Restoring the skin's natural pH balance. There is something to restoring your skins pH balance and natural protective barrier: most cleansers are at a pH of 9.5 to 10.5, which is much more alkaline than what you typically find on your skin (normally between 4 and 5.6). Each time you wash your face you are upsetting the natural balance of acidity, which then can take from half an hour to up to 8 hours for the normal pH level to be restored.

Why does this matter? Well, when you're talking about the skin's pH balance level you are really talking about its acid mantle, which is a protective, slightly acidic film on the surface that plays a very important part of the barrier function of the stratum corneum.

Tell me more, you say? Well, Skin Biology sums it up nicely: "The acid mantle, the combination of sebum (oil) and perspiration, on the skin's surface protects the skin and renders the skin less vulnerable to damage. It also protects from attack by environmental factors such as the sun and wind and leaves it less prone to dehydration... The acid mantle inhibits the growth of foreign bacteria and fungi causing the skin to remain healthier and have fewer blemishes. Acne, allergies and other skin problems become more severe when the skin become more alkaline."

The thing is that its protective nature may be problematic if it isn't kept clean. Even though one of its main objectives is to keep a host of undesirables away from your pores, if you allow dirt and germs to build-up you're in for a treat. Yes, the acid mantle gets dirty and needs to be cleaned. The trick is not to strip it completely (which will result in your oil glands working overtime to compensate.) Do toners accomplish this? Perhaps. But so does applying other pH friendly products.

Close up and tighten the pores. I'm a bit perplexed as to the benefits of closing up or tightening your pores right after cleansing. Doesn't it make sense that you would want them a bit open while you are applying a serum or a moisturizer? After all, if a product can't penetrate, what use is it? And why would you go about making it any harder for it to do its job? Apparently, the reason why we would want this is to protect our skin from environmental toxins. However, it seems a little early in the game for this step if you ask me.

And I'm not alone. The general consensus out there is that if you are applying a targeted treatment after cleansing (such as a serum), than you would want to avoid applying a toner first.

Toners (or fresheners) can also be givers. A while ago, I wrote a post reviewing and recommending Bioelements Power Peptide Tonic. One readers was perplexed as to exactly what class of product this was and when in her beauty routine to apply it. The answer is that it belongs in the toner class known as "fresheners," which work to soothe, protect and treat the skin right after cleansing. Like Ole Henriksen's African Red Tea Face Mist or A'Kin's Pure Rose Hydrating Mist, these products typically can be sprayed on for convenience and contain natural skin-protecting and astringent ingredients.

So, to tone or not to tone? I think I'll end this by saying it's more of a personal decision. If you're interested in finding a toner for you, check out some of the ones we like such as La Vie Celeste's, Sevani's with hyaluronic or L'uvalla.

Related posts:

What is it: toners (part 1)