Sonia Kashuk's Renew Micro Exfoliating Toner is part good and part bad—but unfortunately, mostly the latter. While it treats skin to beneficial ingredients such as bilberry extract, sodium hyaluronate, and antioxidant-rich vitamins B and C, the formula also contains a host of problematic ingredients including witch hazel, citrus extracts, floral extracts, and enough fragrance to linger. Considering you can find toners without these drawbacks (even at the drugstore), why bother?
Renew Micro Exfoliating Toner comes in an opaque bottle with a push-top that dispenses the liquid formula onto your waiting cotton pad. That's good news in terms of keeping the air/light-sensitive ingredients stable, but unfortunately, that also helps keep the not-so-good ingredients potent, putting skin at risk of irritation (see More Info for the full scoop on irritation's impact on skin).
We also need to address the claim that the included "willow bark extract works to exfoliate." That stems from willow bark's relation to salicylic acid (which is an excellent exfoliating agent)… but that relation only applies when it's taken orally, as willow bark is converted to salicylic acid via the digestive process. The likelihood that the willow bark used here can mimic the effect of salicylic acid is at best questionable, but there is some redemption in knowing that it can have anti-inflammatory benefits for skin (Phytotherapy Research, 2011).
In the end, between the potential skin-irritants and failure to provide gentle exfoliation, Renew Micro Exfoliating Toner is a product we aren't able to recommend. For superior options, check out our Best Exfoliants and Best Toners lists.
Irritation, whether you see it on the surface of your skin or not, causes inflammation and as a result impairs healing, damages collagen, and depletes the vital substances your skin needs to stay young. For this reason, it is best to eliminate, or minimize as much as possible, your exposure to known skin irritants, especially when there are brilliant formulas available that do not include these types of problematic ingredients. Fragrance-free is the best way for all skin types to go for all skin types (Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2008 & American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003)
The sneaky part about irritation is that research has demonstrated that you don't always need to see it or feel it for your skin to suffer damage, and that damage may remain hidden for a long time (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008).
Sonia Kashuk At-A-Glance
Strengths: Affordable and widely available (though exclusive to Target stores); good makeup remover; the makeup is still the star attraction, with impressive options for foundation, powder, blush, lip color, eyeliner and especially makeup brushes.
Weaknesses: The concealers, eye pencil, and brow shapers are a letdown; the makeup palettes may seem convenient, but several of the included products perform poorly.
Perhaps best known for her years of work with supermodel Cindy Crawford, makeup artist Sonia Kashuk's well-chosen selection of makeup has been available exclusively at Target stores since the mid-1990s.
Kashuk's brushes have been a strong point, and now that they've been redone they're better than ever, and still affordable. This is definitely a makeup collection worth visiting, and you'll find some premium options among Kashuk's powder foundation, regular powders, and blush. Several other products, from foundation to lipsticks, are also worthy of attention, though this is not a line that caters to darker skin tones. Ironically, it's the latest cosmetic products that met with the most critical reviews, largely due to poor execution or their gimmicky nature.
Note: Sonia Kashuk products are also available at select Bloomingdales locations in New York and California. The company also maintains freestanding stores in New York and New Jersey.
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