An astringent is a chemical substance that tends to shrink or draw together the body tissue on topical application. The main property of an astringent is it absorbs water from the tissue, tightens the tissue and dries the fats. The word "astringent" derives from the Latin word adstringere, meaning "to bind fast".
The common sources of astringent foods are legumes such as beans and lentils, raw fruits and vegetables like lemon, pomegranate, cranberry, gooseberry, pears, cauliflower, asparagus, turnip, artichoke, broccoli and a few herbs like turmeric, marjoram etc. Grains like rye, buckwheat and quinoa are also known to be astringent in nature. These items when eaten create a puckering sensation in the mouth making it feel dry and this property is called Astringency. This is also found in green tea and wine and is attributed to the presence of tannins in them. These tannins cause astringency and one of the popular tannin, Oak Bark, is used to prepare commercial astringents for cosmetic and medical use.
Astringents due to its remarkable shrinking and water absorption qualities are majorly used in skin care as toners to remove excess oil and makeup from the skin. An astringent is also used to improve blood circulation and tighten the skin besides improving the pH level of the skin. A facial cleansing routine is never complete without applying an astringent to open up skin pores and remove clogged impurities and later to tighten the pores thereby preventing further buildup of impurities. Generally it is done before moisturizing the skin.
Despite the availability of several commercial astringents being available across shops and druggists, it is preferred to prepare homemade astringents for their cost, effectiveness and purity. Also it is believed that commercial astringents have alchohol content in them making the skin too dry. Natural homemade products are prepared using witch hazel, green tea, calendula, lemon, cucumber, oils, orange peels, rose water and even mint in some cases. To elaborate on the most popular astringents made at home, we could cite Rosemary astringent, chamomile astringent using chamomile, wheatgerm and honey, Lemon astringent, Sandalwood astringent, Lemon Orange astringent – all using lemon, orange peels, almond oil, sandalwood paste/oil etc and lastly protein toner prepared using egg, milk and honey. These astringents are generally applied on the face and neck and washed off after 30 mins. Tomato and peach juice is also an effective toner which can be prepared almost in a jiffy.
Astringents are also widely used in medicines especially in dental care to cleanse, tighten the gums and detoxify them and remove plaque from teeth. One such example is the Stolin Gum astringent aimed at total oral hygiene. The Stolin Gum astringent is recommended as the original and best means to control gum diseases and contains Cetrimide, tannic acid and zinc chloride in its composition.