Toner: The Forgotten Step

Toner is never a step that has really excited me skincare-wise. A sweep of something refreshing, that gave me a little ‘aaaah’ post-cleanse and I was sorted. But when the skincare goddess that is Caroline Hirons (yep, her again) piped up and gave us all a talking to on that product we so often shrug off with a bottle of something stripping in one hand and a cotton pad in the the other, I listened, took notes, made Mrs Hirons approved purchases and you know what? I’m bloomin’ glad I did. Ramping up my toner routine into a two-step sloughing/hydrating duo has made the most noticeable difference to my skin’s texture and tone in all the various skincare-swap ins I’ve tried. Woah bold claim, but it’s looking pretty darn good right now and I’m pin-pointing the two toner trick as the main culprit…

Why not just one? Is a legitimate question but here’s the backstory. In layman’s terms (a.k.a, the one that I can understand), Caroline suggests using one toner ‘to take away’ and another ‘to add’. A cotton pad soaked in an exfoliating toner applied all over will help to lower the skins pH, thicken the dermis, plump and decongest which gives a helping hand to keeping breakouts at bay. Followed by a spritz of a hydrating toner which will  draw moisture to the top layers of skin and act as a good base layer for your proceeding skincare steps and you’re onto a winner. Heads up: I just use a hydrating toner in the morning, but do the whole two-toner thing in the evening.

For the first and exfoliating stage I’ve been flitting between two – Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 and Clarins Gentle Exfoliant Brightening Toner. The former of which when popped up on my Instagram was the talk of the comment section, so I’ll pop up something with a little more deats soon, but to keep it sort and sweet I picked up this acid-filled formula from Liberty and the Poly-Alpha-Beta-Hydroxy-Acids Complex (say what?!) has been sloughing my skin well polishing pimples away, smoothing lumps and bumps and generally making everything look a little brighter. P50 is a nightly affair, whereas the Clarins version is more of a twice-weekly occurrence; it’s much cheaper but works on a similar resurfacing principle with a tad more of a tingle. The Pixi Glow Tonic is also said to be a less wallet-weeping dupe of P50 and is a product that I’m impatiently sat on the waitlist for due to the ‘Caroline Effect’, but when that gets welcomed into my stash, I’ll let you know how it stacks up.

Caroline then spritzes on something hydrating to prep the skin for the serum step and again there’s two in my rotation: La Roche Posay’s Serozinc (stupidly not available in the UK, so I’ll stop my rave short here, just add it to yours and others shopping lists next time there’s a channel crossing jaunt) and Omorovicza’s Queen of Hungary Mist. Both perfectly refreshing, a little glow-giving and the application of which exerts that ‘ahhh’ feeling that leaves my skin satisfied. I spray on in the evening, post-P50 swipe and schedule in a tooth brushing sesh while everything settles before I reach for Hydraluron (another C.H must-have, you gotta listen to the experts, you know?).

Caroline, you’ve done it again. I’m a Beauty Mouth-believer… 


  • Anna L

    I would love to get the EH Cleanser (currently sold out everywhere), the p50 (not available in Germany), the Hydraluron (same problem) and the LRP Spray (same…).All due to wonderful Caroline:))She really got me aswell:))I’m thinking about how to get these products!Really frustrating…xxx

    • Zuzik

      Same here in Slovakia. No EH Cleanser, no p50, no Hydraluron… 🙁 I will get LRP Serosinc in July when my aunt will visit Paris and i hope I’ll get Hydraluron on my trip to London in August.

      • Anna L

        good news:) the EH Cleanser is back in stock at :))They have free delivery worldwide.I have already ordered mine:)EH check:)

    • elp

      I went through the same process, fell for the Caroline Hirons craze and started looking everywhere for those products, but no Emma Hardie, p50 or Hydraluron in Italy!

      1) Found Emma Hardie balm on (very good fast international shipping). It is available for international shipping on the QVC website too, and there is a convenient 200 ml format!

      2) Bought Biologique Recherche p50w from a remote spanish spa website, great online assistance but unfortunately very expensive shipping costs. Found another greek spa website with very good online assistance, willing to ship internationally for much less, haven’t ordered from them yet.

      3) Bought hydraluron, peptabright and eyesilix as a 3 for 2 offer on the website and had it shipped to a friend in London that kindly shipped it to me in Italy.

      I have ordered most of these products approximately a month ago, so far the only product that arrived is the EH balm (LOVE IT!).

