Skincare Rediscovery Tip: Using a Cotton Pad with Toner for gentle exfoliation

by Paris B on · 66 comments

in Discussions,Skincare,Tips,Toner/Lotion

toner cotton pad2 Skincare Rediscovery Tip: Using a Cotton Pad with Toner for gentle exfoliation

Many of us who have been indoctrinated in the “3-step” skincare method of cleanser, toner and moisturiser will have at least once in our lives, used a toner with a cotton pad to prep skin before applying moisturiser. I used to do it from way back.

But about 5 years ago, I stopped using this method. It was also when I stopped using “toner” in the sense of an astringent lotion to “close your pores” which I’d tell you not to believe. Pores aren’t doors you can open and close at will. I started using the SKII Facial Treatment Essence which the SA told me can be patted directly on skin. Then, I went on to use Japanese brand lotions which I found better for my skin as they were more hydrating and less astringent. Some, like the Hada Labo SHA lotion advise you to pat it on. Some of them advised the use of a cotton pad, but I was stubborn, prefering “not to waste” product. So I continued with the no-cotton pad method, patting product directly on skin which I thought was good enough.

I’ve been doing this for at least 5 years. But in the past 2 months, in my bid to get my troublesome skin under control, I switched things around and decided to go back to using a cotton pad with a lotion/toner. To my surprise, I’m reaping benefits so I’m once again sold on the idea. I’ll tell you why icon smile Skincare Rediscovery Tip: Using a Cotton Pad with Toner for gentle exfoliation

A point to note is to follow the instructions on the skincare you use. So naturally, if they ask you to pat it on, as the Hada Labo lotion does, then do so. Swiping it on skin with a cotton pad will not reap you the maximum benefits.

However, with those that do advise the use of a cotton pad, then do so too. I am presently using lotions that are hydrating for skin so these aren’t the traditional “toners” in a true sense (I’ll tell you about the ones I’m using in a future post). They cool down my skin, prep my skin for moisturiser and helps my skin feel more hydrated.

What I do is saturate a cotton pad with the lotion (toner), wipe it all over my face and then lightly pat the cotton pad all over my skin. When I was using the Kanebo Blanchir Clear Conditioner (which I still use to this day) this was the way I was taught and I’ve carried it over to any hydrating lotion. It serves to provide a combination of benefits – light exfoliation with the cotton pad, and helping product penetrate better when patting on skin.

A cotton pad will help exfoliate and remove surface dead skin cells which can help product penetrate better. This is the primary benefit I derive personally. I was having a lot of problems with my skin – dry and flaky skin all over, rough and “hard” skin that didn’t seem to get any better no matter what I used, and enlarged pores.

toner cotton pad Skincare Rediscovery Tip: Using a Cotton Pad with Toner for gentle exfoliation

My skin is on the mend which has also to do with a whole change in skincare routine and that includes using a cotton pad with my lotion/toner after washing my face. Here’s a tip I picked up from a trainer at Estee Lauder:-

  • If you wipe the toner/lotion infused cotton pad over your face and see that its BROWN – that’s remnants of foundation and you should be cleansing your skin better or change your cleanser
  • If you wipe the toner/lotion infused cotton pad over your face and see that its GREY – that’s dead skin cells

Truth or not, I found it interesting, because I was surprised at how grey my cotton pad was when I started this routine. Now that I do it daily, twice a day, my cotton pad no longer looks as grey. Maybe there’s truth in that tip?

Do you use a cotton pad with your toner or lotion? If you do, have you derived benefits from this? If you don’t, why not?

I’m coming back full circle after years away and I’m seeing benefits. I personally feel that the light exfoliation with the cotton pad helps prep my skin for the skincare to follow and even reduces the appearance of pores. The hydrating lotions do help my skin feel better and more comfortable and things are finally looking up. How about you? icon biggrin Skincare Rediscovery Tip: Using a Cotton Pad with Toner for gentle exfoliation

Paris B

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[ 66 comments… read them below or join the discussion ]

Tina February 26, 2013 at 8:58 am

I totally agree! I also got into the patting business due to SK2 FTE. However, I recently started to use the Laneige Power Refiner with a cotton pad and it has changed my skin. My skin just feels cleaner and more refined. It could be due to the product but I also think that the cotton pad has something to do with it!

