The Skinny On Asian Lotions/Hydrating Toners

Moisturizing is one of the most important steps in the Asian skincare regimen. Asian women believe that a “watery”, radiant complexion makes a crucial base for good makeup and their secret to achieving that? Applying lotion religiously.

Unlike the regular moisturizers that we call lotion here in the US, “lotion” (化妝水) is a hydrating toner that should be applied after cleansing and before moisturizer. While some people argue that toners are redundant and just another marketing gimmick, I personally can’t live without them. My rationale? If your skin is dehydrated and you slap on layers and layers of moisturizers, they will just sit on top of your skin and not get absorbed. But if you use a hydrating toner to soften the top layer of your skin first, it will help any moisturizer or treatment that follows to penetrate better into your skin.

The Proper Way To Apply Lotion/Toner

1. Pour the toner onto a piece of cotton pad and make sure the cotton pad is completely saturated with toner.

2. Apply in a patting motion until the cotton pad is dry.

3. Massage the toner into your skin and gently press the palm of your hands onto your face for a few seconds to help your skin absorb the toner.

A good hydrating toner also makes the perfect hydrating mask that is great through out the year. Check out this old entry on how to make your own.

Product Recs

Naris Up Skin Conditioner Lotion ($~7)
I have the Skin Conditioner Lotion Co (left in the picture). It contains marine collagen to help with skin cell turnover and to keep the skin soft and elastic. Like most hydrating toners, it is clear, fragrance-free and slightly acidic. I apply this on my face every day after cleansing and it makes my skin so soft and supple! Plus at $7, you get a 360ml bottle which is good for 60 uses (it is recommended that you use 6ml with 4 pieces of cotton pads each time). Thumbs up!

Kose Medicated Sekkisei Lotion ($62)
This oh-so-famous whitening lotion has been around forever and is still one of the best-selling hydrating toners in Asia. It contains Japanese and Chinese herbal extracts, aqua, alcohol, glycerin and more to brighten your skin while keeping it supple and soft. I find the whitening effect to be most prominent in the first couple of weeks. My skin did get more even and supple and my freckles faded a little too. The effect gradually subsided but if you use it religiously, it will keep your skin in good condition. I have been using this on and off for over 10 years now and I will always keep a bottle in my bathroom.

Fancl Lotion ($17.50)
This toner from the Fenatty series contains Fresh Moist Collagen, Sweet Pea extract and a Moist Holding function to keep your skin hydrated, soft and free from environmental damage. The texture is slightly sticker than the Naris Up and Kose lotions but still gets absorbed pretty fast. My skin feels smooth and hydrated when I use this and like all Fancl products, it does not contain any preservatives, sterilizers, petroleum surfactants, fragrances and mineral oil so it is suitable for all skin types, including those with sensitive skin. The only drawback is the 60 day expiration date. Unless you can commit to using this on a daily basis (which you should anyways), the product may go to waste.

Rosewater
This can be found in a lot of skincare products and its well-known moisturizing and soothing properties makes it the perfect toner for all skin types. You can also find rosewater at most drugstores for less than $10. I highly recommend you ladies give this a shot.

Phyllis Li is the Founder and Editor-in-chief of Makeup For Life, one of the top 50 beauty blogs that focuses on celebrity makeup breakdowns, product reviews, makeup tutorials and all things beauty. Having lived and traveled in North America, Europe and Asia, she was exposed to different techniques and products at an early age and hopes to put a global perspective towards beauty. Phyllis won the Best Content Award by Total Beauty in 2008 and has been featured in various publications and websites including ELLE, Glamour.com, Yahoo Shine!, AOL Stylelist, Nylon Korea, VOGUE China, Ming Pao Daily (Canada) and Shanghai Weekly. In 2010, she was appointed one of the nine Real Women Ambassadors in the United States to take part in the Latisse® Wishes Challenge, working with Hollywood celebrity Kathy Ireland and raised over $400,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant wishes for approximately 54 children. In 2012, she teamed up with luxury skincare brand TATCHA and released a limited-edition 3-Piece Set of her favorite beauty products. Phyllis currently lives in Chicago, US. She is the beauty editor for Shanghai Daily's StyleHai Magazine and a member of the Glam Beauty Network.

13 COMMENTS

  1. I SO have that Sekkiesi (sp?) brightening lotion but I didn’t think it made any difference on my skin! I think I need to give it another shot; if Phyllis says it’s good, it’s got to be good!

  2. wow, i never knew there was a correct method of applying them. i always skimped on my toner because i didn’t think they did much. i put a few drops on my palm and patted it on my face. i’ll definitely follow your advice from now on.

  3. Phyllis your skin is incredible! May I ask what toner you are currently using, or the one you are using in your picture?

  4. oOOoh I like this post! I’ve been lacking toner in my skincare regime, but I brought it back in! This winter weather is making me dry as anything..=(

  5. OOh, toner recommendations. I saw the Naris Up Skin Conditioner Lotion at my local Japanese market and almost picked up the collagen version when I noticed that the third ingredient was alcohol. The alcohol gives me pause but I’ll think about it some more

    -Kit

  6. Actually since you explained it this way, I do think moisturizers work and feel better after some hydrating toner.

    @Kit: alcohol in toner is such a big no-no, even for oily skin, which makes it even worse because it’s so drying and then sebum production goes into overdrive. ugh.

  7. Using rosewater as a toner/refresher/cleanser is an excellent tip. I had not thought of using rosewater this way.

  8. Hi Phyllis, I was looking through some old Nv Ren Wo Zui Da episodes and I found one (13th July 09) where they talked about the different hydrating toners in Asia. The guy on the show was heavily promoting this giant bottle of milky toner that he says has consistently placed first in the Japanese magazines.

    As much as I tried to pause the screen and judge the bottle (because they always cover the brand names…) I couldn’t get a good look of what it was. I was just wondering if you could do an update on the best hydrating toners these days? Or give me a clue as to what the bottle on the show was?

    Also, is there a difference between an asian “hydrating toner” and a moisturising toner like the Clinique moisturising clarifying range?

    Thanks heaps!

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