Do you have any products in your routine that cause you to wonder whether or not it's actually doing anything for your skin? This is my current relationship with pH-adjusting toners. I'll explain in a few, while reviewing my experience with the CosRX AHA / BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner.
PH-ADJUSTING TONERS: WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, HOW
Who: Almost anyone can use a pH-adjusting toner, except on some occasions, those with sensitive skin.
What: pH-adjusting toners are just toners, which are liquid solutions, that have a low, acidic pH due to the presence of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) in solution. The pH of a pH-adjusting toner is typically between 3.5 and 4.5.
When: pH-adjusting toners are used day and night, immediately after cleansing, and before products that contain active acne-treating or anti-aging ingredients.
Why: After cleansing, the pH of our skin is slightly raised above its natural, acidic level of around 5.5. This is particularly true if we use water-based cleansers that have a pH of 6 or higher. Many of us then proceed to apply products with active ingredients, which perform optimally at an acidic pH (think 3-5) especially L-ascorbic acid, and chemical exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids.
The purpose of pH-adjusting toners is to prepare the skin to receive "actives" by bringing the pH of the facial skin back down to be within this optimal pH range.
Where: In your bathroom, silly!
How: There are two methods of application. (1) Spritz or dispense the toner into your hand, and apply it onto the face. (2) Spritz or dispense the toner onto a cotton pad, and swipe it over the face.
Also, don't spray acids directly on your face, even if you have goggles. The goggles, they do nothing.
COSRX AHA / BHA CLARIFYING TREATMENT TONER
I bought into the logic of the pH-adjusting toner, and purchased the CosRX AHA / BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner back in oh, April. I have observed the performance of this product for over 2 months, or over 2 "skin cycles" to evaluate whether or not it enhanced the results of my anti-aging regimen.
I chose the CosRX toner because it contains both AHA (glycolic acid, and apple water, a natural source of malic acid) and BHA (betaine salicylate, and willow bark water by way of its salicin). I also usually opt for gentler formulations when it comes to anything acidic. Betaine salicylate is a gentler cousin of the more common salicylic acid, and the allantoin and panthenol are great soothing and moisturizing ingredients. I've listed the ingredients below.
Besides the ingredients list, it's also really f--king cheap. You get about 150 ml of product for under $15. I've hardly made a dent after using it for over 2 months, possibly even 3 months now.
Water, Salix Alba Bark Water 10%, Pyrus Malus Fruit Water 10%, Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Sodium Lactate, Glycolic Acid, Betaine Salicylate, Allantoin, Panthenol, Ethyl Hexanediol (CosDNA)
It comes in a clear, plastic container with a black spray nozzle on top. There's a cap for safety.
I've got no qualms with the packaging as it sprays pretty well. No sticking, and the spray's range is really satisfying as it covers a wide berth.
pH TEST RESULTS
According to Wishtrend, it is supposed to be 3.9. This checks out.
PERFORMANCE; WHY DO I CALL THIS A BLIND FAITH PRODUCT?
I actually rather like the product itself. It's a clear, watery toner that absorbs almost instantly. I also appreciate that it is not sticky, and it doesn't smell like anything. Despite reports of this toner having irritated some other folks, I didn't experience any stinging or redness at all.
So what's the issue then? I think the issue arises from my expectation for this product from an anti-aging perspective.
A little rundown of my expectations..
I did not expect:
Exfoliation: I don't rely on this to exfoliate my skin, but rather my PocketDerm retin-A prescription. If curious, this does exfoliate a bit, especially when used on a cotton pad.
Toning/Balancing: I don't need to rely on this product to balance the oils on my skin. Since I have dry skin, I like oils to remain on my skin. However, in case you are wondering, this does wipe my skin clean of all oil.
Acne: I rarely break out, and if I do, I rely on the Paula's Choice spot treatments that I currently have in stock, so I didn't expect this product to do much in terms of managing acne. Edit - I did test it out as a spot treatment on two recent troubles, and the spots went away overnight. Your Mileage May Vary, however.
I did expect:
Improvement/Anti-aging: Ok so it looks like my expectations were quite low for most areas. What I had actually hoped to see was even an infinitesimal improvement in the volume and pigmentation of my skin. In my mind, pH-adjusting toner = a results-boosting toner. After all, if my vitamin C serum, my AHA, and my retin-A / Niacinamide tonics spent more time within the optimal pH range, whilst reacting on my skin... wouldn't I observe a bit of wrinkle and fine line reduction, and lightening of my moles and freckles? I'm sad to say I did not.
In order to test this, I incorporated the CosRX toner twice daily before my actives for a month and did not see any noticeable changes in my skin. Sorry I don't have photos, it was pretty difficult to capture any differences. I then went off the CosRX toner for another 4 weeks, and boom, I saw some lightening of my pigmentation trouble areas. I know this is an imperfect experiment, and the lightening could have been a result of having applied actives for a longer period of time.
In a more ideal world, I would have designed my trial this way...
1 month off any actives.
1 month on actives, report results.
1 month off actives.
1 month on pH-adjusting toner + actives, report results.
...but I was reluctant to come off my actives, so this is the experience I have to report back.
This is also the reason why I've decided to give this product the benefit of the doubt. I've started calling this product, and pH-adjusting toners as a whole, my "blind faith" products. These are products that theoretically should impart some benefits to the skin, and have the potential to show visible results... so I've decided, even if I can't say for certain whether my skin did improve because of this product, I will put my blind faith in pH-adjusting toners and continue to use them.
I won't have to make that decision anytime soon, luckily. Judging from the past few months, this bottle may last a whole year. At this moment, I would say that I wouldn't mind repurchasing this particular toner.
SHOP THE POST
The CosRX AHA / BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner is available on...
Memebox for $12.00 Use code BESTIES25 for 25% off.
Wishtrend for $12.60 Use code WISHAUG2015 for 10% off $55+.
Jolse for $13.93
Cupidrop for $14.00
Amazon for $14.97
Do you have any products that you keep using despite a lack of visible results?
What has been your experience with pH-adjusting toners?
disclaimer and policies.
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