11.26.2014
17
1291
Soothing Toner with Anti-Aging Pycnogenol
Rating
6 fl. oz. for $15.50
Last Updated:11.26.2014
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:No
Review Overview

This is a very good, soothing, alcohol-free toner that contains research-proven antioxidants. The fragrance-free formula is suitable for all skin types, and works well to remove last traces of makeup while leaving the skin soft.

This claims to be gentle for sensitive skin, and it is. Finding a truly gentle toner isn't easy (Paula's Choice is the only brand that offers several), but this toner is definitely worth considering. In the mostly disappointing world of toners, this earns its place on our short list of top options.

Note: While pycnogenol is a very good antioxidant, it is not the best one. Trying to find a single "hero ingredient" isn't the wise way to shop for skin-care products, so it's good that DermaE included other antioxidants, too.

Pros:
  • Alcohol- and fragrance-free, which isn't the case for many toners.
  • Contains antioxidants and soothing agents.
  • Suitable for sensitive skin.
Cons:
  • Could benefit skin further if it contained a greater range of skin-repairing ingredients and perhaps a cell-communicating ingredient or two.
Claims

Restore skin’s pH balance, close pores and prep skin for moisturizer or treatment with this gentle, fragrance-free, alcohol-free toner.

Ingredients

Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Pinus Pinaster (Pycnogenol®) Bark Extract, Panthenol, Allantoin, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract* (.1%), Organic Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract* (.1%), Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract* (.1%), Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin.

Brand Overview

Derma E At-a-Glance

Strengths: Inexpensive considering the formulas; company provides complete ingredient lists on their Web site; an effective AHA product; tea tree oil–based disinfectants for acne; some good cleansers and a good toner; well-formulated mask.

Weaknesses: Jar packaging is rampant for many of the antioxidant-rich products; several boring moisturizers; abrasive scrubs; one skin-lightening product with questionable efficacy; products that contain the controversial ingredient DMAE; several products contain natural ingredients that have not been proven effective for their intended purpose; the anti-aging products with peptides make over-the-top claims not supported by what they contain.

"Formulated for results" and "We're serious about skin care" are phrases you'll see throughout the Derma E line—that and a heavy accent on all things natural. In business since 1984, this California-based, family-owned skin-care company's products are often seen in health food stores. We suspect the numerous questions we've been asked about the Derma E line are tied not only to their use of natural ingredients, but also to their emphasis on antioxidants, which they include in almost every product. In many cases, there are antioxidants aplenty; however, more often than not, the choice of jar packaging spoils the benefit the antioxidants Derma E chose could provide (air-tight packaging is critical because antioxidants deteriorate in the presence of air).

More so than any other line weve reviewed so far, where packaging is critical to ingredient efficacy and stability, Derma E has seemingly turned a blind eye to this glaring error. Because of that, there are very few products to extol or recommend, even though the line is priced fairly and some of the products have good formulations. But, just as you shouldn't eat food that no longer has any nutritional properties, the same goes for skin care, why bother if your skin isn't getting what it needs to be healthy?

The company's founders talk openly about their commitment to formulating quality products, often using proprietary ingredients (meaning ingredients unique to Derma E). Yet a quick look at the ingredients on the label shows that isn't true. Even if it were true, the notion that you would be getting something better for skin is sheer nonsense. There are lots of brilliant ingredients for skin available in the cosmetics world, and there is no single company that has a secret lurking in its laboratory that is a must for skin. It can be a very compelling story unless you know better, and if you don't already know better, you will after reading the reviews. Product after product either disappoints or comes in below average based on packaging issues or on problematic natural ingredients, the claims for which are based on folklore and anecdotal experience, not on solid science.

It all gets rather muddled where Derma E is concerned because several of their anti-aging products do contain some interesting peptides and impressive amounts of antioxidants. In many respects, the antioxidants chosen have reliable track records when it comes to their skin-care benefits. But again, jar packaging sabotages these performance-based ingredients to the point that it's difficult to take anything else the company does seriously. After all, if they can't get this fundamental right, what's the point of continually talking up their commitment to results-oriented products?

It doesn't seem that sun protection is very high on Derma E's priority list either. You'll find moisturizers and eye creams galore, including many with antiwrinkle and skin-firming claims—but only one sunscreen. One. In the entire line. And, surprise, it doesn’t contain natural sunscreen agents, at least not entirely. It never ceases to amaze me when "natural" product companies choose synthetic sunscreen actives when there are natural alternatives such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Synthetic sunscreens are perfectly fine, but if you're going to shout natural from the rooftops, why are you using synthetic sunscreen actives? Plus, any line that touts their anti-aging, antiwrinkle prowess should have more than one sunscreen. Walking away from the store after buying products only from this line is a guarantee you will be cheating your skin.

