Cover Glow Recipe founders, Sarah Lee (L) and Christine Chang (R) (Photo: Courtesy of Glow Recipe)

Glow Recipe founders and beauty industry veterans Sarah Lee and Christine Chang gives us the lowdown on the benefits of using toners, how to choose the best type for our skin and the proper way to use them

Toners are our best friend. With Hong Kong's pollution and humidity, we need toners to remove any traces of dirt and impurities in our pores, even after washing our face. When we use it regularly, it can have great effects on our skin, especially on tightening our pores to achieve youthful-looking skin.

But toners can be tricky too because there's a lot of varieties and brands and it's difficult to choose which one suits our skin best. Keen to know more about toners? You're in the right place.

We sought the help of beauty industry veterans, Sarah Lee and Christine Chang, founders of skincare brand, Glow Recipe to share the benefits of using toners, how to choose the right one and the proper ways to use them. Glow Recipe is inspired by the Korean beauty approach to skincare so you know you're in good hands.

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What are the benefits of using a toner?

Sarah Lee: Toners are concentrated treatments that provide multiple skincare benefits in one. In the past, we saw toners packed with alcohol and other astringent ingredients and were used primarily to remove residue after cleansing. Modern toners are seen as the first liquid treatment step that not only helps to prep and balance but effectively infuses skin with essential ingredients and nutrients.

Our Watermelon Glow Pore Tight Toner utilises a 360 inside-out pore-refining approach with PHA and oil-soluble BHA, but paired with hydrating hyaluronic acid, watermelon extract, and cactus water. This concept was inspired by the Korean Aqua Peel facial. When we would travel to and from South Korea for work, the Aqua Peel Facial was one of the most popular treatments at derm clinics for its ability to refine pores and hydrate at the same time. Inspired by this duality, the Pore Tight Toner provides an equal balance of effective pore-refining PHA & BHA and Hyaluronic Acid with an innovative, "stretchy" texture due to the cactus water base.

See also: How To Treat Dark Circles, According To Skincare Scientist Dr. Barbara Sturm

What types of toners are there?

Christine Chang: Toners come in a myriad of different textures and benefits. In terms of texture, there are toners that are watery, milky or bouncy, denser formats that are also called "essences". Some toners are infused with skin resurfacing ingredients such as acids and exfoliants, whereas other toners are more focused on hydration.

Essentially, toners are a quickly-absorbing liquid treatment formulated with ingredients that help to set the tone of your skincare routine to follow.

See also: 5 Long-Lasting Foundations To Survive Hong Kong's Humidity

What should we keep in mind when choosing a toner?

Christine Chang: When choosing a toner and incorporating it into your skincare routine, the key ingredients and format should address your primary skin care concerns. It’s also important that you listen to your skin—if you’re finding your toner is stripping the skin or leaving it dry or irritated, you’ll want to swap it out for something a little more gentle.

We also believe that it’s important that your skincare routine, including your toner step, should consist of products that you truly enjoy consistently using. Our Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore Tight Toner has become a cult favourite at Glow Recipe as it brings together the best of both worlds in a bouncy, sensorial experience by simultaneously deeply hydrating skin while helping to clear and clarify pores.

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What products do you recommend?

Christine Chang: At Glow Recipe, we understand that your skincare concerns may be different day to day, and that no day is the same, which is why we suggest taking it day by day, skin by skin, and building a routine that is uniquely yours.

A few of our products that our Glow Gang is obsessed with recently:

  • Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops: This first of its kind highlighting skincare and makeup hybrid helps visibly brighten skin and deliver an effortless glow instantly and over time while helping to reduce hyperpigmentation and without leaving a grey cast. It has a lightweight, buildable texture that quickly absorbs, making it suitable for all skin types including oily or acne-prone. The Watermelon Dew Drops are extremely versatile! They can be used as a hydrating highlighting serum before moisturiser, mixed with foundation to add a glow, or as the last step of your routine to add an instant glossy finish.
  • Plum Plump Hyaluronic Serum: This product plumps your skin by filling each skin layer with intense, juicy hydration! Its silky, water gel texture is infused with juicy plum and five molecular weights of next-gen hyaluronic acid that fill each skin layer with hydration for visibly plumper skin. Combined with vegan collagen and vegan silk protein, this lightweight, oil-free serum deeply hydrates dry, dehydrated skin and diminishes the appearance of visible fine lines for healthy, bouncy, youthful skin.
  • Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturiser: 90 per cent of this silky glow moisturiser is spiked with vitamins and amino acid-rich watermelon extract, plumping hyaluronic acid, and soothing botanicals like peony and jasmine extracts. This 100 per cent oil-free (which is great for oily or breakout-prone skin) cooling gel-emulsion absorbs instantly to seal in hydration and prep skin for the day ahead. Antioxidants guard against free radicals and repair damaged cells along the way.

See also: How To Use Face Oil For Glowing Skin, According To Drunk Elephant Founder Tiffany Masterson

What's the best way to use a toner?

Sarah Lee: When it comes to skincare results, the application is as important as the product itself. There are multiple ways to maximise a toner with treatment benefits. Firstly, you can create an at-home DIY facial experience: True to its Aqua Peel Facial inspiration (a popular Korean pore facial), the Watermelon Pore Tight Toner can also be used as a DIY facial treatment at home. Wet a few cotton rounds or reusable cotton rounds with the toner and leave them on the areas where you have the most pore concerns, such as the forehead, nose and chin for 10 minutes. Then continue with the rest of the skincare routine.

Secondly, the "Pat & Roll"—this is a technique we created at Glow Recipe, inspired by the gentle pressing application from Korean beauty, to elevate the routine:

Method 1: Dispense the toner into the palm of one hand, warm-up between the palms, and then gently pat into your face, focusing on areas that may need pore-refining first, like your T-Zone, then moving onto the drier part of the face like your U-Zone.

Method 2: This is a method using a cotton round with a rounded "pat and roll" method. Take a cotton round soaked with toner and place it around your middle finger, while being anchored by your pointer and ring finger to hold it in place. Next, pat and roll the cotton round all over your face so that the toner can deeply penetrate into the skin.

See also: Dr. Barbara Sturm Shares Tips On How To Exfoliate Your Face For Glowing Skin

Glow Recipe is available exclusively at Sephora Hong Kong.

(This article was originally published on June 28, 2021 and was updated on August 24, 2021.)

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