Things have been changing in the face cleansing scene the last couple of years. It used to be simple: Everyone had a cleanser and a toner and we used to feel like we haven't done it right if there wasn't a tingling, squeaky clean feel once we were finished.
Ask most skin care experts today and they'd say that you need to be much more gentle on your face, because over-cleaning and drying actually causes the skin to get active and produce more oil and get generally unhappy and imbalanced. They would also tell you to drop the toner, because it's the most drying product of them all (especially those that still contain alcohol). Modern cleansers aren't supposed to leave behind any residue that needs to be removed and your face shouldn't require any toning.
Old habits die hard. For those who still crave the clean feel of a toner on their skin, there's a three-in-one product that promises to do it all: remove makeup, tone the skin and hydrate it. Cranberry toner by Arcona is all-natural, its ingredient list reads like a Harry Potter herbology class: Hamamelis Virginiana Extract (Witch Hazel), Rice milk, Sodium Lactate, Vaccinium Macrocarpon Fruit Extract (Cranberry), Camellia Sinensis Extract (White Tea), Vitis Vinifera Seed Extract (Grape), D-Alpha Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Citric Acid, Essential Oils.
I did some research to find out what's Sodium Lactate and found out that it's produced by the natural fermentation of the sugars from corn or beets. These sugars are fermented with lactic acid starter culture, similar to those used for cheese or yogurt production.
One word of caution regarding the ingredients: This toner is basically an enriched witch hazel solution. Witch hazel is an astringent and an anti-oxidant. It's also a known skin irritant and some people are very sensitive to it, so take notice.
Those who don't have a problem with witch hazel will find this toner quite pleasing. It cleanses well (though I prefer to use it as a follow-up to makeup remover wipes) and feels nice on the skin. It usually doesn't give the dry, tightening feeling of regular toners, though you can't skip moisturizing. I'm not wild for the fruity smell and color (the cotton pads turn pale purple after using it, which I find disturbing), but since it's made of cranberry extract I guess it's only natural.
Arcona Cranberry Toner ($32) is available from Nordstrom and Beauty.com.