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Beauty: face facts – exfoliants are essential, skin refreshers a luxury

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Sali Hughes

Sali Hughes

The Guardian, Saturday 6 December 2014

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Sali Hughes face facts ‘Toners may be lovely, essential they are not.’ Photograph: Rui Faria for the Guardian

It seems I infuriated many a few weeks back by saying toner is useless. I unwittingly made those who swear by liquid exfoliants such as Clinique Clarifying Lotion, Alpha-H Liquid Gold or Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner think I was dissing their favourite products. Not so.

I can see why this happened, so allow me to clarify my distinction: when I say “toner”, I mean those floral/herbal waters that “refresh” the skin. Lovely they may be, essential they are not. Liquid exfoliants, on the other hand, use alpha or beta hydroxy acids (or both) to remove surface dead skin smoothly and uniformly, treating spots, blackheads, fine lines (not wrinkles) and dullness as they go.

Until a couple of years ago, I bought my liquid exfoliants direct from dermatologists or from the US, but nowadays the influence of beauty bloggers, overseas markets and consumer demand has caused mainstream brands to leap aboard and flog them in our supermarkets.

The most satisfying example is L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Laser Renew Peeling Lotion (£24.99), which I expected to be too harsh (alcohol comes second in the ingredients list), but is actually pretty marvellous. Like any liquid exfoliant, apply it at night-time on a cotton wool disc, before applying your usual serum and moisturiser.

Aveda is (quite rightly) boasting about its Botanical Kinetics Exfoliant (£17), having spent the past 20 years barely acknowledging its existence. This has always been a favourite of mine, because it gives great glow and flake-free smoothness without any sting, as does Peter Thomas Roth’s Glycolic Acid Toning Complex (£18.91).

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