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Shani Darden Skin Care

Sake Toning Essence

4.00 fl. oz. for $ 52.00
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Brand Overview

Shani Darden’s Sake Toning Essence has a lot going for it in terms of being among the better toner options available – with just one issue holding it back.

Packaged in an opaque plastic bottle that protects its beneficial ingredients from light and air, this has a light, fluid-gel texture that absorbs quickly, leaving skin appearing plumped and feeling hydrated.

The formula works well both over and under other skin care products, its lightweight texture being ideal for normal, combination, and oily skin (those with dry to very dry skin will likely prefer something more moisturizing).

When it comes to ingredients, these are some impressive inclusions, among them antioxidant-rich rosehip extract, brightening and pore-refining niacinamide, vitamins C and E, and green tea extract. The sake ingredient that gives this product its name is listed as saccharomyces ferment filtrate, and while it does have some antioxidant properties, it’s not quite as impressive as the claims make it seem.

One additional note: the claims mention something called “Sebocytine,” the rosehip extract that Shani Darden says helps control oil production and refine the look of pores. While it doesn’t do that, the niacinamide included here does, so you’re still getting that benefit – just not from the ingredient that gets the credit for it.

Unfortunately, this also includes fragrance (listed here as “natural” fragrance). It’s a light peach scent that fades quickly, but still, fragrance – whether natural or synthetic – still poses a risk of irritating skin.

That said, this is still a good toning option that skips the drying ingredients found in many other toners.

  • Lightweight texture absorbs quickly without a sticky feeling.
  • Includes antioxidant ingredients, among them rosehip extract and vitamin C.
  • Contains brightening and pore-refining niacinamide.
  • Packaged to protect its light- and air-sensitive ingredients.
  • Contains fragrance, which isn’t the best for skin.
Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: No

This brightening, mattifying formula is the best of a toner and essence in one formula. Many toners can strip skin. My alcohol-free formula provides treatment benefits without being harsh. It features Sake Water, a powerful antioxidant that brightens skin, and Sebocytine, which helps control oil production and refine the look of pores.

Aqua (Water, Eau), Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate, Glycerin, Rosa Canina Fruit Extract, Butylene Glycol, Niacinamide, Phenoxyethanol, Isoceteth-20, Xanthan Gum, Aminopropyl Ascorbyl Phosphate, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Natural Fragrance, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Japanese, Ethylhexylglycerin, Citric Acid.

Shani Darden Skin Care is the namesake brand of Shani Darden, an LA-based aesthetician to the stars who got her start working for one of Hollywood’s top dermatologists. As the story goes, Darden struggled with her skin during her teen years and says working with clients with severe skin issues – particularly acne - inspired her to create a line with those concerns in mind.

Starting with the brand’s flagship product, Retinol Reform, created in 2013, the Shani Darden line has expanded to include a cleanser, toner, moisturizer, and exfoliant - all catered to those with combination, oily, or acne-prone skin. As a result, the line features lightweight formulas with a focus on improving skin texture.

For the most part, the small lineup of products is good; we’re impressed with the packaging, which across the board features opaque, pump-style containers that protect beneficial ingredients from light and air. The two products featuring alpha hydroxy acids are formulated at optimal pH levels for exfoliation to occur and contain some good supporting ingredients to further improve skin health.

The drawbacks for this line are relatively minor, though still worth noting; fragrance is included in one product, and the cleanser contains a surfactant known to be drying to skin. Still, overall, while the price tag of these products attests to its Hollywood origins, this line is a solid option for those looking for promising options for combination to oily skin.

Check out our individual product reviews for more details, and visit for more information on the brand.

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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.

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