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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Review: Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner for Normal/Oily/Combination Skin

I have to admit to you that I've never really been a big toner person. It's not that I don't like toners, it's just that I often forget to use them or, well, I'm just plain lazy about using them. When I received some skincare products from Paula's Choice several months ago, I must confess that my eye didn't immediately go to this toner. The first thing I tried was Paula's cleanser that ended up becoming a Holy Grail product for me. It took me a while to finally crack up open the toner and now I'm really regretting that I didn't try it sooner.

Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner
for Normal/Oily/Combination Skin
(retail: $18 on the Paula's Choice website, 6.4 oz)

Please note that Paula's Choice regularly runs sales and promotions on their website. If you don't have room in your budget for this product at full-price, you'll never have to wait too long for the next sale to come along.

From the Paula's Choice website:

What makes this product unique?
Unlike most other toners on the market, Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner is famous for offering potent antioxidants, anti-irritants and cell-communicating ingredients which help restore normal function to damaged, misbehaving cells. When used after cleansing, it helps skin restore and repair itself. This truly state-of-the-art toner helps balance skin so its oily areas do not worsen. Redness is reduced while slightly dry, flaky areas are made smooth and soft. It also helps to remove last traces of makeup and may be the only "moisturizer" your normal to oily skin needs during summer months or in humid climates.

This product is 100% fragrance- and colorant-free.

Who is this product for?
This toner has been specially formulated for normal to oily/combination skin. It is also a good option for acne-prone skin. 

This toner is a clear liquid and it comes with a spout that enables you to control exactly how much product you want on your cotton pad. 

Let me start by mentioning that this toner has an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars with 249 reviews on the Paulat's Choice website, and an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars with 121 reviews on Makeup Alley. I suggest reading some reviews on both sites to see how it works for different skin types. I personally have oily skin with a very oily t-zone, and I considered my skin to be "mature" until Paula herself told me that 43-year-old skin isn't quite "mature" yet (thank you, Paula, for making my day). At any rate, I have a variety of skin imperfections--enlarged pores around my nose and cheeks, age spots, sun spots, old acne scars, redness, dark circles, fine lines, you name it. If you've seen any of my foundation reviews, then you know what's going on with my skin! I don't suffer from major bouts of adult acne, but I do still get hormonal breakouts once a month.

Now that you know about me and my "awesome" skin, let me tell you why I've been loving this toner.

First of all, it doesn't contain any alcohol, which is great. Alcohol in toners can be extremely drying and irritating to my skin. Toners that contain alcohol tend to strip my face of all its natural oils, which then causes my skin to over-produce even MORE oil to try and compensate for the oil I stripped away, which in turn makes my skin even more oily than it was to being with. A vicious cycle, no doubt. 

Next, I love that this toner has no added fragrance (it has a very, very mild natural fragrance that I don't notice at all during application) and that it does not irritate my skin or cause any type of redness or sensitivity. I also love that I can use it near my eye area. Not to remove makeup, but I can apply this toner close to my eyes and it has never once irritated my eyes or made them sting. 

So what do I use it for? 

As directed, I apply this product to my face using a cotton pad, immediately after cleansing. After I apply it, my skin feels very clean and fresh. But it doesn't feel dry or tight and there's no sticky residue. I can't think of a better word to describe it than "fresh". My skin just feels fresh after I use this toner. Also, it feels like my skin is more ready and able to "accept" any moisturizers and/or treatments that I slather on after using it. I don't have any scientific proof of this, but I really do feel like my moisturizers in particular tend to work a bit better when I use this toner beforehand.

Another thing I love to use this toner for is to remove every last trace of lingering foundation, primer and sunscreen that may be left on my face after cleansing. Because of blogging, I test a lot of facial cleansers and, as you know, some of them just don't remove all traces of makeup (especially long-wear makeup). This toner comes in so handy for testing the efficacy of facial cleansers (i.e., the "toner test") and also just to ensure that my skin is completely clean before I proceed with the rest of my skincare routine.

Also, since it's officially summertime, I have take the suggestion on the Paula's Choice website to heart about how this toner "may be the only 'moisturizer' your normal to oily skin needs during summer months or in humid climates." My oily skin gets totally out of control during the summertime, and right now I'm loving using this toner as my daytime moisturizer on days when I'm also wearing a separate sunscreen. If you have oily skin and you wear sunscreen, you know that the last thing you want to do on a hot day is apply moisturizer AND sunscreen AND foundation to your face. Switching to this toner in place of my regular facial moisturizer has been great for me on those days when I'm wearing a separate, high SPF sunscreen. 

