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When a skin-care product promises results in seven days, my beauty editor Spidey senses start to tingle. Any dermatologist will tell you it takes at least four weeks (aka an entire 28-day skin cycle) to see real changes, so when I heard about FaceGym’s Skin Changer 2-in-1 Exfoliating Essence Toner ($55) and its claim to visibly brighten skin in a week, I was skeptical… but curious enough to give it a try.
The product sits squarely in a new-ish category of toner-essence hybrids, meaning that it replaces two (great, but very optional) steps in your routine. Toners are considered to be the final step in your cleansing regimen and are generally designed to get rid of any leftover debris and balance the pH of your skin, while essences are the first treatment step and deliver hydration while also prepping your skin for whatever else you choose to apply on top of it. FaceGym’s Skin Changer does both, and then some.
From an ingredients standpoint, this formula is seriously stacked. First on the list is antioxidant-rich upcycled pumpkin extract, which the brand describes as a “Pac Man” for its ability to gobble up the free radicals that cause visible signs of skin damage. Because it’s an enzyme, it also aids in exfoliation and helps to “tone” the skin to restore balance, elasticity, and hydration.
Next, there’s a blend of quince leaf extract and succinic acid, which calm inflammation, fight acne (without causing irritation), and help fade the appearance of dark spots. And finally, a complex of amino acids, magnesium, and glycogen boost skin’s hydration levels to leave it plump and soft.
When I started using the toner, my biggest concerns were discoloration all over (namely in the form of sun damage on my cheeks and a massive burn scar on my forehead brought about by careless curling iron use a few weeks ago) and an uncharacteristic breakout on my chin (thanks, PMS). The brand recommends using it once a day in the morning or evening, and I opted to add it to my p.m. routine because doing any sort of exfoliation before going out into the sun freaks me out.
The formula is a viscous, light orange liquid that’s slightly thicker than water but not as heavy as your typical serum and is meant to be applied with a cotton round. It doesn’t smell bad, exactly, but the scent does have a little bit of a bite to it (though certainly not enough to deter me from using it).
The first time I used it—after my usual nightly double-cleansing routine—I was blown away by how much grime came off onto the cotton pad. If ever there were an argument for using a toner (especially after a day of wearing makeup), this photo is it:
Immediately after using the toner, my skin felt soft (not sticky), hydrated, and a little bit tight—but not in the stripped, extra-dry way derms are constantly telling us all to avoid… more like it was prepped and ready for the rest of my routine.
After using the serum for a week, I have some thoughts—the first of which is that toners deserve more credit. I’ve always been in the “eh, who needs ’em” camp, but this product definitely changed my mind. It was very clear from the look and feel of my skin immediately after using it (and from the nastiness that came off onto the cotton round) that this step is a necessity both for keeping your skin clean and getting it ready for the rest of your routine. I never thought I’d be a toner convert, but here we are.
And while my skin wasn’t necessarily changed in seven days, it certainly looks better and brighter… and I have high hopes for what’s to come in the future (because this stuff will definitely be staying in my routine for the long haul). The discoloration on my cheeks has noticeably faded, and the red little pimples on my jawline have pretty much disappeared. Even my burn scar—which, I should note, I’ve been trying to deal with for a month—looks less pronounced. Looking at the photos above, it feels like there’s a Paris filter on my face… but that’s apparently just what my skin looks like now.
While a full skin transformation is pretty much impossible in this limited amount of time, I’m pretty blown away by how well FaceGym’s Skin Changer serum delivered on its promise of seven-day results. And I can’t wait to see what happens after a month.
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