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Aggravating Astringents

BY: Judith Rasband • Jun 22, 2019

“Most skin types get oilier in summer,” according to some skin care experts.  If this is your dilemma, an astringent or skin freshener may help control the problem.

Consumer confusion runs rampant when it comes to the selection of facial astringents and skin fresheners, and no wonder, with literally hundreds of similar products in the market, which sell under interchangeable names.

These are astringents, toners, tonics, fresheners, skin conditioners, toning lotions, refining lotions, scrubbing lotions, exfoliating lotion, exhilarating lotions and more!

Basically, these products are lotions or clear liquids, which contain water, alcohol and sometimes glycerin to help the lotion types spread evenly.

While one product may sound like it does something extra or more efficiently than another, alcohol is the main active ingredient and the difference between them is the amount of alcohol they contain.

Astringents contain a higher concentration of alcohol, possibly boric acid, alum, menthol and/or camphor, herbs, coloring and an aromatic.

Skin fresheners contain a weaker concentration of alcohol, possibly herbs, coloring and an aromatic.  Many contain witch hazel, which is simply an alcohol solution made from the bark of the witch hazel tree.

The best astringent and skin fresheners are plain old witch hazel and your humble household rubbing alcohol.  The little added extras listed on the label add little to the ability of an astringent to do its intended job.

Select the strength you need according to how oily and sensitive your skin is.  If it seems somewhat nonsensical to pay a high price for colored water and alcohol, then just make your own:

Four parts water mixed with one part alcohol makes a fine mild astringent or skin freshener.  If your skin is particularly oily, a stronger astringent may be made by simply decreasing the amount of water you add, possible one to one.

You don’t need to change products from summer to another season or place to place, just the concentration of alcohol.

You might prefer a solution of two tablespoons of strained lemon juice mixed with 16 ounces of witch hazel.  It makes an inexpensive yet effective skin freshener.  And for a totally non-alcoholic freshener, try water and lemon juice.  Just mix and store in a sterilized jar.

Use your astringent or freshener after washing with a mild soap or cleansing liquid, which then removes any last traces of facial oil, make-up, cleanser or soap residue.  Use once or twice a day as needed to control oiliness.

Apply astringent with a saturated cotton pad or ball and wipe – don’t just pat or dab to remove any dirt or oil. An astringent does not alter the rate or location of the oil flow, it simply removes oil once it’s there.

Astringents leave your skin feeling “cool” as water and alcohol evaporate quickly, taking body heat along with them.  Your skin feels “tight” because of the drying effect of the alcohol, and it also appears, “rosy” as the alcohol stimulates circulation.

On long busy days away form home, I like to carry a pre-moistened towellete in my purse for a midday mop-up.  I look less tired and greasy and feel definitely refreshed.

Contrary to the claim of some astringent manufacturers, medical associations states that none of these products “reduce” or “shrink” pore size, nor do they “tighten” pores in the strict sense of the word.  The alcohol and other ingredients can cause minor skin irritation and a swelling of the tissue, making them temporarily appear ever so slightly smaller.

Overuse or use of too strong astringent can strip skin of natural oils and can be very drying and uncomfortable.  Avoid using them near the eyes or if you have dry skin.  Always follow up with a light moisturizer.

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