In the latest issue of Brides, skincare expert, facialist and blogger Caroline Hirons gave me some excellent pre-wedding advice: 'Invest in a good acid toner. Every bride will benefit from a skin that is gently exfoliated on a daily basis in the months leading up to the wedding, as opposed to using an abrasive traditional 'scrub' the week before.'
Here's a low-down on what these are and how they work:
It's not a traditional toner: most toners feel bracing, cooling and err.. 'toning' because they contain alcohol. Alcohol is a cheap thrill and massive con in skincare because of those sensations, but the reality is it's incredibly drying on the skin and does naff all to help sensitivity or congestion.
It's not a cleanser: all that make up you trawled on this morning, happily festering under a layer of pollution and dirt, needs a proper cleansing session. I'm on Team Greasy Balm personally, and it needs to be massaged in, ideally twice, and removed with a warm cloth cleanser. See my post about this here.
So what is it? An acid toner slots into the same space as a normal toner (after cleansing and before serum/moisturiser) but it provides a gentle exfoliating action to improve a variety of things: it carefully sweeps away remaining dead skin cells, it works as an anti-inflammatory and calms irritation, and it reinvigorates and stimulates lazy enzyme action, which provides the energy supply to cells and makes everything perform better. And, since we're on the science bit, it lowers the pH level of the skin back to a happy medium (tap water from washing our faces is alkaline; and stress-induced adrenaline raises alkalinity).
Acid! Yikes! These tend to be Glycolic, Salicylic or Fruit acids, and they're remarkably gentle. In fact, Salicylic acid is basically what Aspirin is made of. Kind, lovely Aspirin that reduces inflammation. And hangovers. The doses are mild, however some can be a bit bolshier than others. Pixi Glow Tonic, £18 (www.marksandspencer.com), pictured, has a 5% level of Glycolic acid for instance. That sounds a lot, but it's combined with aloe leaf juice that instantly cools and calms. I have blotch-prone English Rose But-Not-The-Pretty-Ingenue-Kind skin, and I use this twice a day without the merest of irritation (whereas if I use a scrub, even the most organic self-riteous eco-friendly nut-shell scrub, I look like a burns victim for an hour afterwards). Meanwhile, Clinique Clarifying Lotion 1 has just 0.5% Salicylic Acid (and no alcohol, unlike the other two in the range), so it's a good choice for very fragile and high-maintenance skin, or those with spots and congestion and sensitivity all rolled into one (if that's you, go and book a facial with Caroline immediately).
How do I use it? Drench a couple of cotton pads and sweep over the face, down the neck and around the hairline. Any residue? Swipe that over the tops of your arms to prevent and reduce those tiny red in-grown bumps known as Keratosis Pilaris.
My 'Jerry's Final Thought' on acid toners is to think of it like High Intensity Training for your skin: you've got to give it some welly if you want toned and smooth results.