A common falsehood, perpetuated by Derma E and by many other cosmetics companies, is that their products are "natural" (whatever that truly means). Rest assured that that's about as probable as sandy, warm beaches in Antarctica (or a snowball in Hades). Derma E products contain many natural ingredients, but plenty of synthetic ingredients have been cast in major or supporting formulary roles. For example, Linda Miles, one of Derma E's founders, has stated that the company won't use the natural version of alpha lipoic acid because it is "a butcher house by-product," meaning it's derived from animals. She admits the company uses synthetic alpha lipoic acid, however, and she must be unaware that alpha lipoic acid need not be derived from meat; it also can be derived from spinach, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, yams, and yeast, all of which are very natural and, of course, not derived from animal flesh (Sources: www.naturaldatabase.com; and The Rose Sheet, May 26, 2008, page 4).

Miles also admitted that Derma E has struggled to find a good preservative system to replace the synthetic ones they currently use. That's not surprising, as it's an issue that any line that wants to go natural must deal with; the reality is that there are no natural preservatives that work as well in low amounts as the synthetic options.

We could go on about Derma E's claims in terms of what they do and don't use and will and won't do, but you've heard it all before from other natural lines. As is usually the case, there are some standout products to consider from Derma E. If the company overhauled its packaging to improve antioxidant stability, the handful of products would become a basket's worth, but there is no word on whether such a change is happening or even in the works.

For more information about Derma E, call (800) 521-3342 or visit www.dermae.com.

About the Experts

The new Beautypedia Team proudly and unequivocally maintains the commitment to help you find the best products possible for your skin. We do this by relentlessly pursuing and relying on published scientific research so you will have unbiased information on what works and what doesn't-and the sneaky ways you could be making your skin worse, not better!


The Beautypedia Team reviews all products using the same research, criteria, and objectivity, whether the product being reviewed is from Paula's Choice or another brand.

Member Comments
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08.11.2015
Irritated my skin

I bought this on the bias of the good review here as I was struggling to find a good toner. Unfortunately, it just isn't for me. It stung my skin when I used it especially near the eyes. Gave it a break and had another go with the same result. It's not anything else I'm using and I've never had any reaction with anything before and wouldn't say I have sensitive skin so it seems odd that this stung so badly!

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Reviewed by
Anonymous
07.28.2015
Can't live without this toner!

This has become a staple for me. I've gone through dozens of bottles (and a few packaging changes!) I was using it years ago before I even discovered Paula's Choice or Beautypedia but it's nice to see that it gets a "Best" rating. I'm shocked that so many claim a bad reaction to this product. The ingredients are so simple, soothing, and I don't see a single ingredient that would cause a reaction. Maybe it was another product actually causing irritation? This soothes irritation for me!

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Reviewed by
Annie M.
05.23.2015
Works Wonderfully for Me

I bought this because Paula's gave it 4 stars, and so do I. I am 65+ with sensitive combination skin, and this is the best toner I've ever put on my face in at least 5 decades. Period. I am thrilled to find a fragrance-free toner that doesn't create alligator skin or sting--and it's affordable! My face feels and looks firmer after I use it, too. What a deal!

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Reviewed by
Rebecca L
05.19.2015
Not for sensitive or dry skin

This toner, much like all other products of this line (cleanser, serum - things I've tried), are the worst you can think of for your dry sensitive skin. It stings, burns, irritates the skin and leaves you with red patches of peeling skin. My skin looked roughened and irritated. Washing it was torture (especially because I was washing it with the cleanser of the same line). I'm returning it all today. Worst product ever.

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Reviewed by
Tania H.
05.04.2015
question

I reviewed this toner as the worst below. I wonder whether Paula can take a closer look at the ingredients of this and see whether there is any potentially irritating one. It seems that I am not the only one who had this kind of reaction. Many other reviewers also commented negatively. I am just curious so that I can avoid the same irritating ingredient in the future. And yes, I am sending this toner back to where I bought it from.

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Reviewed by
anna
05.20.2015
Beautypedia Team Response

Hello!  We took another look and there isn’t anything here that has a great risk of provoking irritation in skin. It is important to note that any ingredient can provoke sensitivity in skin when the conditions are right—when someone has especially sensitive skin due to irritation or damage.  Natural-derived ingredients (even beneficial ones) are more prone to carrying such a risk to those with especially sensitive skin, as they are complex combinations of chemicals. 

