- When incorporated within a daily routine, toners can hydrate dry skin and improve associated symptoms such as redness and irregular texture.
- Hyaluronic acid, urea and ceramides are all toner ingredients that boost hydration.
- Lactic acid is an effective ingredient in treating dry, acne-prone skin as it both exfoliates and hydrates.
- DIY toners can be made using a combination of natural ingredients to help soothe dry skin.
Dry facial skin is characterized by coarse and flaky patches, and will feel rough to the touch. To ease these symptoms, a focused daily skin care regime using a combination of hydrating products is optimal.
Toners can provide moisture to dry skin, improve uneven texture and help control redness and flaking.
How Do You Know You Have Dry Skin?
Symptoms of dry skin
In addition to a flaky, dull appearance, dry skin can also feel itchy and tight, especially after exposure to water. In severe cases, the skin can become cracked and vulnerable to infection.
Dry skin often feels uncomfortable and requires the regular application of creams and lotions to help maintain moisture and prevent the skin from peeling.
Causes of dry skin
The skin produces sebum, a natural oil that helps to lubricate and protect it from environmental stressors such as the sun’s UV rays, harsh temperatures and pollution. Dry skin produces significantly less sebum than other skin types, leaving it susceptible to damage.
Dry skin can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, sun damage, allergies and an inadequate or erratic skin care regime. In addition, overuse of exfoliants, using hot water and scrubbing the face can strip the protective oil from the skin.
Dryness can also be seasonal, brought on by environmental factors such as exposure to extreme hot or cold weather.
Benefits of Toners for Dry Skin
Toners that specifically target dryness do so by providing moisture to skin, while softening its texture and easing redness. A toner is also effective in maintaining skin’s pH level, which plays an essential role in protecting the skin from bacteria and environmental damage.
However, the use of toners for the treatment of dry skin is a subject of contention in the dermatological community, and some professionals oppose their use. “Most toners are not advisable for individuals with dry skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jeanine B. Downie, MD. “Although some toners can offer benefits based on the ingredients they contain, I recommend toners extremely rarely.”
Restores moisture balance
Skin needs to retain moisture in order to remain soft and supple. To achieve this, lipids which cover the surface of the skin, provide a protective barrier. These molecules prevent moisture loss from occurring and help to maintain skin’s natural balance. Dry skin often lacks these essential lipids.
To counteract this insufficiency, some toners are formulated with plant-based lipids, such as ceramides that mimic the functions of naturally occurring lipids to restore moisture loss. Toners not formulated in this manner, however, often have astringent properties that can worsen dryness. For this reason, Dr. Downie explains that toners “have a greater chance of stripping the skin of moisture, rather than replenishing it.”
Improves skin texture
When skin is adequately hydrated, it looks and feels smoother. Daily use of toners containing hydrating ingredients may soften and improve the skin’s texture by providing additional moisture.
However, skin texture is influenced by many factors other than moisture levels, and many products and treatments are specifically designed to affect skin texture in a way that toners are not. “Frankly, there are far better treatments that can improve texture,” says Dr. Downie.
“Skin texture is better improved by exfoliators, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, and ablative or collagen-activating procedures,” says Dr. Downie. “Whether or not a toner contains moisturizing ingredients should have no impact on skin texture.”
Controls redness and flaking
Redness and flaking are common symptoms of dry skin. Some toners contain ingredients, such as urea, to specifically target these issues. Research has found that topical applications of urea help to control flaking, resulting in a smoother appearance.
Toners for Dry Skin
When choosing a toner, look for those with humectants to help your skin lock in moisture; avoid astringents and exfoliants as these products will dry skin further. Humectants work by attracting and retaining water to the upper layer of skin.
Ingredients to look for
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a powerful hydrating ingredient used in toners. Due to its ability to bind to water molecules and improve tissue hydration, HA is widely used in skin care products and cosmetic procedures to hydrate, plump and soften the skin.
Glycerin is a humectant ingredient that is used in toners to prevent moisture loss. Research has shown that glycerin is also effective in improving the texture of dry, flaking skin.
Ceramides are molecules naturally found in the body and help protect the skin’s moisture barrier from environmental irritants, while preventing moisture loss. Plant-based ceramides are used in a variety of skin care treatments, including moisturizers and toners.
Ingredients to avoid
Alcohol and witch hazel are two astringents typically found within toners. Astringents are ingredients used to minimize pores and remove excess oil from oily and acne-prone skin. They are not designed for use on dry skin and are likely to exacerbate symptoms by stripping away too much oil.
