K-Beauty's Latest Trend is the Toner Wash Method, But Does It Work?

We ask pros and try the method out ourselves.

If you’re not yet familiar with Korean Beauty splash masks, let me give you a quick rundown because it’s prerequisite knowledge for what we’re about to talk about. The splash mask is a concentrated face mask chock-full of skin-loving ingredients. For example, Blithe Patting Splash Mask in Yellow Citrus & Honey ($45) contains lactic acid, honey, and fruit extracts to gently resurface, hydrate, and make the skin glow. You dilute splash masks with water, repeatedly splash the solution onto your face, then pat it into your skin. The idea is that it takes the 20-minute face mask ritual all the way down to 30 seconds.

K-Beauty’s latest skin hack is the Toner Wash Method, and it takes its cue directly from the splash mask. The premise is the same: dilute a toner with water, then splash it onto your face. The primary difference, though, is that instead of replacing an entire step, you’re adding an extra step to your skincare regimen. The good news is that it doesn’t take very long to do, but the real question isn’t “how long does it take.” What we wanted to know is it if actually works, or if it’s all hype. For answers, we hit up a couple pros.

“I think this method could be effective, and actually very appropriate, for someone with Rosacea or more sensitive, delicate skin,” said Dr. Christopher O’Connell, a Miami-based cosmetic and medical dermatologist. “Typically, people use a cotton applicator pad to apply toner, which ends up exfoliating the skin and causing mild trauma to the surface. This is fine in some skin types on a regular basis. However, for people with more sensitive skin, it would create irritation and redness with all that friction. This method allows enough contact with the toner to have benefits without the risk of irritation.”

Holly Green, an esthetician and founder of Norabloom Botanicals & Beauty Lounge, agreed.

“I did my research on this hack, and I firmly believe that applying the toner or astringent directly to the skin is the way to go,” she said. “Call me old school, but I want your skin to have the full effect of the all the goodness I created without any dilution.”

So not only does splashing the toner directly to your skin reduce friction and inflammation, it also ensures you’re getting more product on your face than on the cotton pad. This process is also an extension of your actual cleansing routine, and helps to further flush out makeup, grime, and sebum for an extra clean face.

It’s hard to determine where, exactly, the Toner Wash Method originated within South Korea, but at the very least we know it’s become popular thanks to Natural Pacific’s Fresh Herb Calendula Tincture Toner ($19). When you buy the product, it comes with instructions for the Toner Wash Method, and has resulted in countless Instagram and YouTube videos showcasing, and raving about, the technique.

I decided to test out this method with Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol-Free Toner ($21), which also puts calendula front and center. It even has real calendula flower petals inside of the bottle! Why calendula?

"Calendula oil is good for moisturizing the skin, and is also is an anti-inflammatory that reduces redness and swelling," said Dr. O'Connell. "It is great for acne prone skin, and Rosacea."

To complete the method, combine two tablespoons of the toner with two cups of water.

After cleansing, splash the toner mixture onto your face repeatedly for about 30 seconds.

Afterward, gently pat the residual mixture into your skin and let it seep in and dry.

I completed this process myself for a week. I’d been dealing with the tail end of a hormone-related breakout and oiliness, so the timing was perfect. In my experience, I didn't feel like the toner wash method necessarily made my skin cleaner, but it did noticeably increase hydration and had a calming effect on my face. The residual red spots I had did get better, my oiliness remained bout the same, and my skin did look brighter and more "alive," if you will, at the end of the week.

I'd guess that everyone's mileage will vary on this method in terms of acne prevention and healing, but there's no denying that it's a much more gentle way to apply toner.

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