It looks like chrysanthemum tea. Even smells a little like it. And it’s sometimes also called the “toner with chrysanthemum”. Meet Kiehl’s numero uno: Calendula Herbal-extract Alcohol-free Toner, whose formula hasn’t changed since the 1960s, and has spawned not just a following but also a range.
TEXT GOH YEE HUAY
What is calendula? A species of marigold that looks like – and is frequently mistaken for – chrysanthemum, it is a herbal A-lister in both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. The reason is simple: It has antioxidants and anti inflammatory properties that are reportedly good for treating the skin, from healing minor cuts and sunburn to soothing rashes and eczema. Calendula is also said to boost hydration and promote repair in damaged skin.
Chemists at Kiehl’s knew this well. With roots that date back to 1851, when it was an old-world apothecary in New York’s East Village, the brand has always had an affinity for creating formulas based on botanical ingredients. So when its customers in the 1960s began asking for a product that could address tetchy, sensitive skin, its chemists looked to calendula, one of the most recognised healing plants. They came up with Calendula Herbalextract Alcohol-free Toner, with a gentle, alcohol-free formula (unusual, given that most toners then were astringent). It became an instant hit with customers who loved its refreshing, soothing, and skin-softening effects.
Prepared from handpicked blooms
Each bottle has extracts of pesticide-free calendula and more than 60 whole petals of the flower sourced from locations all around the world, including Egypt and India. To keep the petals intact and preserve their properties, each bloom is picked and sorted by hand, then sun-dried without any artificial heat or additional processing. When they reach the Kiehl’s factory, the petals are placed by hand in bottles which are then filled with a pre-prepared calendula infusion.
Half a century on, the toner’s formula remains unchanged, and it’s still one of the brand’s bestsellers (especially in the Asia Pacific); five bottles are sold every minute globally.
Though initially made for sensitive skin, it has since become a darling among users with all skin conditions. Women and men with oily and acne-prone skin have credited it for clearing their skin without drying, stinging, or irritating it further.
Spin-offs to wash and hydrate with
With such success, Calendula Herbal-extract Alcohol-free Toner has had two spin-offs in recent years: Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash, and Calendula & Aloe Soothing Hydration Masque – both with the same soothing and hydrating calendula flower extracts.
Designed to deliver a gentle (cue paraben- and soap-free) but thorough cleanse, the former is a rich cleansing gel that cleans without damaging the skin barrier or making skin feel tight after washing.
The latter, a rinse-off gel mask, was created in response to the needs of the modern lifestyle – marked by stressful, hectic days, frequent travel, and poor sleep. Its mild cooling sensation makes it an instant pick-me-up and hydrator for fatigued skin that looks and feels dry, rough and tight.
Paraben- and colourant free, the mask’s golden hue comes from the manually harvested calendula petals, which were slowly added to a transparent aloe vera base. This combination of calendula and aloe vera is what gives the mask its fast calming and revitalising effect – five minutes are all you need for visibly clearer, smoother skin with reduced lines and patchiness. Its uplifting, lightcitrus scent of camomile and lemon essential oils is the icing on the cake.
Calendula Herbal extract Alcohol-free Toner, $59-$90
It has been called many things, including the “miracle water” that keeps skin balanced and soothes irritated or inflamed skin. Being antimicrobial, calendula also reduces shine and can be used on skin with acne, as it helps to speed up skin repair and minimise scarring.
Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash, $49
It has two gentle ingredients to clean without compromising the skin barrier: an amino acidbased surfactant that purifies and lathers richly; and a vegetable-based surfactant to remove dirt and oil.
Calendula & Aloe Soothing Hydration Masque, $69
Made for all stressed and fragile skin, this is so gentle that it can be used three times a week or more. To make it work even better, prep skin with Calendula Herbal-extract Alcoholfree Toner before applying the mask so the latter penetrates better.