Ask Alex: Are refining toners right for me?

Hi Alex!

I liked your piece on refining toners, but I don't necessarily believe I am a candidate for that type of toner. Or am I? I really don't know. I have complicated skin that has red and dark spots. Is there another kind of toner that I can use to even my skin tone (preferably one with natural ingredients)? I do use tea tree oil to treat the occasional breakout--could it also be used for blemishes? Any advice would be much appreciated! 


Hi Arielle! 

I am curious why you don’t think you are a good candidate for a refining toner. If you have very sensitive and reactive skin I could understand why this product would not be for you. If that is the case, I would look at toners with rosewater and rose essential oils. Rose is ant-inflammatory and a vasoconstrictor so it well help reduce redness in the skin. Rose is also a brightening ingredient so it could help with evening tone. However, I don’t think you’re going to see a massive difference from that alone.

If you are not dealing with sensitivities, I would encourage you to try a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) toner or treatment at a low concentration. Salicylic acid at 2% is the highest available concentration for the public. Try to look at products that contain 0.5% to 1% concentration to start. For natural products, find ingredients with willow bark or wintergreen (Eminence Clear Skin Willowbark Exfoliating PeelBurt's Bees Natural Acne Solutions Clarifying Toner, Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner). These will give you a botanically derived form of the acid. Adding an acid into your routine will exfoliate your skin and help your cell turnover, which is essential to clearing any pigmentation on your skin (i.e. your red and dark spots).

I completely understand your hesitancy, and though it seems like an aggressive step to add, I suggest to start small and go slow. When first incorporating anything into your routine that may kick up a reaction on your skin, add it in only a couple times a week. After a few week you may want to use it every other day, and eventually you may like it for daily use. But adding a little chemical refinement even once a week will make an impact in your skin.

Hope this helps!