It was love at first sight when the new Holifrog Utopia Microflora Toner ($44) arrived on my desk (on my lap). The romantic, colorful packaging, the sleek ceramic bottle with a gold logo and watercolor blues painted on the side, this is the kind of product you want on display on the counter, not tucked away in your medicine cabinet. But as beautiful as the bottle is, what’s inside is even more exciting.
This “skin support system” goes beyond your standard toner. It’s designed to keep your skin barrier working at peak performance, which is key to avoiding a host of skin issues including irritation, acne and dryness.
Your skin barrier is the first line of defense between your skin and the elements, and works to keep water in and the bad stuff out (like pollution, UV rays, bad bacteria, or anything inflammatory or irritant). It is made up of three layers: The lipid layer, made up of the skin’s natural fats; the acid mantle, a layer of lipids and amino acids that controls your skin’s pH; and the microbiome, an ecosystem of good bacteria that wards off pathogens and irritants.
“The skin barrier is like the ozone layer, but for your face and body,” says Kate Roach, certified esthetician and skincare expert for wooden house spa. “The barrier ensures a balanced pH and protects your skin from harmful free radicals, harmful bacteria and irritation.”
When any part of your barrier is compromised (which can happen for many reasons, including lack of sleep, excessive exfoliation, extreme weather conditions, and exposure to sun and pollution), you’ll see the results on your dyed. “Compromised barriers can lead to acne, tenderness, and wrinkles from water loss,” says Roach. Additional signs that your skin barrier isn’t working the way it’s supposed to include itching and dryness (including dehydration), discoloration, signs of aging (like wrinkles, thinness), and inflammation.
Holifrog Toner offers the magic recipe for skin barrier rejuvenation: a little hydration, a little bacterial sanitization, and a healthy dose of pre and probiotics to recalibrate your face’s delicate microfloral ecosystem (aka the microbiome). This trifecta can help fight inflammation, calm any redness, dryness, and irritation you may have experienced. To boot, it also contains honey, one of Roach’s go-to barrier-strengthening ingredients.
The texture and user experience is not that of a traditional toner: it’s milky and doesn’t have the same tingling sensation you’d probably expect from more astringent formulas. Instead of swiping it on with a cotton ball, apply it directly with your fingers and let it soak into your skin.
A final word on the product: although it is beautiful and effective, it is also quite stinky. Don’t be put off by this! In many cases, it’s a sign of a powerful, fragrance-free skincare product (if you’ve smelled CE Ferulic from Skinceuticals or P50 from Biologique Recherche, you already know that). But trust, a few seconds of holding your breath is worth the skin boosting benefits this product offers.
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