Acid toners are a family of glow-inducing, pH-lowering formulas that have resulted in the reintroduction of toners into skincare routines of women of all ages. With nicknames like “miracle lotion” or “Jesus In A Bottle”, no wonder everyone has been jumping on the acid toner train. It was only a matter of time that we saw a backlash. More and more women are going online to recount stories of their skin-damaging addiction to acid toners, and dermatologists are seeing increasing number of patients with fragile, over-exfoliated skin and advising them to scale back on acids.
So, should you use an acid toner, and why? In this article we will give you the full insights into these exfoliating toners, their benefits and risks. We will also introduce you to a new generation of acid toners that are gentle enough for even sensitive skin types.
What are acid toners?
Traditionally, acid toner refers to a toner that contains acids in the form of AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) and/or BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid). Most often, they will contain a form of glycolic acid or lactic acid (AHAs) and/or salicylic acid (BHA). Since the main action of AHAs and BHAs is to slough away dead skin cells, acid toners can also be referred to as liquid exfoliants or exfoliating toners.
Acid toner benefits
Acid toners perform a chemical exfoliation of the superficial layer of your skin by breaking down the bonds between dead skin cells, loosening them so they flake off. Chemically exfoliating your skin, when done correctly, has the potential to reduce dullness (that is caused by dead skin cells), improve the texture of the skin and diminish hyperpigmentation and dark spots. In addition to exfoliation, acids can have additional benefits depending on their chemical form. AHA toner benefits include boosted collagen production, while BHA toner benefits include decongested pores and anti-bacterial action, which can be beneficial for acne-prone skin.
Risks of using acid toners
AHAs like glycolic and lactic acid require either high concentrations, or very low pH values of the formula, in order to be perform their action. The immediate results can be exciting, but prolonged use of strong acid toners with very low pH values disrupts the skin’s own pH level and can result in a weakened protective barrier leading to skin that is prone to inflammation.
Another risk of daily use of acid toners is over-exfoliation. When your skin is over-exfoliated, it will lose water through the epidermis faster than it should and this will have the exact opposite effect on the skin than intended: instead of smoother skin, you will have dehydrated skin that looks dull and feels dry, bumpy and tight.
Acid toner for sensitive skin – does is exist?
There is a third group of skincare acids called polyhydroxy acids (PHA), which have a larger molecular size than alpha and beta hydroxy acids. PHAs work the same way as AHA/BHAs, but mainly on the surface of the skin due to their larger molecular size. This makes them less irritating.
Lactobionic acid is a PHA and can be used in acid toner formulas to replace AHAs / BHAs. PHA toner befits include gentle exfoliation, antioxidant protection, as well as skin moisturization. Also, lactobionic acid does not require as low a pH as AHAs to be active, which makes it perfect for gentler formulations.
NUORI’s Gentle Glow Tonic formula combines lactobionic acid with innovative complex of highly tolerated fruit extracts with naturally occurring AHA content. These naturally occurring AHAs from fruit filtrates stimulate gentle biological exfoliation, but also boost the synthesis of the extracellular matrix for firmer and smoother skin.
How to use an acid toner?
If your acid toner is a traditional formula with a relatively high concentration of AHA/BHAs, it is best to start using it only a few times a week. This way you can make sure the chemical exfoliation effect isn’t too strong and irritating for your skin. Keep an eye on how your skin is reacting, and if you start seeing signs of dehydration, skin tightness or redness, take a break from your acid toner until your skin has had a chance to rebalance itself.
Gentler PHA toners are usually well tolerated by most skin types and can be used daily from the outset. If you have very, very sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to start using the acid toner every other night, and then increase usage, if skin is not showing signs of irritation.
Acid toners are best used in the evening, right after cleansing. Saturate a cotton pad with the toner and then gently wipe your face with it. Wait until the toner has fully absorbed and dried before following with the next step e.g., a serum or moisturizer.
Acid toners can be integrated into most skincare routines with ease. It is not advisable to use an acid toner right before or after a chemical peel. Also, if you are using a strong retinoid (Vitamin A) serum or toner, you should be very cautious with acid toners, since both product types are chemical skin exfoliants.
And as always, remember to use a sunscreen every day, all year around, to protect your skin against premature aging and cellular damage caused by UV light.