Toner is often the neglected child of skincare. Most people misunderstand toners and deem it unnecessary, if they even know what it's really for. It's easy to understand the confusion. Toners don't have the same reputation as moisturizers or sunscreens, where anyone can understand what purpose they're for, but toners are one of those in-between steps that yes, may be optional, but really are so worth the investment.
Toners can be used for a variety of purposes, but generally fall into one of two categories: clarifying/cleansing or moisturizing/enhancing. The former is what Western toners generally fall into and are used for cleaning off leftover residue from the day, minimizing pores, and to restore skin's natural pH balance. Moisturizing/enhancing toners are more popular in Asia, where multi-step moisturizing regimes are very common. It's not uncommon for Asian women to use a variety of moisturizers, serums, emulsions, toners and essences everyday!
Recently I got to try a totally new (to me) brand from Japan which specializes in just this type of moisturizing toner. Sekkisei is a popular Japanese skincare line that is known for their use of herbal extracts to promote a "pure as snow" complexion. The Sekkisei Lotion Excellent is an intensive lotion that is applied after cleansing to rejuvenate skin with its proprietary mix of Chinese and Japanese herbs. The Sekkisei Lotion Excellent claims to drench your skin in moisture and to also fight signs of aging with its brightening compounds and powerful stew of antioxidants, such as Coix seed oil, Japanese spurflower, Bracket fungus, and Angelica extract.
Since we're on the topic of ingredients, let's dive right in, shall we? The primary ingredients in this lotion/toner are:
- Alcohol - a common ingredient in Japanese skincare that helps give it that light feeling without drying out skin
- Glycerin - a humectant
- PPG-9 diglyceryl ether - an emollient
- Dipropylene glycol - a penetration enhancer that helps other ingredients soak into skin and also helps give this lotion a slippery texture
Other ingredients of note are: angelica acutiloba root extract (aka toki, in Japanese, used for anti-aging and moisturizing), coix seed extract (aka Job's Tears or Ma-Yuen, helps moisturize skin), ganoderma lucidum stem extract (aka mushroom and acts as an antioxidant) and melothria heterophylla extract (antioxidant).
Price & Packaging
A 200 ml bottle retails for $65 off Kose USA, or for up to $85 from Canadian retailers online. I absolutely adore the packaging of this toner. 200 ml is a super generous size and the gorgeous sapphire blue bottle really stands out on my counter. Although the packaging is plastic, the choice of that rich color paired with its gold rimmed lid makes this lotion look really special.
The screw top lid comes off easily to reveal a small opening. To use, you simply overturn the bottle and shake a few drops into your palm. The opening is perfectly sized to only let out a few drops at a time, ensuring that you never over pour.
The Sekkisei Lotion Excellent is supposed to provide 3 different benefits to skin: moisture, anti-aging and brightening. After four weeks of use, I'd say this lotion does a solid job at one of those things and inconclusive results on the others.
I prefer to use this lotion in the mornings after my cleanser and before any other products. Using just 3-4 drops, I spread the Lotion Excellent between my palms and then lightly press or slap my hands along my face, concentrating on my cheeks and forehead area. I'll even apply some to my neck if there's anything leftover.
I absolutely love the light, hydrating feel of this moisturizing toner. My skin instantly feels refreshed, more alive and plumper. You know when you see a plant spring back to life after a good rain? That's how my skin feels. This toner is packed full of emollients and humectants and I can verify that this product is a solid win on that front.
In terms of fighting signs of aging or brightening, I am quite a bit more skeptical. I didn't notice any difference in terms of a lessening of fine lines, or of my hyper-pigmentation. The antioxidants listed in the Sekkisei toner are commonly used in Chinese herbal medicine, but don't seem to be proven as effective anti-aging ingredients just yet when applied topically. I figure though that it doesn't hurt to use this type of product and who knows, maybe the effect will subtly build up over time! My other go-to moisturizing toner from Hadalabo is also supposed to be brightening, but I haven't noticed any effect from that either, so I can't really blame Sekkisei for not following through; however, the Hadalabo is significantly cheaper!
Ditch - provides a generous dousing of hydration to skin and comes beautifully packaged, but with its brightening and anti-aging benefits unproven, this is a little too pricey for what it does for me to repurchase.