“I never recommend astringents to my patients with dry skin,” says Dr. Downie. “They cause natural moisture and normal skin pH to become disrupted, and are more likely to cause flaking and redness, or even aggravate conditions like seborrheic and atopic dermatitis.”
For those with dry skin, toners containing exfoliating ingredients are to be avoided. Glycolic and salicylic acid are two examples of exfoliants often found in toners. They work by sloughing away dead skin cells and penetrating deep within the pores – a process that may be too harsh for dry skin.
Skin has a slightly acidic pH balance to help protect it from harmful bacteria and sun damage. Cleansing with soaps containing a higher pH level than your skin leads to a disturbance in its natural balance. When this occurs, your skin becomes more susceptible to damage and irritation.
“One of the most common issues associated with pH imbalance is the disruption of the skin’s natural microbiome,” says Dr. Downie. “A shift to too acidic or basic could lead to healthy bacteria dying off and harmful bacteria flourishing.” These changes can result in painful inflammatory responses in dry skin, and may trigger acne outbreaks.
Toners are effective in neutralizing and restoring this balance as they have an acidic pH close to the skin’s natural level. If your skin’s pH feels tight and dry after washing with soap, applying a toner will help to bring your pH level down to a more optimum level.
Spending too much time in the dry heat and sun during the summer will often lead to dry skin. To counteract these effects, some mild toners are formulated to be misted over the face and can be applied multiple times a day, providing a hydrating boost during this season.
Additionally, using skin care products containing antioxidants, such as vitamin C will provide some protection against sun damage during the summer. While vitamin C has been demonstrated to be effective in protecting skin against the sun, it is essential that you still apply sunscreen regularly and limit your exposure.
Toners for Dry Skin and Acne
Many toners are designed to treat acne by clearing away excess oils from the skin. For those with a combination of dry skin and acne, it may be difficult to find a toner that treats breakouts without irritating or drying out the skin further.
To address both acne and dryness, It is beneficial to use a toner that combines hydrating and soothing ingredients with those that target acne. Lactic acid is both a humectant and a gentle exfoliator, making it effective in combating dry and acne-prone skin. Its exfoliating properties will reduce the appearance of acne, while hydrating the drier areas of skin.
How to Use Toner for Dry Skin
Apply toner twice a day to provide an extra layer of hydration for dry skin. Use after cleansing to remove any impurities or residue that may remain after cleansing.
To apply, lightly moisten a cotton ball or pad and gently sweep over your face, starting from the center and avoiding your lips and delicate eye area. To prevent irritation, do not overapply.
Follow with a hydrating moisturizer to provide an extra layer of protection against moisture loss. This will also help to strengthen the skin’s natural barrier and lock in moisture throughout the day.
Dr. Downie suggests that toner users with dry skin always apply new products “less frequently than directed by the instructions at first” to ensure their ingredients do not cause irritation. “Try 2–3 times per week, then increase to every other day or daily as tolerated.”
Homemade Toner Recipes for Dry Skin
Several ingredients can be combined to create homemade toners using natural ingredients that are inexpensive and easy to find.
Argan oil and aloe vera
Aloe vera is used topically for its anti-inflammatory and skin healing properties. Argan oil is widely used to treat brittle hair and nails, although research has suggested that it may also help to improve skin’s elasticity.
- 3–5 drops of argan oil
- 1 tbsp of aloe vera
- 1 cup of water
- Combine the ingredients and pour into storage bottle; shake well
- Discard within 1 week
Cucumber juice and aloe vera
You can also combine aloe vera with cucumber, a widely used ingredient known for its soothing effects on the skin.
- ½ cup of cucumber juice
- 1 tbsp of aloe vera
- ½ cup of water
- Combine all ingredients; mix well
- Discard within 1 week
Green tea and coconut oil
Coconut oil can be an effective treatment for dry skin as it has been demonstrated to improve hydration and repair the skin’s natural barrier, protecting against environmental stressors.
Green tea is known for its antioxidative health benefits, and research suggests that it may also be useful in thickening and strengthening the epidermis.
- 1 green tea bag
- 1 tbsp of coconut oil
- 1 cup of water
- Steep green tea in 1 cup of water; cool for 15 minutes
- Add coconut oil and mix until combined
- Discard within 1 week
Toners that contain hydrating ingredients are beneficial in providing additional moisture to dry skin. These ingredients typically include HA, urea and ceramides, which have been demonstrated to be effective in treating symptoms such as dryness, roughness and flaking.
Additionally, toners are beneficial for balancing the skin’s pH, which helps to protect skin from further dryness. They can also be used to mist over the face to improve hydration throughout the day.
Homemade toners can be made using natural, inexpensive ingredients, allowing you to select the ingredients that work most effectively for your skin.
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