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belif

Aqua Bomb Hydrating Toner

6.75 fl. oz. for $ 28.00
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belif’s Aqua Bomb Hydrating Toner makes good on its claim of leaving a healthy glow, but the trade-offs for this result are considerable. Simply put, this toner is far too irritating for all skin types. You can get this level of hydrated glow without exposing skin to any problematic ingredients.

Packaged in tall, opaque plastic bottle with a built-in dispenser (you need to remove the cap), this toner’s first issue is the inclusion of denatured alcohol as the third ingredient. Although this helps the formula dry faster, alcohol in this amount can irritate skin, as we explain in the More Info section.

You’ll also notice in use that this toner tends to leave a slightly sticky feel once it sets. This is due to the combination of hydrating ingredients and the lack of ingredients to offset this esthetic issue, although we suspect it won’t bother everyone.

Another concern is the amount of fragrant oils this contains, all proven to irritate skin. This toner has a strong, lingering scent and while some of the oils are also sources of antioxidants, you can get this benefit without exposing skin to volatile fragrance compounds, not to mention the citrus oils could trigger a phototoxic reaction when unprotected skin is exposed to UV light. See More Info to learn why daily use of highly fragrant products is bad for skin. Nepeta cataria also appears in this already-alarming formula. More commonly known as catnip, this ingredient is rarely used in skin care and research has shown it’s a moderate irritant (catnip is a member of the mint family).

The big shame is that among the problematic ingredients are several wonderful ingredients for skin, including calendula, oat, baobab, honeysuckle, and grape. But you can find those and similar ingredients (minus any irritants) in today’s best toners.

Pros:
  • Leaves a hydrated glow on skin.
  • Easy to apply.
Cons:
  • The hydrated glow comes with a slightly sticky feel.
  • Amount of denatured alcohol likely to irritate skin.
  • Contains several fragrant oils proven to irritate skin.
  • Lime oil can trigger a phototoxic reaction (if you forget sunscreen).
  • Catnip (Nepeta cataria) extract is a moderate skin irritant.

More Info:

Alcohol-Based Skincare Products: Research makes it clear that alcohol, as a main ingredient in any skincare product, especially one you use frequently and repeatedly, is a problem.

When we express concern about the presence of alcohol in skincare or makeup products, we’re referring to denatured ethanol, which most often is listed as SD alcohol, alcohol denat., denatured alcohol, or (less often) isopropyl alcohol.

When you see these types of alcohol listed among the first six ingredients on an ingredient label, the product is highly likely to irritate and cause other problems for skin; it doesn’t take much of this type of alcohol to trigger skin stress. There’s no way around it—these volatile alcohols are simply bad for all skin types.

The reason they’re included in products is because they provide a quick-drying finish, immediately degrease skin, and feel weightless, so it’s easy to see their appeal, especially for those with oily skin. If only those short-term benefits didn’t lead to negative long-term outcomes.

Using products that contain these alcohols will cause dryness, erode skin’s protective barrier, and a strain on how skin replenishes, renews, and rejuvenates itself. Alcohol just weakens everything about skin.

The irony of using alcohol-based products to control oily skin is that the damage from the alcohol can actually lead to an increase in breakouts and enlarged pores. As we said, the alcohol does have an immediate de-greasing effect on skin, but it causes irritation, which eventually will counteract the de-greasing effect and make your oily skin look even more shiny.

There are people who challenge us on the information we’ve presented about alcohol’s effects. They often base their argument on a study in the British Journal of Dermatology (July 2007, pages 74–81) that concluded “alcohol-based hand rubs cause less irritation than hand washing….” But, the only thing this study showed was that alcohol was not as irritating as an even more irritating hand wash, which contained sodium lauryl sulfate. So, the study is actually just telling you that one irritant, sodium lauryl sulfate, is worse than another irritant, alcohol.

Not all alcohols are bad. For example, there are fatty alcohols, which are absolutely non-irritating and can be beneficial for skin. Examples that you’ll see on ingredient labels include cetyl alcoholstearyl alcohol, and cetearyl alcohol, all of which are good ingredients for skin. It’s important to differentiate between these skin-friendly alcohols and the problematic alcohols.

