splashing water

Types of toning water and the science behind them

Toning water is a skincare product that is both simple and mysterious. It’s also the first makeup/skincare product that I’ve used a complete bottle of since my immersion into beauty. In this post, I will share some of the different toning waters I’ve tried, what they are, what effects they have, and why they make (or doesn’t make) a difference to your skin.

collection of toning waters

1. Avene thermal spring water

avene thermal spring water bottle

The all star product of the Avene family. Recommended by a drug store beauty staff  to my mother and ended in my hands. Honestly this was one of my first skincare products and I had NO IDEA how to use it. So I just sprayed it on my face after wiping my face and expected it would hydrate my skin. Instead, my skin felt even drier and it soon found a spot on the counter that I never touched. Awhile later feeling the need to investigate, I read the label more closely and realized you are actually supposed to “wait a few minutes, and then pat dray“. As a proud scientist, I was very ashamed of myself for neglecting a simple natural process – evaporation.

graphic on evaporation of water molecules

Water evaporates from the skin. In the same way that sweat evaporates from the skin, leaving you feeling a little cooler. So spraying water onto the skin, no matter how great the product is, will not hydrate the skin. From my personal experience, use a cotton pad to apply toning water for deeper hydration and use your cream or next product quickly to prevent evaporation loss. (This is also why you never want to leave a mask on your face until it’s dry!)

Final note, and this is true for most toning waters, toning water is simply – well – water. So don’t expect it to do anything magical. It’s also only good for short term hydration and will not make your skin more hydrated naturally. But if you just enjoy using the product, like me, go ahead!

2. MUJI toning water for sensitive skin

MUJI is a Japanese home goods and fashion chain that started making it’s way to North America. MUJI brand is “no brand” and focuses on quality and simplicity of their products. I am a huge fan of their stationary and home goods, but I digress. The MUJI skincare line is actually very good for the price range, and they have an especially good line for sensitive skin type

bottle of MUJI toning water

I am so strangely in love with the feel of this plastic bottle…

The toning water for sensitive skin is one of the first MUJI skincare products I bought last summer while in Beijing (also loveee their face cleanser!). Compared to other toners, for example, the Avene thermal spring water, the MUJI water feels a little thicker and therefore stays on the skin longer. Personally I like gently patting it on my face at night or making a quick and cheap water mask. If you have sensitive skin, you have absolutely nothing to worry about with this product.

3. Medicated Sekkisei (by Kose)

Another Japanese brand, and very very popular product. (I will save the background for another post, because these brands are quite complicated.) The medicated sekkisei series is renowned for it’s whitening effect on the skin and has won numerous awards in Japanese beauty. Although some have critiqued it’s higher alcohol content. Sekkisei roughly translates to snowy skin, so medicated sekkisei is essentially a product that gives you clear, white, moist skin with medicinal ingredients.

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS. If Avene and MUJI are 7/10s on my toning water list, this is 9.5/10 – only because scientists don’t like to be 100% sure. Use this water and lotion combination put my acne situation in control within 3 months. My face felt clearer. And this is the only product, so far, that makes my skin feel totally different after application. AND LASTS! OMG!

The only downside, it’s hard to get in North America (in Canada especially) and that hikes the price tag up. I bought both the toner and the lotion together for <$60 in Japan, and on Amazon it’s $50+ for just the toner alone. T_T

5. Skin Intelligence pH skin normalizer

First of all, you are probably wondering what pH skin normalizer is, and what it actually does. Back in grade 7 chemistry class, you might remember dipping small strips of litmus paper that turns blue or red when you dip it into liquid solutions to measure the pH. The skin also has an optimal pH level, around 5, which is slightly acidic. This slight acidity helps protect the skin and being way off can cause serious damage overtime.

graphic of healthy pH level of skin at around 5

This particular pH skin normalizer I use from Skin Intelligence* was a travel sized spray that I tried out a while ago. It’s marketed to contain herbal ingredients to help maintain a healthy pH.

I didn’t notice any immediate effects, however, I was not using it consistently and my skin was in okay condition. That being said, I really liked the feel of product, lighter than the MUJI toner but heavier than the Avene one. The mist is also very fine, which makes the application process super enjoyable and fast.

6. Caudalie micellar cleansing water

This product is not really a toning water. As the name suggests, it actually a cleanser, and a makeup remover, and a moisturizer, all in one. Sounds too good to be true. So I decided to try it out.

Micellar water has actually been around for awhile. Initially invented to help the French avoid their harsh water supply. Micellar water contains micelles, a aggregate of amphiphiles, or a cluster of molecules that are both water loving and fat loving. This means micelles are dissolved in water, but attracts oil and dirt from the skin. The product should remove makeup, clean the face, and also leave the skin hydrated at the same time. Perfect for traveling.

Personally after a couple of uses of the Caudalie micellar cleansing water, I have no doubts its makeup removing abilities. Foundation and eyebrow products come off easily with a quick wipe so that’s pretty amazing. Although my skin don’t feel dry after using the product, I’m still not comfortable with the idea of no rinsing though – since I’m so in love with my current cleanser. So my next goal will be testing with just the micellar for a night and see what happens! Stay tuned.


*FYI, we may get a small benefit from the sale of this product. Love Wendy. Get more details here.

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