      Still waiting for the others in the mail. These shipping costs are TERRIBLE, and the products take so long to arrive… at least I really hope all of these products will help my problematic skin. Leap of faith.

      • elp

        I meant the website

  • Millie F

    Toner is a step I always seen to miss out, I’ll be sure to put more effort in to keeping it in my routine from now on. I almost bought the P50 recently but i’ve heard a lot of people say they go through a two week purging period at first- have you/has anyone else found this to be the case? I’m sooo tempted but my skin doesn’t need more spots! 🙂

    • I’ve been adding it to a dampened cotton pad for the first two weeks to let my skin get used to it (sorry should have added that in the post!), and haven’t had any extra pesky pimples 🙂

      • Millie F

        Thank you, I might have to give in to temptation and buy it. Heard a lot of good things about it 🙂

  • I love Caroline! I’ve been trying a duo toner approach and my skin has thanked me for it massively.

    I actually have the Pixi Glow Tonic on its way in the post. I’m so excited it’s ridiculous.

  • Daniella

    I always forget toner, it seems a bit pointless to me usually, although I do like the refreshing ‘aah’ 🙂
    Daniella x

  • Victoria Street

    Any recommendations for 2nd stage toners doll x

  • Maria

    I have the Pixi Glow Tonic and I love it. It really helped me get my skin in order. I’m hoping to stock up when I go to London this summer, but I am a little worried since I’ve heard rumors that it’s impossible to get a hold off right now… I’m hoping things will calm down until July…

  • 😀 so true, I always Forget toner because I´m lazy. 🙁

  • Sara

    So are we supposed to be using the exfoliating toners in the afternoon? I’ve been using my Clarins one (the US version of the UK one is packaged under a different name) in my morning routine before makeup because I thought that’s what Caroline said but maybe I’ll move that to the afternoon and try a hydrating one in the morning.

    • Alline de Paula

      Sara, I’ve been using my Clarins Exfoliator Toner (the UK version) evening AND morning, for about 2 weeks now. I’ve been in the sun and all, no signs of any irritation or anything like that, and I do have fairly sensitive skin that is really temperamental! My skin is slowly smoothing out and I’m really happy with it.

      I just bought the Caudalie Beauty Elixir to use along with my Clarins Toner, as my “add on” step (I used it before just as toner and my skin just loves that stuff!)

  • Sara

    Also, is your P50 the original 1970 formula?

  • Maddy Cane

    I love using toner, especially in the summer because it is so refreshing! xxx

    Maddy from UNSTITCHEDD


  • rebeccagreen1

    I love the Clarins Gentle Exfoliating Toner, I have had it for only a week but it really makes a difference in the texture of the skin! Thanks so much for leading me to Caroline’s blog, she is fantastic!

  • I’ve always used witch hazel as a toner but am trying the Body Shop’s Vitamin E hydrating one as well as L’Occitane’s Gentle Toner which I love x

  • May

    Have you had any issues with your skin thinning over time because of the exfoliating toners? I’m really interested to try the Clarins one, I already use a “to add” moisturising toner, but I don’t want to aggravate or weaken my skin. (Real srs dilemma I know.)

  • t
  • Kelly

    Really want to try P50, I’m using the Clarins toner now and I must say that I don’t experience the tingle, and use it every night.

    I pretty much pressure anyone who goes to France to pick me up a basket of skincare. The French are so lucky.

    Great post, Anna! As always.


  • sof

    Very very interesting the way you described the differences between toners!! thank you!!

  • Victoria

    Really helpful post as I’m inline for new toners and looks like I need to add two to the mix! I’m especially keen on the Queen of Hungry’s mist if it’s legend is going to help me snag a 25 year old king!!

  • Ash

    Serozinc is available on the website…It has loads of french pharmacy goodies and ships to the uk for a really reasonable price!

  • Pippa

    I just started using the Pixi Glow Tonic and am loving it! I went into the Carnaby Street store on Saturday and had no problems getting hold of it, they seemed to have a fair few in stock if anyone is trying to get it!

  • Serozinc sounds really good!

  • Josie

    Have you tried the La Roche Posay Effaclar Astringent Lotion? I think it sounds similar to what the P50 does, it has micro exfoliants to clear the skin. It really works, I had a really bad breakout around my nose that I could not shift, but after using this again for a while it is so much better 🙂

  • Call me intrigued! I haven’t used toners in awhile because I didn’t notice a difference. But I think that’s because I was using the wrong kind and expecting the wrong kind of difference. Time to go shopping.