What about very low levels of denatured alcohol? These sometimes show up in products because the alcohol may be part of the preservative system or may have been used to make certain ingredients more soluble in the formula. In these instances the amount of alcohol is typically below 0.1%, so is unlikely to pose a risk to skin.

References for this information:
International Journal of Cosmetic Science, April 2017, pages 188-196
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, March 2012, pages 77–80
Aging, March 2012, pages 166–175
Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, November 2008, pages 1–16
Dermato-Endocrinology, January 2011, pages 41–49
Experimental Dermatology, June 2008, pages 542–551
Clinical Dermatology, September-October 2004, pages 360–366
Alcohol Journal, April 2002, pages 179–190

Why Fragrance Is a Problem for Skin: Daily use of products that contain a high amount of fragrance, whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or natural, causes a chronic sensitizing reaction on skin.

This reaction in turn leads to all kinds of problems, including disrupting skin’s barrier, worsening dryness, increasing or triggering redness, depleting vital substances in skin’s surface, and generally preventing skin from looking healthy, smooth, and hydrated. Fragrance free is always the best way to go for all skin types.

A surprising fact: Even though you can’t always see or feel the negative effects of fragrant ingredients on skin, the damage will still be taking place, even if it’s not evident on the surface. Research has demonstrated that you don’t need to see or feel the effects of irritation for your skin to be suffering. Much like the effects from cumulative sun damage, the negative impact and the visible damage from fragrance may not become apparent for a long time.

References for this information:
Toxicology In Vitro, February 2018, pages 237-245
Toxicological Sciences, January 2018, pages 139-148
Biochimica and Biophysica Acta, May 2012, pages 1410–1419
Aging, March 2012, pages 166–175
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, March 2012, pages 77–80
Experimental Dermatology, October 2009, pages 821–832
Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008, pages 191–202
International Journal of Toxicology, Volume 27, 2008, Supplement, pages 1–4
Food and Chemical Toxicology, February 2008, pages 446–475
American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003, pages 789–798

Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: Yes

Formulated with the same explosive hydration as belif's cult favorite The true cream - aqua bomb. Ultra-hydrating toner with natural Hyaluronic Acid that soothes and refreshes skin for a healthy glow. This lightweight toner absorbs instantly into skin, delivering a flood of hydration post-cleanse and prepping skin for the next steps in your skincare regimen.

Water, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Dipropylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Betaine, Panthenol, PEG/PPG/Polybutylene Glycol-8/5/3 Glycerin, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Stellaria Media (Chickweed) Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Nepeta Cataria Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Leaf Extract, Baptisia Tinctoria Root Extract, Alchemilla Vulgaris Leaf Extract, Equisetum Arvense Leaf Extract, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Leaf Extract, Adansonia Digitata (Baobab) Seed Extract, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Vine Sap, Sodium Hyaluronate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane, Trisodium EDTA, Beta-Glucan, Glyceryl Acrylate/Acrylic Acid Copolymer, Glycereth-26, Phenyl Trimethicone, Tromethamine, PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer, Polyglutamic Acid, Methylpropanediol, Malachite Extract, Butylene Glycol, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil, Citral, Citronellol, Limonene, Geraniol, Linalool.

Owned by South Korean corporate giant LG (yes, the electronics company), belif is a natural skin care brand whose main selling point is the fusion of the sensibilities of Korean skin care – sheet masks and essences are featured prominently - with the philosophy of an old-fashioned European apothecary.

The result is an offering of skin care products that is best described as hit-or-miss. Most of them contain a mix of herbs based off “Napier’s Formula,” a blend of herbs concocted by Scottish apothecary Duncan Napier in the mid-19th century. Anecdotal stories tell of its miraculous effect on skin, though there’s no hard research showing this specific blend of ingredients is better than any other beneficial skin care ingredients.

There are some good products with a robust blend of antioxidants to be found, but most of belief’s lineup contains fragrance (or additional fragrance ingredients), and the brand usually packages its moisturizers in jars (which puts beneficial air- and light-sensitive skin care ingredients at risk because of exposure to both). Were it not for these two missteps, we’d be much more enthusiastic to recommend this brand as an option.

You can find out more about belif by visiting the brand’s website at https://www.belifusa.com/.

About the Experts

The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.

Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.

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