It was love at first sight when the new Holifrog Utopia Microflora Toner ($44) arrived on my (lap) desk. The romantic and colorful packaging, the elegant ceramic bottle with a gilt logo and watercolor blues painted along the side— it’s the kind of product you want on display on the countertop, not tucked away in your medicine cabinet. But as beautiful as the bottle is, what's inside of it is even more exciting.
This "skin support system" goes beyond your standard toner. It's designed to keep your skin barrier operating at peak performance, which is critical for staving off a slew of skin concerns 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 bad stuff (like pollution, UV rays, bad bacteria, or anything inflammatory or irritating) out. It's comprised of three layers: The lipid layer, which is made up of the skin's natural fats; the acid mantle, a lipid-and-amino-acid layer that controls your skin's pH; and the microbiome, an ecosystem of good bacteria that keeps out pathogens and irritants.
“The skin barrier is like the ozone layer—but for your face and body,” says Kate Roach, certified esthetician and skin-care expert for Woodhouse Spa. “The barrier ensures a balanced pH and protects your skin from harmful free radicals, unfriendly bacteria, and irritation.”
When any part of your barrier is compromised (which can happen for a whole bunch of reasons, including lack of sleep, over-exfoliation, extreme weather, and sun and pollution exposure), you'll see the results on your complexion. “Compromised barriers can result in acne, sensitivity, and wrinkles due to water loss,” says Roach. Additional signs that your skin barrier isn't working the way it's supposed to include itchiness and dryness (including dehydration), discoloration, signs of aging (like wrinkles, thinness), and inflammation.
Holifrog's toner delivers the magic recipe for skin barrier rejuvenation: a little hydration, a little bacterial disinfection, and a healthy dose of pre and probiotics to recalibrate the delicate microfloral ecosystem on your face (aka the microbiome). This trifecta can help fight inflammation, calming any redness, dryness, and irritation you may have incurred. To boot, it also contains honey—one of Roach’s go-to barrier-strengthening ingredients.
The texture and user experience are not that of a traditional toner: it’s milky, and doesn't have the same tingly sensation that you've likely come to expect from more astringent formulas. Instead of swiping it on with a cotton pad, you apply it directly with your fingers and let it soak into your skin.
One last word on the product: While it's lovely and effective, it's also pretty stinky. Don't be put off by this! In many cases, this is 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). But trust—a few seconds of holding your breath is worth the skin-boosting benefits that this stuff delivers.
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