Toners, Astringents and Hydrators

It seems like today, Toners, Hydrators and Astringents are all the rage. And while I'm all for anything that benefits my clients, like the skin itself, exfoliation and cleansing, a person needs to understand what these topical treatments are designed to do and on what type of skin they're to be used. For instance, a person with dry skin needs an astringent like a fish needs a bicycle. (I love that whole analogy but I just can't use it here!!!) Let's take a look at all three and see what's right for you.

First, we need to get one thing straight. The stories you get from salespersons at the makeup counter and the information relative to what "your" skin needs are, at worst, just plain wrong and at best, incomplete. While skin type strongly influences our decisions about our skin-care routines, there's simply no one constant answer because, man or woman, our skin is always changing and we need to change to meet those changes. The one constant is that while there are three types of skin, most of us are a different combination of the three at different times in our lives..

Combination Skin To begin with, most people have this type of combination skin with an oily center area or a "T-zone" across the forehead, nose and chin and areas of dryness on the cheeks and around the eyes and neck. Ideally, you should have one product for the oily areas and one for the dry areas and, quite frankly, I do this alot for my clients. But this is expensive and unnecessary unless 1) the areas of dry and oily are very, very different and 2) you're a zillion dollar entertainer with your body insured by Lloyd's of London and the camera is picking up every bit of shine and flat and imperfection on your face. It's simply easier to use a cleanser designed for combination skin or, use a skin cleanser designed for the central oily "T" panel and then dilute it with water for the drier areas. The drier areas may or may not need moisturizing frequently and you'll have to experiment a bit.

Oily Skin The down side of oily skin is that it tends to attract more dirt and dust than dry skin. The upside is that if you can make it through your teens and 20s, you'll look great in your 30s, 40s and 50s. You can tell if your skin is oily because it usually has a shine to it as it contains a lot of sebum which helps prevent dry skin. Sebum or oil comes naturally from sebum ducts or pores and while most empty directly into a hair follicle, on the face, they empty out onto the skin directly. Oily skin benefits directly from cleanser and water so washing with a light, non-greasy liquid cleanser is an ideal way of caring for it. Use warm water to loosen the dirt, then use cold water to rinse. Toners and astringents containing alcohol can be used to finish the skin without worry of drying the skin.

Dry skin This type of skin is easy to spot because it looks and feels dry and tight, sometimes even flaky, especially if you have washed it with soap and water. While one benefit of dry skin people is that they're less likely to develop acne, the down side is that their skin is easily chapped in a dry environment and may always look "flat" and lifeless.. This type of skin NEVER requires astringents and ALWAYS requires a rich, creamy cleanser and mild, alcohol-free make up and toner. Moisturize this type of skin every day including the throat and the eye areas and when you wear makeup, use a moisturized foundation. You'll need little or no powder.

Now, with all that said, when do we use toners, astringents and hydrators. Toners are designed to "finish the face". This means that they will remove any cleanser left behind after cleansing. Are they good for all skin types? In a word, yes, if they don't contain alcohol or any drying agent that would dry out already dry skin. Plant-based toners will aid in deep pore cleansing, add moisture hydration, assist in the application of cosmetics, assist in absorption of cosmetics, provide nourishment and balance skin. Toners also helps close the pores which is good to keep debris from collecting in the tubes and being pushed down into the skin causing possible infection.

Astringents on the other hand should only be used by individuals with oily complexions. The largest issue with astringents is that they are typically chemical or alcohol-based and, when used all over the face, will dry out the parts of the face that are not overly oily. Typically, I use astringents only on overly oily areas and then finish with a natural, plant extract-based toner. So what's the difference between toners and astringents? Simple. Both are cleansers but toners should have no alcohol and are used for more sensitive skin.

Finally, as to Hydrators, this is the area of skin care where I have the biggest problem; not with the benefits of hydration but with the fraudulent products out there that claim to hydrate but really only slick up your skin. Every year, huge profits are made at the expense of the customer. BUYER BEWARE!

In Skin 101, we discovered that as skin cells multiply and move upward toward the surface, they flatten, lose their water and go through a number of different internal changes including the production of special fats called "sphingolipids". The cells also become more dense and knit together to form as impermeable a barrier to the outside world as possible. This "knitting together" is accomplished as the cells near the surface of the skin through the secretion of the sphingolipids or "lipids" which then act as a mortar between the cells. An easy way to think about the process is " "Brick Wall". This wall is called the "Lipid Barrier" and when it comes into contact with the atmosphere, pollutants and things like sunlight and UV rays, the lipids undergo what is known as peroxidation. These peroxidized lipids lose their barrier ability and gaps occur in the lipid matrix. Also, the use of soaps and detergents leads to pronounced loss of lipids from the skin.

Hydrators do two things. They replace the lipids that are lost and thus repair the gaps in the barrier wall and they nourish the lipid barrier that is still intact allowing it to remain as supple as possible for its lifetime. The need for an intact, healthy and functional lipid barrier is critical for the purposes of maintaining the health of the skin on the inside and to maximize the skin's youthful appearance on the outside. Topically applying the correct lipids through "Hydrators" will assist in maintaining the structure of the lipid barrier and improving the health and beauty of the skin. But, as with everything else, it is critical that the hydrators be natural substances and not chemical replacements and this is where the "Buyer Beware" part comes into play.

It's very easy to mix up a batch of "Hydrator", sell it to the customer and point to the fact that the skin "feels" more supple after application. The fact of the matter is that because all Hydrators are topical, the outside of the skin will always "feel" more supple after application. The difference is that natural hydrators contain natural lipids that actually bind with and renourish the existing natural lipid matrix between the cells repairing the gaps and renouriching the matrix. Man-made hydrators can contain any one of a number of oily or slick imitators that simply ride on the surface giving the "appearance" of suppleness but fail to be compatible with the natural lipid barrier and thus fail to repair anything. This is why true hydrators are much more expensive than cheap imitators but, here more than anywhere else, you get what you pay for. My recommendation, again, is to look at the ingredients. Or, like many professional makeup artists including me, simply trust the professionals like Studio Direct.