Thanks for the post- loved it!

Tina

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stephy February 26, 2013 at 11:03 am

Hi, can you share with me more on Laneige toner? I heard they have 2 steps in this. =)
Thanks! ^^

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 3, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Hi Tina, thank you for sharing your experience and I’m glad to know I’m not alone in having this experience! I do think there is a lot of merit to using a cotton pad! ;)

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Sunny
Twitter:
February 26, 2013 at 9:14 am

I actually don’t use a toner anymore, and I can’t say I miss it! Nowadays I mostly use a cleansing cream/balm, and the muslin cloth I use to remove it does the exfoliating for me. Glad to hear you rediscovered this trick and it’s working well for you!
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Paris B
Twitter:
March 3, 2013 at 10:37 pm

The only cleansing balm I’ve tried is the Eve Lom one but I’m planning to try a couple more with the same concept. I was told I didn’t have to use a toner after that either, but I just felt happier using one anyway although I was using a facial mist not a toner :)

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Lily
Twitter:
February 26, 2013 at 9:22 am

I always use cotton pad to apply toner unless there is specific instructions to do otherwise. I went off the cotton pad application for a few months, then went back on it and I definitely saw the difference :-)
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Paris B
Twitter:
March 3, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Happy to know I’m not alone in this! :)

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lisa February 26, 2013 at 9:30 am

haha…i could really relate to this! I was too…once stubborn before and thinking of not wasting a single drop of toner, used to just pat it on. it works for a long while, perhaps i was a lot younger then and had relatively good skin on most days, i don’t see much difference / benefit between using cotton wool or not.
But now is a different story altogether, my skin has changed upon hitting 30s and seems more reactive to any change of skincare. And upon watching too much taiwanese beauty program concluded for me several months back that i need to change to cotton wool to exfoliate my skin to let the subsequent products that i layer on penetrates better. And i say, yes, it works better indeed.

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 3, 2013 at 10:55 pm

I think you’re onto something, Lisa. I was a lot younger and my skin wasn’t as good back then as it is now after taking lots of care, but it certainly could do with less attention. Most Asian skincare call for a cotton pad with toner, and I think it just works in general so I’m glad we figured it out ;)

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xin
Twitter:
February 26, 2013 at 9:39 am

i only use cotton pad with the kanebo toner, if i am using hada labo, i will only pat it on face.
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Paris B
Twitter:
March 3, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Ah but Hada Labo calls for it to be patted! ;)

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Rose February 26, 2013 at 9:47 am

I used to use cotton wool and toner years ago and gave it up, then started to put my toner in a sterile atomizer to dampen my skin before I pat my face oil at night. It helped use way less of my previous oil and kept me from being greasy. But, my daughter started to have teen skin issues and I had her use cotton wool to apply her toner (I have her on the evanhealy line from, if I remember correctly, Australia) and the mild exfoliation has helped her, so I have been doing that now. I still spritz with either the same toner or a thermal water afterwards though to spread my face oil.

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 4:38 am

Ack! I have got to turn off my “auto-correction” on my Apple toy!! I meant “precious oil”, not “previous oil”!!

