skin becomes bone dry and formulas don’t absorb as much. It’s a great tip,” says Yoon.

Troxerutin

Troxerutin, the new ingredient to know, might be difficult to pronounce but it has sure made its mark in Korean skincare regimes. A super-antioxidant that is lauded for its ability to soothe irritation, reduce inflammation and hydrate, you can find it in Troxederm’s Repair Essence Mist where it’s blended with cica and niacinamide for an ultra calming effect. Yoon says it has gone totally viral in Korea: “All the celebrities started talking about it and Korea’s George Clooney bought $15,000 worth of this product for his fans – that’s how much he loves it.”

VOGUE article

To Prime or Not To Prime? (Face)

The definition and meaning of makeup priming have changed overtime, in some cases to be more confusing. However, as a professional makeup artist, you have to know what it means to prime the face for makeup application, whether a separate primer is needed, what skin concerns you are trying to address, etc. 

While some makeup artists swear by skincare as priming alone to be just fine, others argue that a makeup artist should have a variety of primers in their kit to address specific skin concerns such as redness, dehydration, large pores, uneven skin tone, dull skin, oily or dry skin, sensitive skin, and more. 

In my opinion, moisturizer is non-negotiable, and has to be freshly applied before makeup application. Then, I carefully assess the client’s face by asking questions and gently pressing with my pinky finger to see the skin response. From there, I decide whether to apply a specific primer that would be beneficial to the client, and not just another layer.

That said, often times either one of these three techniques are used post moisturizing:

  1. On top of moisturizer, one primer is applied concentrating in a specific area, with purposes to smooth the skin, correct redness, provide a healthy glow, mattify, or further hydrate. The best example of this is using a moisturizer suitable for the client’s skin needs, with, for example, an oily T-zone being covered with a mattifying primer, but the rest of the skin left alone.
  2. On top of moisturizer, two or more primers are used to correct more than one concern on a client’s face. Same skin concerns as above, using specific primers in specific areas. 
  3. Lastly, as I mentioned in the beginning, some makeup artists feel as though the moisturizing step is enough to prepare the client’s skin for makeup, and if it’s still fresh and active – carry on with makeup application.

Here I’ve listed some great options for common skin concerns:

– Redness: Smashbox Photofinish Reduce Redness Primer
– Dryness: Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Hydrating Primer
– Oiliness: Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Mattifying Primer
– Roughness: Becca Skin Love Brighten & Blur Primer, IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Makeup Primer +
– To provide glow: Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer – Illuminating, Becca Backlight Priming Filter Face Primer
– To reduce pores: Smashbox Photofinish Pore Minimizing Primer
– To prolong the wearing time: MILK Makeup Hydrogrip Primer

If you’d like to read more about this topic I highly suggest reading the Adore Beauty article, and Allure article.