Astringent, it’s such an ambiguous word.

One that is often used in the beauty industry.

But what does it really mean?

An astringent is a substance, which causes biological tissue to contract or draw together, after topical application.

So let me get technical for a minute.

Astringents work on the protein keratin found in the skin, the salt bonds in keratin are affected by temperature and pH, these bonds form when the skin is slightly acidic or cool.

If the bonds break the keratin molecules separate, causing the outer layer of skin to swell.

When the skin cools, these salt bonds reform, it is this process that produces the temporary toning effect associated with astringents.

Can you permanently reduce pore size?
No! apologies for being blunt here, but contrary to popular belief, this action is short lived.

You can’t permanently reduce enlarged pores, which are over stretched, no matter what clever marketing campaigns try to tell you; This is a topic I discuss in greater detail, in the article oily skin remedies.

Alcohol Astringents
Two alcohol astringents are used in the personal care industry:

  • Isopropyl alcohol, often referred to as rubbing alcohol
  • SD alcohol or ethanol, is a specially denatured ethyl alcohol

Astringents, give the skin an instant cooling effect.

They stimulate the sensory nerve endings and constrict blood vessels, when you apply alcohol on the skin it evaporates really quickly.

It is this action that gives it the cooling feeling much like splashing cold water on your face; this is why alcohols are often used in after shave products.

Synthetic versus natural astringents

Synthetic alcohols can cause irritation and dehydration.

This upsets the delicate micro flora that preserves the acid mantle; this is where alcohols get their reputation for stripping the skin.

And yes they do clear the skins surface of oil but at a price; they cause oil glands to go into overdrive as they try to replace the lost oil, making skin even oilier…

So no matter what your skin type try to avoid astringent alcohols, fortunately there are plenty of natural alternatives available.

Natural Astringents

  • Sage
  • Menthol
  • Camphor
  • Witch hazel
  • Lemon extract
  • Potassium alum

Witch hazel is often used as a natural alternative, but used in high concentrations it can be very astringent.

But when used in low concentrations it can be extremely soothing, making it the perfect natural treatment for a combination skin prone to breakouts.

Follow the link on an article that covers the guide to correct use of astringents.

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