How Do I Choose the Best Astringent Lotion?

A.M. Boyle

If you have oily skin or suffer from excessive skin blemishes and pimples, you might have tried a number of different products to solve the problem. One such product is known as an astringent. Choosing the best astringent lotion can be tricky. The key is knowing what kind of skin you have and what skin condition you are trying to treat. Finding an astringent lotion that will fight infection is also important. Proper use is also essential to your skin care.

The witch hazel plant provides the astringent used in many skin toners.
The witch hazel plant provides the astringent used in many skin toners.

First and foremost, there is a difference between an astringent lotion and a toner. Astringent lotions are designed to treat oily skin. If you have dry to normal skin, you should not use one at all but should opt for a toner instead. Using an astringent lotion on dry to normal skin can cause more harm than good and might ultimately damage your skin.

Astringents can be used to cleanse the skin.
Astringents can be used to cleanse the skin.

To choose the best astringent lotion, it is helpful to first understand how it works. The skin contains pores, or tiny microscopic openings in the surface. Below the surface, there are sebaceous glands, which secrete oil into the skin through the pores. The oil helps to keep the skin soft and supple and gives it a healthy glow. At certain times, such as during puberty, these glands might secrete too much oil, and this is how the problem of oily skin develops.

The best astringent lotion will work to shrink the skin around the pores, which causes the pores to tighten up, or close, and limits the amount of oil that is secreted. Most astringents do this by using certain substances, such as alcohol or salicylic acid. These substances, while helpful in slowing oil secretion, can also be harsh on the skin. The best astringent lotions will contain skin-softening ingredients, such as glycerin, to counteract the harsh effects of the pore-shrinking ingredients. These astringents are sometimes marketed with a label indicating they are for sensitive skin and are generally your best choice if that's what you have.

Look for astringents that also contain antibacterial and antimicrobial ingredients. Antibacterial substances destroy or inhibit the growth of bacteria on the surface of the skin. Antimicrobial products stop disease-causing microorganisms from entering the skin. Having an astringent that contains both these ingredients will not only help decrease oil secretion but will help reduce the occurrence of pimples, blemishes, and blackheads. Whether or not an astringent contains antibacterial and antimicrobial agents should be indicated on the label of the product.

Some people cannot tolerate even astringents meant for sensitive skin. If you are one of those individuals, another alternative is witch hazel, a topical lotion used for a variety of purposes. Witch hazel acts in much the same way alcohol or salicylic acid-based astringents do in tightening the skin and reducing oil secretion. It is better tolerated by some individuals with delicate skin and could be a better choice if you have difficulty with other commercial astringents.

Finally, no matter what type of astringent you choose as best for your skin, you should make sure to follow all directions properly. Overusing an astringent can damage your skin and cause rashes and other irritation. It can also cause your skin to overcompensate for the lack of oil secretion and actually secrete more oil, causing the opposite effect. Astringents sold over the counter should always include clear instructions as to their proper usage, so make sure you read the label carefully.

Antibacterial and antimicrobial lotions may help heal pimples and blemishes.
Antibacterial and antimicrobial lotions may help heal pimples and blemishes.

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Discussion Comments

Good advice Heavanet, especially for people who don't like the smell of witch hazel. It is good for sensitive skin, but the smell takes a while to get used to.
If you have sensitive skin, it's important to look closely at the ingredients when buying astringent lotion. The fewer the ingredients and the lower the alcohol content, the better. Some brands make an astringent specially formulated just for sensitive skin.
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