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 3, 2013 at 10:57 pm

I like spritzing a nice face mist or floral water over the skin even after toner. If I’m using an oil, it helps the oil absorb better and more quickly. I used to use a floral water mist as toner, but I don’t anymore. I think they do have their own purpose and for my reactive skin now, its not it :)

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kassie February 26, 2013 at 10:15 am

I have alway used a cotton pad when apply toner, its always worked great for me. Thanks for sharing

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 3, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Happy to know you find this useful :)

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Tine
Twitter:
February 26, 2013 at 10:18 am

Good idea. I haven’t been using a proper toner in years now. Ever since the introduction of Japanese-style lotions, I’ve been sticking to that. Late last year, I tried a toner once again with a cotton pad and whilst I haven’t noticed any difference to the skin yet, it felt good to see the brown/grey on the pad again. I didn’t before with just the lotion. Yikes, I could have been using a crappy cleanser and not know it. Am I making any sense here? :P
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Paris B
Twitter:
March 3, 2013 at 11:04 pm

I have been using Japanese and hydrating toners/lotions mostly. The astringent ones feel uncomfortable but I also confess to a masochistic pleasure in checking out the condition of the cotton pad after use and I totally get what you mean about the cleanser ;)

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Victoria February 26, 2013 at 10:24 am

I always use cotton pad with toner but I actually wipe my face instead of patting it. Just wondering should the proper method be wiping or patting?

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 3, 2013 at 11:05 pm

I use hydrating toners so I saturate the cotton pad, wipe it all over my face then lightly pat he cotton pad all over again. I think it depends on the type of toner you’re using but how its used depends on the instructions mostly :)

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Addy February 26, 2013 at 10:28 am

I read the book The Japanese Skincare Revolution by Chizu Saeki. She advocates using toner/skin lotion and soak in cotton pad and put on face like a mask. Tried that and my skin improved. No need to spend extra on paper mask. Talking abt cotton wool, what kind would be better which gives exfoliating effect?

Thanks.

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 3, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Thanks for the tip Addy :) I do that too with some lotions but not all. Some can be too irritating to the skin if left on too long. I do refer using a sheet mask though :) as for the cotton, I just use any brand as I’m not very fussy. I usually use the ones from Watsons or Guardian that come in the big packs lol

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Denise
Twitter:
February 26, 2013 at 10:36 am

I’m a cotton pad gal, unless the product says otherwise. I’d like to share a tip too. I also feel that toner is wasted when using cotton pads. To help me feel slightly better about that, after I tone, I use the still damp cotton pad on my elbows and arms. Bonus mild exfoliation for the elbows! :)

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Bugs February 26, 2013 at 12:45 pm

High five Denise, I too don’t like to throw away a cotton pad that is still damp with my pricey SK-II FTE, that’s why I would wipe my neck, arms elbows and knees. But I would also wipe my underarms 1st before I wipe my arms. Yes, you read that right, I wipe my underarms with the damp cotton and that area is not as ugly. Now I do that with every toner I’m using and sometimes purposely use more toner so that I have enough to wipe my knees. ^_^

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 3, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Love your tip, Denise! What a great way to use up extra lotion and to keep our elbows and arms exfoliated too! I’ll try this one!

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stephy February 26, 2013 at 11:02 am

What about those toner which is in spraying form?
Actually I am still confused on the benefits of a toner..hehe

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 4:35 am

For me, toners in a spray is to add that extra moisture or regulate your skin underneath your lotions, creams and face oils. You really don’t need a ton of these products smeared all over your face and the sprays help prevent that. I started to use cotton pads around my nose and forehead to exfoliate a bit because I have dry skin, but I always finish with a spritz of toner or “thermal water” (La Roche-Posay and Vichy are two brands) before I use my moisturizer or face oils. I rarely get that gray on the pad because of my double cleanse and regular exfoliation routine. But anywho… Generally, the toners in spray form are not medicated and consists of essential oils (Jurlique, evanhealy are two that come to mind). I would not recommend spraying medicated toners as it can do damage to the eyes and eye area. If you see my comment above, I started to use the cotton wool because of my daughter’s skin issues. She uses the evanhealy blemish line and the “toner” – they call it hydrolsol – is in spray form, but I have her spray it on cotton wool to exfoliate the forehead and nose, then spray and apply her face oil. I hope that helps!