—Admin
05.02.2015
Not a good toner for sensitive skin - or maybe most skin types

I am really surprised that this was rated 4 stars. I'm not sure which ingredient is causing this, or maybe it's the mixture of ingredients, but it burns like skin like the other reviewers have claimed. When I lay down to sleep at night my skin gets even more irritated/itchy - I ended up with bumps everywhere that still haven't completely gone away in over a month. I've never had a reaction like this before.

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Reviewed by
Joy L
04.29.2015
worst toner ever

I bought this toner based on Paula's review but this is by far the worst toner that I've ever tried. My skin is not at all sensitive. I rarely have any reaction to any skin care products. For example, I use 0.1% retin-A, BHA, AHA with no problem. But this toner just burns my skin. Incredibly irritating. It literally hurts. I am just throwing this away. A complete waste of money. :(

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Reviewed by
anna
04.29.2015
Beautypedia Team Response

We're so sorry to hear that this product did not work as expected for you.  If you saved your receipt, try taking it back, as a lot of retailers will return cosmetic items - even used ones!

—Admin
03.05.2015
Must-have product in my routine!

This is my favorite toner that I've been using for years! I was glad to see that Paula's Choice agreed with me on this product by giving it a "Best" rating. It has gone through a few packaging changes over the years. It used to be in a transparent bottle but has been in an opaque bottle for a while now which is great to protect the antioxidants. Love this toner, no bad stuff and lots of good stuff for your skin! I order it from iHerb these days, though some Vitamin Shoppe stores carry it too.

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Reviewed by
Annie M.
01.16.2015
Burned my skin

I bought this because I have sensitive skin with rosacea and it was highly recommended on this site. As soon as I put it on, it started burning really bad.

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Reviewed by
Anonymous
01.06.2015
Review of Soothing Toner

I have dry skin with occasional breakouts. This toner was gentle, non-irritating. The only reason I would not recommend it is due to its tinted colour. For me, the whole point to using a toner is to clear excess dirt that the cleanser hasn't removed and it's difficult to see that happen if the toner is a brown liquid!

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Reviewed by
Mary P.
11.12.2014
Best for Normal Skin

Although the ingredients of Derma E Soothing Toner seem gentle enough, for some reason I did experience a slight stinging sensation on my cheeks the first time I applied it. I didn't notice obvious redness and it did not seem to dry out my sensitive skin, but it was irritating enough that I discontinued using it on my face. On the other hand, I have been using it up on my chest, neck and upper back without problem, so perhaps it is best for normal, not sensitive skin.

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Reviewed by
Anon. in Seattle
08.08.2014
Drying

My skin is dry. This liquid toner has a brown color. I used it on a cotton pad after I removed my makeup. The brown color made it difficult to determine if all my makeup had been removed. It left my skin feeling and looking dry. Not a good choice for drier skins.

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Reviewed by
georgia
06.24.2014
great

this makes my skin feel really clean; it does not dry my skin; it does not irritate my skin; thank you Paula for this positive review on a toner

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Reviewed by
Anonymous
06.20.2014
Stings!

Since the member reviews here were mostly favorable and the toner was recommended by Paula as a "Best", I decided to try it. Unfortunately, it did sting my skin quite uncomfortably! I took a break from it and tried it a few months later, but .... same result! I can't even say if my skin felt toned or cleaner after using it. I do alternate retinols and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) in my skincare so maybe I'm extra sensitive. Since irritation is bad for the skin, I tossed the rest of toner.

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Reviewed by
JMKE
02.14.2014
Allergic reaction...

Initially, it worked really nice for me but after a couple of days I got a bad allergic reaction - itching, dryness - the whole thing. Will be looking for another toner...

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Reviewed by
Anonymous
11.14.2013
Yeah...no

Impossible to find in stores in Canada. Ordered it off iHerb.com on a coupon, but frankly I don't think it's helped my skin at all. It's definitely not good enough for my greaseball skin, and yet it has also made my chin super dried out. Ironically I think that one of the "poor" toners on this site did a better job cleaning my skin - so yeah, guess who thinks these reviews are kind of bunk now! A+ excellent job guys.

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Reviewed by
Anonymous
06.01.2013
A NICE toner!

I have been on a search for a toner for my skin for years. I do believe in gentle yet effective products for skin care. As it is practically a brand motto for Paula Begoun and her products, you think I would be able to use her toners. Nope- only one I have not tried is the Earth Sourced. ALL redden my skin. I found this toner by Derma E. Redness is minimal and it does not make my skin tight like so many PC toners. Pycnogenol is an GREAT antioxidant much better (10-100x) than Vit E. or Vit. C

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Reviewed by
CAROL M.
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