  • Ambi Sud

    I find the LRP Effaclar Toner is a really good ‘exfoliating’ toner, quite acid heavy but really quite good! I really want to try out the Clarins though…

    My blog has just turned 1, and to celebrate, I’m hosting a little MAC lipstick giveaway. Please enter for your chance to win a free MAC lipstick of your choice 🙂

    Ambi x

  • I’ve started doing the two-toner thing, too, and have seen an improvement in my skin’s texture. At first, I was only doing it at night but decided that my skin looked better when I do it in the morning, too. I am itching to try the P50 but can’t justify it until I use up some of my other toners!

  • Lillian ParisianToBe

    Great post, Anna! I’m using Clarins Exfoli as my everyday toner at the moment and it seems to be doing wonders. Plus, I recently ordered Serozinc. Yet another influenced purchase…


  • I didn’t notice much of a difference with the Caudalie Elixir, but I like Jurlique’s Rosewater toner and I actually think the Omorovicza Mist helps with breakouts.

    Now I’m eyeing that Clarins toner….

  • It’s quite funny as I had stumbled on a very old entry on a blog two weeks or so ago that suggested the same thing — to use two toners that is. I tried doing it one day and I was overwhelmed by how many products I was using, but really I think it was just in my head. It makes sense to treat and then to hydrate back again.

  • Deborah

    Great post! I just ordered the Aveda Botanicals Kinetics Exfoliant to try it out as an exfoliating toner. Has anyone else tried this?

    • Se1 Girl

      I have, and have been using it with Origins Make a Difference treatment lotion as the hydrating step (again due to Caroline!) both are beauts!


      • Deborah

        Awesome, I’m really excited to try it out now. Thanks!

  • Katie

    Do you have DDF products in the UK? I recently started using their Glycolic Toning Complex, which has 10% Glycolic Acid, and it has transformed my skin. No product has improved my skin so much (okay, besides REN skincare!) and I’m so happy I bought it. It smells like skunk, though =( Only for a few moments and then the scent goes away =)

    Where is the La Roche Rosay Serozinc toner available? I live in the States and was hoping to find one here!

  • Ah, Caroline Hirons is just the Queen of skincare isn’t she? I’m definitely going to need to have another look at my toner choices after this post! Do you know where you can get a more affordable moisturising toner than the Omorovicza? It’s so expensive!

    An Arrangement of Notes

  • Raquel M.

    Loved this post! CH is definitely a goddess, I can say I have some skincare products that I love because of her! :p

    But where can one purchase the Pixi Glow Tonic? I can’t seem to find it anywhere… :

  • Danielle Barbeau

    Loved this post. Been recently really wanting to get into these types of toners, but just haven’t been able to get my hands on the Pixi Glow Tonic! I have a great moisturising toner now, but one of these exfoliating babies need to be added to my basket of skincare!

  • ellena hill

    I’d love some other ‘2nd step’ recommendations or what is it that we should be looking for in the name or ingredients? x

  • sam

    I think I officially love Caroline Hirons. I have started to use two toners, the first being clarins gentle alcohol free toner, and then a hydrating rose one by fresh. HUGE difference already. cannot wait to get the p50!

  • Louisa

    Hmm this is interesting as I’m never entirely sure whether toner is a necessary step – maybe I should try two and see if it makes a difference!

    Louisa’s Notebook

  • Anna, I suggest you try out the Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner. Really good stuff that works. I use that as my first step toner then Caudalie’s Grape Water as a quencher. Ahhh, please tell me you will try it! x


  • Aisher

    Literally just bought the P50 last week after finding Caroline’s recommendations! Am hoping it will do wonders for my combo/dehydrated/prone to breakout skin…How do you find the hydraluron? As I say i’m combo & prone to breakouts so don’t want anything that might aggravate my skin…

    • Rougepout

      I’m combination skin and had adult acne issues, used Hydraluron for nearly a year and it has really improved my skin. No issues with the product or with it irritating or causing skin problems.

  • luci

    Hi Anna, I was wondering if I use Alpha H liquid gold twice a week do I still need to use an exfoliating toner everyday?

  • Rougepout

    I am adoring the Pixi Glow Tonic, equally love the Clarins and P50. P50 kicked the butt of my adult acne and it has never dared return. I use the double toner/exfoliation am and pm, the difference is worth the extra added to the skin care routine. I of course also bow down to the skin guru that is ‘the all seeing all knowing Caroline Hirons’ 🙂

  • Katie

    I’m in France so I’m going to try the La Roche Posay toner! Thanks Anna. Btw, love the layout of your blog! What medium did you use to create it?