As for the claims on the bottle, I didn't really think that this toner was doing much for my skin (other than what I mentioned above), but then I stopped using it for a few weeks. During that time, I noticed that my skin didn't quite feel or look as good as it had been looking when I was using this toner. It was at that time that I realized that the enlarged pores around my nose and cheek area were a tiny bit less noticeable when I was using this toner, and the overall look of my skin was a bit smoother and brighter, with a bit less redness. I wouldn't say this toner has made a HUGE difference in the overall appearance of my skin, but it was enough for me to notice when I stopped using it. And apparently I'm not alone on this, since there's a review on Makeup Alley that essentially says the same thing.

FINAL VERDICT: Toners have never been a mandatory requirement for me when it comes to my skincare routine. But this product from Paula's Choice is something I actually look forward to using on my skin every day. This alcohol- and fragrance-free toner makes my face feel clean and fresh without any redness, stinging or irritation like I sometimes experience with toners that contain alcohol. It doesn't make my skin feel dry, yet it doesn't leave any sticky or oily residue behind. It removes any lingering traces of foundation that my facial cleanser may not catch, and I feel like it makes my skin more able to "accept" my moisturizers and treatments. I haven't noticed a huge improvement to my skin in the months I've been using it, but the change has been big enough for me to notice when I don't use it. Overall, this product is so handy and has so many benefits for me personally that it has officially become a staple in my routine. If you have normal/oily/combo skin and you're looking for a good toner, this one's definitely worth considering.

PS: If for any reason you're not satisfied a purchase you make on the Paula's Choice site, I encourage you to contact Paula's Choice directly to let them know. I've personally heard from several readers who have had great experiences with their customer service, and they tend to go above and beyond to help you find a good fit for your skincare needs.

Are you a toner person? Have you tried this, or any other toners from Paula's Choice? I'd love to hear from you!

A sample of this product was given to Nouveau Cheap for editorial purposes, either directly from the manufacturer or from the agency that works on behalf of the manufacturer. All reviews on are the honest opinion of its author and editorial samples do not, in any way, affect the outcome of product reviews. For more information, click here.


  1. The Clear Regular Strength Toner is very good. I think it's very similar to this one, with the addition of 2% salicylic acid. It's very gentle but effective. I just ordered the Clinical Redness Reducer toner and can't wait to try it. I love Paula's Choice products.

  2. I love Paula's Choice! I have keratosis pilaris and I used the 2% AHA on my upper arms and it disappeared! Their make up is pretty good. You can always reach out their Customer Service team and ask for samples if you do not want to try before you buy!

  3. I've been falling in love with Paula's Choice products too, but I haven't tried their toner yet. I've been using the Michael Todd Blue Algae one, which I love- but it does have witch hazel in it... hmmm, not sure what to do!

  4. I love Paula's Choice, I use all her skin care......and i really do have "mature" skin.

  5. Am I the only one shocked to learn you're 43? I don't know if this sounds weird or not, but you have such a youthful energy and presence!

    1. Haha! Thank you! :)

      I don't hide my age (in my "About" page I mention that I was 10 years old in 1980) but sometimes I like to just say, "I'm one year younger than Gwen Stefani" because that just sounds...better to me! lol!

      I honestly feel like I'm still in my 20s some days. I don't think the 43 of today is anywhere near the 43 of yester-year (see Melissa McCarthy, Tina Fey, Aisha Tyler, etc.). But thank you so much for the kind words! xo

  6. These aren't cleansing toners, so you wouldn't see much even if it was there. I'd call them like serum alternatives.

    1. Hum...I including this in my blog post but in case you missed it, this is from the Paula's Choice site:

      "It also helps to remove last traces of makeup..."

      I definitely helps me in removing those last traces of makeup that my cleansers don't catch! :)

  7. I've used a number of PC products for a few years, and have never been disappointed. I'm 56, live in a humid climate (FL), have skin that is STILL pretty oily, not many wrinkles, but past sun damage & lack of firmness. I use the Resist toner AM & PM (not on a pad, but a few drops sprinkled on my fingertips), along with her 8% AHA gel PM only & the Resist Retinol serum PM only. Didn't expect or look for results quickly, but after about 4 months, noticed improved texture & firmness. Subtle results that add up. Also love her Extra Care SPF 50 Sunscreen - it's not oily on my face, which would be a deal-breaker.

  8. Thank you so much for the review! This toner is going on my wishlist! This is a bit nitpicky and OCD of me but I just wanted to mention that this toner does indeed have alcohol: listed as phenoxyethanol (toward the end of the ingredient list). It's not going to be the typical drying alcohol toner since it looks like there's only trace amounts but I wanted to mention that for clarity's sake.

  9. What a great review! I'm not really a toner person but you make me want to give this a try. And I agree, Paula's Choice has excellent customer service.


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