Hydrating toners

Toning lotions, moisture mists and hydrating essences — all common names for trendy hydrating toners — seem to be causing confusion within the Truth In Aging community. As community manager, I’ve noticed lately that many members aren’t sure what to make of these mists and are quick to dismiss the idea of using one. How can toners, what we’ve come to know as astringents used to balance and purify the skin, possibly be hydrating? While fear of a tight and dry complexion seems to be the source of apprehension, turns out this new batch of toners has the opposite effect, leaving skin soft and supple.

“Traditional toners were alcohol-based liquids designed to remove excess dirt and oil and were used primarily by people with acne-prone or oily skin,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “The newest toners on the market are totally different: They have become very specialized for different skin needs and have a variety of benefits, including anti-aging properties.”

The new hydrating formulas are alcohol-free and help bind water to the skin with ingredients like lecithin (a naturally occurring lipid often obtained from egg yolk or, more comforting, soybean) and hyaluronic acid, which is said to hold up to 1000 times its weight in water. Think of them as protective barriers that help lock in moisture. In addition, as Dr. Zeichner mentions, they often contain added antioxidants, pH-neutralizers and soothing ingredients like cucumber extract, chamomile and feverfew.  

What’s more, there are many different ways to incorporate these hydrating mists into your regimen. Use one after cleansing to balance your skin’s pH and replenish the moisture that’s stripped away from sudsing up. You may even find that you don’t need additional face cream or lotion. However, when applied before other moisturizers and serums, hydrating toners can help skin better absorb that product’s ingredients.

My favorite way to use hydrating toner is as a refresher throughout the day. They are choice if, like me, your skin becomes dry from indoor heat and air. You’ll always find one on my desk, and I keep a small bottle stashed in my bag for on-the-go use. A few spritzes eliminate dry patches and provide a dewy glow. And when my makeup begins to settle into pores and fine lines, I’ll simply mist my face and use my fingers to smooth things over — no concealer or powder touch-ups needed.

Check out some of my mist must-haves below. 

Simplicite Hydrating Floral Toning Lotion ($36.30)
I’ve been using this hydrating mist religiously since it hit my desk a few weeks ago. Simplicite is an Australian brand that boasts certified-organic, medical-grade ingredients. They make the plant extracts that go into each formula and avoid nasty parabens and synthetics. Inside the Hydrating Floral Toning Lotion you’ll find antioxidant-rich rose petals, calming chamomile and orange blossom to soften skin, among nine other powerful plant extracts. The fine mist absorbs quickly, leaving a weightless silky feel and noticeable radiance boost. Also nice? It has a lovely floral scent that doesn’t linger — or disrupt my coworkers sitting nearby. Stay tuned for a full review, but for now, I give this product five stars.  

Tata Harper Hydrating Floral Essence ($89)
Many of Tata Harper’s products — from the Resurfacing Mask to the Lip and Cheek Tint — are staples in my regimen. She is committed to using natural and nontoxic ingredients that deliver, and I saw this firsthand when I visited her farm, where the product development and manufacturing happen, last summer.  I was excited to learn that the extraction and preservation techniques are all natural and safe. Tata’s hydrating essence has become a cult-fave amongst purists and for good reason: It packs a number of active ingredients for ultimate skin nourishment. The blend of natural humectants, plus bioidentical hyaluronic acid, delivers hydration that lasts. Gotu kola has anti-inflammatory properties and acts as a circulation-booster, while willow bark serves as natural exfoliator to gently refine skin tone and texture. This essence provides the healthiest glow and the smell is ahh-mazing — far from artificial!

Elizabeth Dehn for One Love Organics Active Moisture Time Release Vitamin D Moisture Mist ($39 in the shop)
According to the brand, the vitamin collection that was created with beauty blogger Elizabeth Dehn uses vitamins, antioxidants and humectants to restore skin’s natural radiance. “I find that One Love Organics Vitamin D Active Moisture Time Release provides lasting hydration for the face, neck and décolleté,” says Marta in her review. “What I like most about [it] is the vitamin D part. There aren’t too many cosmetic products with vitamin D.” One Love Organics uses shitake mushroom, a natural source of vitamin D2, plus alpine rose and rice extract for an extra dose of hydration. This seems to be one of the richer mists I’ve tried. It sprays on with the consistency of a serum and needs to be rubbed or dabbed in; however, my skin quickly drinks it up and is left with a butter-soft feel. Vitamin D Moisture Mist smells of rose, but not that offensive powder room kind. It's more like a fresh-picked bouquet.

BRAD Biophotonic Anti-Fatigue Mist ($65 in the shop)
This tonic from community-favorite BRAD is said to soothe, hydrate and revitalize the skin. While it’s not as hydrating as others on my list, this spritz does improve radiance when skin is looking drab. Bio-fermented plant acids and vitamin C brighten, while camu camu berry improves circulation for a lit-from-within glow. The toner itself is sheer and refreshing. “I liked how it felt layered on top of makeup,” says community member Becky in her review. ”My makeup stayed put — even non-waterproof mascara — and seemed refreshed.” You may also consider using this toner when flying, as colloidal silver (an anti-microbial) is said to withstand fluctuating cabin pressure and protect against airborne bacteria.

What’s your take on hydrating toners? Let us know if you have a favorite we should try in the comments below.