It’s a well-established fact that poring over images of supermodels all day has turned the Vogue offices into New York City’s unofficial skin care research capital, but this summer, we’ve found ourselves staring down an emerging real girl beauty phenomenon. Facial toners—the kind that take on clogged pores and grease-slick situations caused by heat and sunscreen—are showing up all around us in gym bag–, desk drawer–, and beach house–ready multiples. And with good reason: According to Alex O’Neill, Vogue’s slightly skin-obsessed Contributing Photo Editor, a transformative formula changed the game for him, taking his complexion to a practically supernatural finish. “I have oily and extremely sensitive skin. I’m basically cursed. Holy Cow’s Basil Toner is my savior— it allows my skin to breathe, keeps my pores tight, prevents irritation, and evens out my complexion,” he says.
Similarly claiming skin care as her “main hobby,” Vogue.com Associate Photo Editor Samantha Adler is loyal to FACE Stockholm’s Swedish Defense Balancing Toner, which blends exfoliating glycolic and alpha-hydroxy acids with rejuvenating red, green, and white teas, as a part of her breakout-proofing regimen. During the warmer months, Vogue.com Style Editor Edward Barsamian leans toward the classics and applies a few swipes of Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Toner, “just to make sure everything is clean and refreshed.” For a slightly cultier classic, consider Biologique Recherche’s P50 V 1970 Lotion—a favorite of many a Manhattan superfacialist, as well as Vogue Style Editor at Large Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis (better known as TNT). “It sounds like an undercover agency, and it sort of is! The formula is quite intense, but I love it and since I’ve started using it I don’t ever have to exfoliate my face—the sensation is amazing,” she says.
Of course, it is possible to experience too much of a good thing. To avoid irritation, facialist Joanna Vargas (whose clients include Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rachel Weisz, and Julianne Moore) suggests a gentle mist containing Vitamin C. “It can help mattify the skin, and I’m partial to any toner that can be sprayed—the ones that you wipe on tend to over-strip, therefore causing the production of more oil.” Likewise, Palm Beach skin guru Tammy Fender is partial to a botanical-based floral water, like her self-titled Roman Chamomile Tonic. “I love to keep a tiny spritzer bottle in my bag to give myself a quick pick-me-up. It’s also wonderfully refreshing at the beach or on a picnic if you keep one in the cooler.”
Here, our ten favorite formulas for making it through the homestretch of summer.