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 6, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Hi Stephy, there are different functions to a toner. The more traditional concept is to make sure your skin is clean of cleanser and dirt and to close the pores. These tend to be more astringent. The Japanese concept is to add moisture and soften skin before applying moisturizer. The third concept is akin to a face mist – to dampen skin before applying creams so it absorbs better. So it’s not a universal definition and not everyone derives benefits from it. For those that are in spray form, I think they perform the third function. I was using floral waters for this until very recently using a spray bottle.

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plue
Twitter:
February 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm

i use cotton pads for the astringent kinds, and also for those that says brightening or contains mild exfoliating ingredients. And ya, those grey tinge that I sometimes get due to me not exfoliating regularly. No brownies for me because I double cleanse! :D

Those that offers mostly hydration purposes like the Hada Labo or Senka ones I use my hands and sometimes I would soak cotton pads and use them as a quick mask :)

what kind of cotton pad do you use? I quite like the Muji ones (unbleached) and the Shiseido ones, they are very soft and nice though a bit pricier, so i only use them for skincare purposes.

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Sounds like you’ve gotten the methods down pat :) I am a cheapskate so I use the jumbo packs from guardian :P almost fainted at the prices of the Muji ones lol

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ST February 26, 2013 at 12:21 pm

i have a couple of toners for different purposes. i have one clarifying and anti-acne one which i used in the morning to replace face cleansing. then i pat a hydrating toner in. i also have a super hydrating toner which i use as face masks on cheeks of my face at night. i find that i have better skin which i dont use facial cleanser in morning and do the above steps. strange but true for me.

st

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 6, 2013 at 9:58 pm

Thanks for sharing, ST :) some people have found that replacing the morning cleanser with something like a cleansing water is better for their skin too. I tried it, but I kiss splashing my face int he morning to wake up! Lol!

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Ting February 26, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I started using cotton pads with toner after reading one of your posts some time ago… :) Before this, I tried putting toner in spray bottle and just spray on my face to reduce wastage. But… not the proper way to do it!! :O

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Haha I’ve talked about this before? Damn! Lol I know what you mean about wastage but I’ve also learnt over time that for best efficacy we do have to use sufficient product and in the proper way so now I try to follow instructions. Try :P

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Sze Ling February 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Tried the non-cotton pad method for a while, then the Hada Labo lotion was the hype. Didn’t really like it. So, when I was done with the lotion, I switched back to using a cotton pad. Using a cotton pad gives me that “clean” feeling. I know, it’s all in the brain. :D

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 6, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Well, it may not be all in the brain as I’m just finding out myself! I think the Hada Labo lotion is good at what it does but each of us will have different needs so wipe away! :D

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An February 26, 2013 at 12:57 pm

I have the Hada Labo SHA lotion, but I always patted that on my face instead of using a pad.
I don’t really think of it as a toner like the ones w/ alcohol or the more astringent ones.

For the more astringent toners, I like to be more precise by using a cotton pad.
For the hydrating, gentle toners, I like patting all over my face and I don’t have to worry about getting product on my eyelids or too close to the eye area.

I haven’t been using my toners much. On and off. I worry a bit if they might interfere w/ my testing of different moisturizers.

I feel like using my toner after reading this post though, haha.

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Hi An, the Hada Labo lotion does require it to be patted in so a cotton pad wouldn’t have maximized its benefits so you’re doing it right ie. following instructions :D I am a little more diligent now, because I find it does help my skin and I like the idea of double moisture and removing the dead cells so skin can absorb product better :)

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Issa February 26, 2013 at 1:30 pm

That tip from the SA is interesting…. I prefer using a cotton pad for my toner because I feel it is more effective and I feel more clean with it….

