Are you an oily skinned guy or gal that’s looking for complexion perfection?
Do you dream of skin that has the perfect matte finish, free of daily shine, blackheads, and breakouts?
Then look no further than your astringent products.
We appreciate this may seem a little counterintuitive; after all, this is one ingredient that does get a bad rap.
But we’re going to push the boundaries here, even if it does get us burned at stake and labelled a heretic.
You see, there is a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding astringent products and their role within skin care.
Most people have a negative connotation with it due to its ability to dry out the skin; this is only partly true as the effects of astringents actually depend on the type and the quantity used within a product and how suitable it is for your skin type.
Because it’s a topic that’s given rise to a lot of debate and the answer is far from clear-cut, we will look at this ambiguous ingredient in more detail.
So join us as we explore whether the occasional use of astringents is really worth the hype.
How do astringents work on our skin?
Derived from the Latin word “astringent,” which means “to bind fast
Astringents are designed to manage key issues at the skin surface, such as oiliness and its associated conditions like breakouts and blackheads.
They work on the protein, keratin, found in your skin. The salt bonds in keratin are affected by temperature and pH and form when your 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, and it is this process that produces the temporary “toning” effect associated with astringents.
What are the types of astringents used in skincare?
Natural astringent alternatives can give you the oil-reducing, skin-tightening effects, which are very beneficial, especially to those with oily skin.
- salicylic acid
- witch hazel
- lemon extract
- potassium alum
Witch hazel is a prime example; when used in low concentrations, it can be extremely soothing. The active component in witch hazel is tannins, a naturally occurring astringent. Used in high concentrations, they can be very astringent, so use with caution.
Two alcohol astringents are used in the personal care industry:
- isopropyl alcohol
- SD alcohol, or ethanol, is a specially denatured ethyl alcohol
Astringents give the skin an instant cooling effect; when applied to your skin, it evaporates quickly, stimulating the skin’s sensory nerve endings that constrict blood vessels.
This action gives it the cooling feeling – much like splashing cold water on your face – this is why alcohols are often used in aftershave products.
Why do astringents get a bad rap?
You can overdo astringents because they can reduce the acid mantle and disrupt the pH balance and induce the overproduction of oil, so monitoring usage and resulting skin effects are important.
Because astringents offer a drying effect, we only recommend treating excessively oily skin or acne-prone complexions that are not suffering from underlying sensitivity. If used in the wrong setting, they can make your skin more irritated or flare-up.
Refrain from using astringents if you have any of the following:
- open sores or wounds
- super dry skin
- sensitive skin
What’s the difference between a toner and astringent?
Toner: This is a water-based solution (generally alcohol-free) that works to keep the moisture in your skin’s upper layers to prevent skin dehydration.
Astringent: This is a water-based solution that, once applied to your skin, works to shrink or constrict your skin; many of the commercial astringents are formulated with SD Alcohol or Denatured Alcohol, which will give your skin a tight feeling. This is a sign that your skin is dehydrated and not a sign of clean skin, as many mistakenly think.
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 that are over-stretched, no matter what clever marketing campaigns try to tell you. This is a topic we discuss in greater detail in the article, “Oily Skin Remedies.”
In summary: If you suffer from excessively oily skin, incorporating the occasional, gentle astringent products into your skincare routine might not be such a bad thing.
We appreciate we are often told that you can disrupt the pH balance and induce more oil production when using astringents due to over-drying.
Not all astringents are created equal; some are of benefit to the skin. In contrast, others may be counter-productive, but it all depends on the types present in your products, their concentrations, and your skin type because there are many different types with many different properties.
So while there might be other ingredients that boast greater skincare credentials, the overriding message here is that all astringents, especially the natural ones like rose, witch hazel, and salicylic, aren’t to be feared.
Monitoring usage and resulting skin effects are essential; they need to be avoided if you have sensitive skin, eczema, acne inflammation, allergies, or skin conditions associated with inflammatory conditions.
Skincare is a lifelong relationship. You know your skin best. If you want to give astringent a go, start slow. Try it a few times a week and work your up to daily use. It might take some trial and error to see which astringent works best for you.