September 19, 2016

Think toners, and astringent, pore-contracting concoctions usually come to mind. You’ve probably also been conditioned to think of toners as the skincare step that follows cleansing and precedes moisturising, to make up the basic three-step routine that’s the cornerstone of daily skincare.

Well, it’s been a long time since our skincare was made up only of the cleanser-toner-moisturiser regime we first embarked on in our early teens. Now, there are double that number of steps most days, because with age also came the awareness that there’s so much more out there: serums, pre-serums, essences, micellar waters, so on and so forth; also the creeping knowledge that with time, our skin also needs more to keep the signs of ageing at bay. Along the way, we’ve also replaced our toners with alternatives that are less skin-tingling astringent, more soothing hydrating water.

The 10-step Korean skincare regime has a large part to play in this switch. It introduced us to the Korean version of the toner, known there as “skin refiner”, or sometimes the more confusing “skin”. They differ most vastly from Western-style toners in their hydrating effect – upon application, your skin will feel immediately softened, instead of tight. However, many of them still have pore-refining properties, so enlarged pores are still getting the treatment they need.

To be honest, those toners of old have fallen out of fashion in today’s beauty game; increasingly, Western brands are also launching their own versions of the skin refiner. If you’re still stuck in the traditional toner ages, time to update your regime with these watery picks.






innisfree Jeju Lava Seawater Ampoule Skin

Fresh from Jeju island is this latest anti-ageing skincare line from Innisfree, which harvests the youth-preserving powers of the lava seawater native to Jeju. It’s instantly hydrating as it is, but you also have the option of mixing in the ampoule from the same line for an anti-oxidant boost.

$35, innisfree stores from Oct











ETUDE HOUSE Pink Vital Water Facial Toner

This skincare line is made to leave you with a “rosy and glowing complexion”; while this product retains the traditional term “toner” in its name, it’s made up mostly of the key ingredient Pink Vital Water, which contains peach tree sprout extracts and vitamins for intense hydration and anti-oxidant properties.

$25.90, ETUDE HOUSE stores









LANEIGE Essential Power Skin Refiner Sensitive

Made for sensitive skin, this skin refiner refreshes with its light watery texture that promises zero stickiness. It’s hypoallergenic, with plum extract to calm down stressed skin while keeping it hydrated.

$42, LANEIGE boutiques and counters












Biotherm Blue Therapy Cosmetic Water

The concentrated algae ingredients help repair aged skin, refining pores and smoothing skin texture along the way so it’s better prepped for the subsequent serum and moisturiser steps.

$59, Biotherm counters 










Dr.G Aquasis Moisture Toner

The Aquasis range is all about sustaining hydration – up to 48 hours, as the brand promises. The toner helps with boosting blood circulation in the skin for a clearer complexion; an ingredient named abyssine, harvested from the depths of the ocean, also calms reddened skin.

$37, Sasa stores