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm

If ound that tip interesting too! Never thought about it that way hehe

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Sharon February 26, 2013 at 2:15 pm

When i get breakouts i find that using cleansing water such as Uriage ones in green bottle for combi skin with a cotton pad is actually more effective than a facial foam. Granted that one could double cleanse with a cleanser n cleansing water but sometimes i just want to clean my face without over cleaning it. And the cleansing water is all i need. The SA did advise for me to use it as the last step before bed meaning i can skip skincare n the first step in the morning before using my cleanser. Not the typical routine but works for my skin n helps prevent breakouts n improve luminousity! As for toners i kinda switch them up with my cleansing water but not an extremely essential part except for those lotion ones which are versatile enough to be a hydrating toner or light moisturiser. :)

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 6, 2013 at 10:10 pm

That’s very interesting, Sharon! Interestingly, I’m trying out some cleansing water too from Caudalie and Bioderma and I’m still trying to get the Hang of it. Then again I do use it more as a makeup remover. I might have to try it your way. So does this mean you use the cleansing water without any follow up moisturizer? Doesn’t your skin feel dry?

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gio February 26, 2013 at 3:09 pm

I never use a toner as they don’t seem to do anything for my skin. But I do usually use a washcloth with my cleanser to get some gentle exfoliating action and it makes a great difference. :)
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Paris B
Twitter:
March 6, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Oh yes, a washcloth will provide that element of exfoliation too. I tried it with the Eve Lom cleanser and it feels lovely!

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Makeup Morsels February 26, 2013 at 4:40 pm

hmm I never thought of grey as being dead skin cells, even though I would see them on cotton pads when I wiped my face at the end of a long day! I’ve always applied toner with cotton rounds, because if I tried to pour it in my hands I’d probably make a mess LOL. Glad to hear your skin’s been more well behaved after you started doing this :)
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Paris B
Twitter:
March 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Yes, the ol skin is finally behaving itself! Whew! I never thought about the grey vs brown thing either. Makes sense though!

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casey23 February 26, 2013 at 4:46 pm

I don’t know maybe because I have oily skin but I never benefited from the padding method! Like Chole, unless instructed otherwise, I always use toner with a cotton pad. I only use Beauty Elixir without cotton pad but even then I really have the urge to swipe with a pad after the spritz :)

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 6, 2013 at 10:14 pm

I think the patting method does depend on the type of toner or lotion used. Always good to follow instructions though! I haven’t tried the Beauty Elixir yet but there’s so many raves about it!

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yilian February 26, 2013 at 5:32 pm

I love using cotton pads! But ever since I use Hada Labo Moisturizing Lotion which works by patting, I switch my exfoliation part by using cotton pads while cleansing (using Bifesta cleansing lotion) instead of toner application. This saves me from doing facial scrubs as my face can get really sensitive with physical exfoliation. Also, I like to use those cotton pads with a layer of mesh like Etude House’s cotton pads which works better for exfoliation. :)

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 6, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Thanks for the tip Yilian! I suppose the exfoliating bit will work both ways, whether with cleanser or toner so whichever works for you! ;)

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Jennifer February 26, 2013 at 9:16 pm

From not using toner at all, now I’m used to patting my lotion. I know I’m not gentle enough when using cotton pad to remove my eye makeup so I felt worried having to rub my face with the cotton pad. I’ve small GWP toners that requires cotton pad application. Admittedly using the cotton pad does give a cleaner feeling and occasionally I do see brownish or grayish residual. For a chsnge in routine I might revert to using toner with cotton pad. Thanks for sharing.

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Paris B
Twitter:
March 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Glad you found this useful, Jennifer :) I went off toners or lotions for a while but its been good to come back to it. For the eye area, I suggest that you dampen the cotton pad with makeup remover, leave it over your eyes for a minute or so then wipe off. You’ll find that it comes off more easily without rubbing :)

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Beauty Box February 27, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Interesting…It is certainly a debatable topic… though wouldn’t a gentle exfoliator work as well to keep troubled skin at bay? And you can continue your patting method for lotions?
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Paris B
Twitter:
March 7, 2013 at 11:17 am

You’re right about that too actually. So when I use an exfoliator, I don’t use a toner to wipe in case of over exfoliation and just pat it on instead :) Since I mostly use hydrating lotions, it can be either wiped on or patted on :)

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