When it comes to washing my face, I’m a soap and water kind of girl. Throw in the occasional exfoliant and we’re golden. It's not a complicated routine, but I do stick to it religiously.
Lately though, I've been intrigued by the explosion of celebs and health gurus touting the benefits of a particularly basic pantry item: apple cider vinegar.
Scarlett Johansson says it works for her as a toner. Miranda Kerr and Megan Fox say drinking it keeps them svelte and their skin glowing from the inside out. The New York Times says sipping it can be really helpful for bacteria regulation and even some weight loss. It's also been glorified as a first-rate hair conditioner and immune booster. Amid all the glowing reviews, I wondered, could this golden-brown liquid I've only ever used in salad dressings really be an elixir for my skin?
I decided I'd give it a shot as a toner for two weeks, but not without some pause. You see, part of the reason I stick to simple skin care, like my go-to Dove beauty bar, is because it’s non-abrasive. I have pretty clear skin, but because it’s pale with red undertones, it’s usually uneven. Because my skin is combination, I experience dryness with added oiliness on my T-zone. And when I do break out it’s generally on my chin.
Toners are often full of alcohol and parabens, which can be confusing for my combination skin. But many consider a topical stringent to be that magical, albeit optional, extra step for polishing your skin care regimen. And, seeing all the dirt and extra makeup that appears on your cotton swab, even after you think you’ve washed it all off, is pretty satisfying.
Despite my doubts, I bought a bottle of all-natural, unfiltered organic vinegar (Bragg's is probably the most common brand), and I made a simple toner. The ingredients? Apple cider vinegar and water. I did a one to one ratio, though more water is recommended if it feels too strong.
Why does it work for toner? The acid in the vinegar balances the pH of our skin. Soap based cleansers are often alkaline (anything with a pH above 7). The pH of our skin is typically lower, so adding an acidic product (pH below 7) post-wash helps get your face back to where it most likes to be. A vinegar toner also helps when life factors cause imbalance in your skin, like stress, diet or dehydration. Since the stuff is just a by-product of fermented apples, this particular vinegar is full of potassium and calcium. The fermentation process also means the vinegar has antiseptic and antibacterial properties, so it’s perfect for sensitive or easily irritated skin.
During week one of my experiment, I applied my homemade toner each evening with a cotton pad. Honestly, it smells funny. But once the toner dries, the smell goes away. If you have any sort of open blemish or scratch on your face, it will sting, but not too much. For week two of my trial, I upped my usage to morning and night because I wasn’t convinced I was seeing results.
My prognosis? Like I said, I wasn’t convinced at first. But then I started to notice a subtle change.
Once the vinegar toner started to work, I stopped seeing the annoying flakey patches of dry skin that made my makeup look unnatural. My problem areas, which are sensitive to stress, lack of sleep, and excess caffeine were also kept under control. My T-zone, while still oily, seemed more manageable, even though I’ve been trying to wash my hair less often, which usually adds to that uncomfortable melty foundation and overall greasy face feeling.
Did I find it to be a miracle potion? A natural solution to all my skin care concerns? No. I didn’t notice it make my pores look smaller, which is what I thought a toner would have done. I wasn't suddenly glowing with an angelic complexion either. What I found, once I stopped expecting it to wow me, was that the toner kept my skin in it’s most normal state. It kept my skin looking and feeling the way it did on days when I didn’t think about my skin. Not flawless, but fresh and stabilized.
What I loved? It’s cheap, easy, and organic. It may not be a miracle product, but it really does feel gentle and good for you, where some store bought toners can feel harsh and stripping.
Will I keep it up? I have so far, and I’m past my two week trial. There’s lots left in the bottle, and since it seems to be fuss free, I think I might just keep this easy toner in my beloved simple skincare routine.
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