When TIA asked if I wanted to review a tan mousse or Moana Pure Drop of Youth Toner ($79 NZ), I had to think long and hard. My last review was also about a toner (YBF) and I was still not convinced about their value, even though this one had been great at hydrating my skin on a long flight.
The beauty community is clearly divided about the value of toners in this age of expanding all-action packed beauty products. Today’s cleansers are designed to rinse clean and don’t disturb the skin’s natural equilibrium like they used to. So are toners redundant or are we missing out on a valuable step in our beauty routines? I decided to forego the tan and investigate the muddy, baffling world of ‘balancers, clarifying lotions, astringents, and skin purifiers’ otherwise known as toners and in particular one from a favorite brand of mine, Moana.
So first, what is a toner? In general terms it is usually a clear liquid which is applied all over the face, with the purpose of removing the last traces of dirt and grime, shrinking pores and helping keep the shine and oil at bay. The first product I remember using to mop up the grease that caused pizza face (acne) was called Clearasil. It’s still around but is probably much gentler than the original paint stripper I used to swipe on as a pimply teen forty years ago. I also used a witch hazel concoction which tightened the skin whilst evenly charring it.
Nowadays there are a proliferation of formulations designed for all skin types although the skeptics think most of them are, well, useless. Probably many of them are, especially the ones that contain alcohol or witch hazel which can be drying and irritating. Others are just colored water which apart from giving you a freshened up feeling wont do much else.
But there are dermatologists who argue many of today’s toners are beneficial in that they hydrate, as well as treat and soothe the skin. Some are anti-aging, brightening or anti inflammatory. Others exfoliate acne-prone skin and control oil production or contain antioxidants, like vitamin C and E to moisturize. Aloe is often present to calm sensitive skin and many even have retinoids and other anti-aging compounds as their selling point.
So what does the Moana Toner promise and does it deliver? Well, it mainly claims to “Rebalance your complexion’s PH infusing it with potent antioxidants and nourishing native botanical extracts to boost your skin’s protective barrier.” Its main ingredient is water followed by glycerin. Then there are a handful of plant extracts including basil, mamuka (tree bark), aloe vera, the New Zealand red seaweed (Moana’s signature ingredient), dehydroacetic acid and benzyl alcohol (these two work together as an organic, natural preservative and antimicrobial),linalool (a naturally occurring alcohol chemical found in many flowers and spice plants), and some essential oils. There are no nasties, no parabens, colors or harsh chemicals in the toner. So far so good.
For the past month I’ve been following the instructions to the letter. Here’s the routine:
1. Cleanse the skin.
2. Follow with Moana Serum. (I love this.)
3. Hold the toner 20 cm from the face and direct onto the skin (and, incidentally all over the bathroom wall — the nozzle on mine is like a fire hydrant).
4. And this is where I become a little dubious because it says “and breathe in the healing essences of our unique native botanical extracts."
Hmmm. What does that mean exactly? Is it a toner or an inhaler? It does smell clean — like a therapy spa crossed with a hospital corridor — but I thought it was meant to be nourishing to the skin not something to be breathed in.
I have to admit I wanted to love it because I’m a fan of all the Moana products I’ve tried so far. I’m onto my second bottle of Moana Night Repair Serum and I also love Moana’s Drop of Youth Serum. But to be honest, I didn’t actually notice any real changes to my skin over the testing so remain unconvinced. Maybe it was rebalancing my PH and boosting my protective skin barrier, but if so, it was doing it very furtively. I will keep using it to the bitter end, but don’t hold out much hope for a sudden sheen or youthful glow.
And the answer to my question at the beginning of this quest — are toners useful or redundant? Do they serve a purpose or are they another way a cynical industry cons us into parting with our dosh? Well, just like the Marmite challenge, I think the debate about toners will continue to divide. Some people will love them and some people will hate them. Me, I’m sitting on the fence until one comes up that knocks my socks off.