    Check out my blog called Hidden Inspirations, in which I write about travel, beauty, fashion & anything else that inspires me!

  • Kate

    the Clarins made me break out really badly – devastated as that’s the only one I can get my hands on in Australia!

  • Leanne

    Does anyone know where i can get the pixi glow tonic from? Tried emailing them but no response!

    Follow, like and share 🙂

  • Juliana

    I love you to death Anna… but I can’t help myself from rolling my eyes when I hear someone complain when a product is not available in the UK or US! Really?? Some of us can only drool at the eye candy you show on your blog…

  • dana

    I started doing the same thing, Anna! My face is broken out horribly, but I think that just shows how much I needed to get those top layers exfoliated. I think when it settles it will be great! I am going to get the P50v tomorrow, and I having been using the Clarins hydrating toner. I popped it into a spritz bottle and it works wonders! I can’t wait for my facial tomorrow. I really wish I could get a hold of the serozinc, but no can do here in the states……or the Clarins exfoliating toner either! I think a trip to Paris is in order. : )

  • May

    It post is like watching the youtube vid with pixiwoos and Caroline.
    It does get a bit boring that both you and Lilly and A liana talks about the same skincare products that you all have heard from Caroline.
    It sometimes feel like you guys dont have an own oppinion..

    I really like reading your blog, but would like to read more of what you think and not someone else.

  • Gaby

    I had a bad experience with a cheap, alcohol-based toner in the past, so I never use toners. However, now I *need* the one from La Roche Posay. Thanks for posting Anna! You might need to do a video of your updated skincare routine 🙂

  • Harpa

    I have a question. I was thinking of adding a scrub and a toner to my skin care routine. I want to buy the St. Ives scrub and I’ve been searching for a toner. Clarins gentle exfoliater brightening toner sounds good!.. my question is.. since it exfoliates aswell.. do I need the scrub too? Thank you in advance! 🙂

    – Harpa

    • Margherita

      I wouldn’t use the St. Ives. It’s got big particles that are too abrasive and can cause micro tears in the skin. I’d stick to the toner but if you need to exfoliate, use acid peels or masks. Those are much more gentle to your skin. Hope this helps!

  • Good Toner

    Nice post thanks for sharing with me it is really very helpful for me

  • Jasmine

    I love the Clarins toner too, I featured it in my toner post too: ! I’m definitely going to have to get my hands on the others when I’m in the UK/France later in the year. Lovely post, Anna xx

  • Daisy Meadow

    Aaah I love this too, although I never go to France so buy from the UK instead. A blogger bought from a french site (farmaline I believe?) and got slapped with a £30 customs charge! I wouldn’t risk it! I’ve reviewed it on my blog and have the UK seller on there if you want to read it http://daisy– xx

  • Cathrine

    Can you PLEASE help me because I’m so confused, haha. I’ve been reading Carolines blog lately, and I’ve tried to really change my skincare routine. My skin is not good. I have some acne, I’m dehydrated, there’s no glow.. Anyway, I’m confused about all this double cleanse, tone, which cleanse to use first, which to use second, and yaddayadda. I have a Radical Skincare Hydrating Cleanser, Lancôme Galatee Confort Cleansing Milk, Malin + Goetz Grapefruit Cleanser, Omorovizca Queen of Hungary Mist, Nimue Conditioner Tonic (I do not use all these cleansers and toners at once, loll). And I really want to get my hands on either the Omorovicza Thermal Cleansing Balm or the Emma Hardie one, and the Clarins Gentle Exfoliater Brightening Toner.

    Lol, i got a lot of products, I even have a bunch of Dr. Sebagh products that I’ve stashed away. That foaming cleanser was no good. Ok, I’m talking to much.. Thing is, I have a lot of products, I’m just afraid I’m using them in a wrong way. Help?

    • bana

      This might be a bit late. I’m not familiar with the cleansers you mentioned except for the lancome one I have it and I stopped using it because it contains mineral oil as a second ingredient so you might want to use something else.

  • Martine

    Anna doesn’t reply to comments 🙁

  • Rebecca Simpson

    Where on earth can I purchase Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 in the UK? I’ve been researching but I’m struggling.

  • Amiee

    if I read another blog post mentioning Caroline, who is she?