The Toner Test

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

The YesStyle Beauty Lab

While the spotlight often falls on serums and moisturizers, toners are an equally important part of any skin care regimen. Try skipping this not-so-glamorous skin care product for a week, and you’ll notice the difference! Toners rebalance skin’s pH levels, unclog pores and provide an extra boost of moisture. In short, it makes the rest of your skin care ritual more effective. Plus, there’s simply something so satisfying about wiping a toner-soaked cotton pad across your face at the end of a long day!

I’m a late convert, but ongoing dips in my skin’s condition have led me to reconsider my previous agnosticism to toners. Experimenting with different offerings on the market, from rosewater and witch hazel concoctions to gentle exfoliants, I discovered that it’s a mixed field out there. But the best of the bunch did leave my skin with extra glow and a radiant finish – a testament to the product’s necessity.

This time, I tested two bestselling toners with markedly different ingredients: COSRX’s Hydrium Watery Toner, which boasts a simple but refreshing formula designed for all skin types, and Huxley’s Toner Extract It, which prides itself on its rich cocktail of naturally derived ingredients. Let’s find out how my skin fared!

COSRX – Hydrium Watery Toner

The Product: Part of the HYDRIUM skin care series, which our editor Romy reviewed last July, this toner comes in a pared-down formula comprising only 13 essential ingredients that are gentle on the skin. Capable of delivering intensive bursts of hydration to your face, courtesy of six hyaluronic acids plus plenty of glycerin, it also contains D-Panthenol (Provitamin B5) for strengthening the skin barrier and allantoin for soothing irritations. While it’s suitable for all skin types, it’s meant to be particularly effective in combating dryness – a godsend as my temperamental combination skin has been flaking since winter began.

The Low-Down: I used this product for roughly a week. While I started off with mixed feelings, by mid-week I was sold. Coming in a jumbo-sized, blue-tinged plastic bottle, the product’s appearance is simple and unfussy to the point of being a little basic. There’s neither the faintest hint of fragrance nor any particular sensation upon usage. For a second, I did think that I was soaking my face in simple H2O, but the results soon spoke for themselves. After a few days of usage (together with my trusty moisturizer: Shiseido’s Waso Clear Mega Hydrating Cream), there were subtle but exciting changes to my complexion, from a softer, more plumped-up appearance to reduced roughness. Clearly, its minimalist formula is working – giving me that hydrating boost while also allowing optimal absorption of other moisturizing agents.

Huxley – Toner Extract It

The Product: For those who crave a plant-based alternative for your toning routine, this might be the answer. Containing 90% naturally derived ingredients and starring a high concentration of cactus essence, this gentle, mildly acidic toner aims to restore pH balance, revive dehydrated skin and tighten pores. Derived from one of nature’s most powerful oils, the prickly pear cactus seed oil, the toner’s cactus essence revitalizes and plumps up skin with mega infusions of water, vitamins (A, D, E and K), amino acids and antioxidants. Given these glowing promises, how could I not give it a try?

The Low-Down: I used this as a regular toner for about a week. First off, I love the scent, which has a unique tang to it without being remotely heady – definitely not your usual artificial floral or fruity fragrance. On the hydration front, results were largely positive. The toner managed to bring a natural glow and a plumped-up effect to my (extremely dry) winter skin. On the downside, I did notice a few remaining dry patches on my face, as well as a slight tightness after application. As part of my masking routine, I soaked cotton pads in the toner and smoothed them over my face. It fell somewhat short of the hydrating power of my current go-to sheet mask: Dr. Jart+’s Dermask Solution (Water Jet Vital Hydra).

Final Verdict:

COSRX’s Hydrium Watery Toner and Huxley’s Toner Extract It take markedly different routes to revitalize skin – one through a painstaking curation of powerful chemicals, one through organic goodness. COSRX’s mild formulation brings suppleness and glow while being extremely comfortable on the skin. Huxley’s Toner Extract It offers distinct hydrating properties, plus that heavenly scent. To a large extent, both worked considerable magic on my skin. However, I would say that the COSRX toner is a better fit for my skin, given how dry it is right now. Much as I appreciate Toner Extract It’s distinctive fragrance and its emphasis on naturally derived extracts, the Hydrium Watery Toner wins purely on account of its superior hydrating properties. That’s not to say Toner Extract It deserves to be banished to the bottom of the skin care pile – it definitely gave the COSRX toner a good run for its money!

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