Holika Holika Don't Worry Bee Care Calendula Toner Review

This week's review is of the "hydrating" style of toner prevalent in Asian skincare, as opposed to the "astringent" or cleansing type that we normally associate with "toner" in the west.  Infused with calendula flower petals and bee propolis, it's the adorably bee-decorated Holika Holika Bee Care Calendula Toner.
Note the flower petals at the bottom, continually infusing the toner with calendula goodness
I picked up this toner to experiment with adding toner into my skin care routine, because I was looking for ways to add extra hydration without making my skin greasy, which would lead to breakouts.  After reading about the difference in Asian toners vs western ones, I decided to give this one a try after reading up on the benefits of bee propolis and calendula.

Onward to the review!


Full product name: Holika Holika Don't Worry Bee Care Calendula Toner
Purpose: A hydrating step immediately after cleansing to prevent moisture loss before you move on to thicker moisturizers.
Texture: Very watery, like most toners.  With flower petals included.  See below images.
Scent: Medium, floral, pleasant.  Not sickly sweet.
Quantity: 140ml
Availability: You can get it online from ebay (I got mine from my favourite ebay seller)  but it is also available at other online sites.  It's only about $12 on the official Holika Holika site, but I don't know if they ship internationally.
Price: I got mine for about $25 including shipping, which is pretty pricey for a toner.
Rating: 4/5 I had no complaints.
Repurchase:  Possibly, but I plan to try out a few toners that have been on my test list first.

Full Review:

If you aren't familiar with the difference between a hydrating toner and the traditional toners we're used to, it goes back to the "fat over lean" approach to skincare I talked about in part 1 of my megapost on layering skincare (click here) and this is the thinnest "lean" layer.

I swear I did not get this just for the cute packaging, but bees! :3
Before we get into why Korean toners are a different animal, can we just say: Hello, adorable packaging?!  The bottle is glass and has a heavy, substantial feel to it, and the box itself is nicely designed as well.  I have to say that Korea does a great job when it comes to their packaging, as it always has a luxurious feel and charming little touches that are the icing on their nice product cakes.

Sometimes that's literal-- a cake/cupcake motif is very popular for a lot of brands, and Etude House launched an entire line of products with a confectionery theme.

You should click on this thumbnail so you can see the glass of the bottle has suspended sparkles in it.  Yes, SPARKLES!  BEES AND SPARKLES AND STRIPES, OH MY!  Holika Holika, you are killin' me here.
It's the little touches that impress me.

Seriously, how cute is this packaging?  See how it's striped like a little cartoon honeybee?  Don't worry, bee happy! :3
Okay, derail over for now, back to the product itself.

Normal western-style toners are very drying and usually contain alcohol, and are meant to be liberally applied to a cotton swatch and swiped over the face to remove any residue of makeup or cleansers (as a spot-check) and to prep the face for moisturizing.  Conventional wisdom is they are superfluous and can make your skin condition worse by overdrying and irritating the skin via the alcohol content.

However, Korean toners are meant to hydrate instead of act as an astringent, and are either applied directly onto the face with the hands, or a first pass for residue removal with a cotton swatch is done (western-style) and then another layer is applied with the hands.  At $20+ a bottle, I can't bring myself to waste it by using it on a cotton swatch so I just apply it with my hands.  If I feel like I need to do a spot check to remove any residue (such as after a marathon massage with the Deep Pore Oil [reviewed here] and I need to make sure I've emulsified all the oil off) I will splash some alcohol-free Rose Witch Hazel onto a cotton swatch and swab my face down with that before I move on to the expensive stuff.

Aside from random stray petals, consistency is like water, making it a perfect post-cleansing step.

I usually apply mine right after I cleanse, while my face is still damp from rinsing.  The idea is to not let your skin dry before you start applying products to it, because moisturizers are meant to help seal in the moisture left on your skin when you rinse.   Apparently, the moisture levels after you dry your face drop dramatically in seconds, so there are products designed to be applied during the "3 second" window although in my opinion any old hydrating product will do.

I've tried the "3 second" products, but I prefer a nice gentle toner like this instead.  When faced with the dizzying array of toners, I decided on this one based on it containing bee propolis and calendula flowers, and below I'll detail why.

Bee propolis is a natural remedy for wound care, as it is touted to have anti-bacterial, anti-septic, and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a logical choice for troubled skin.  Here's a snippet from Dr. Andrew Weil:
However, propolis does have proven antibiotic and antiseptic properties and may also have antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects. I consider it safe and useful as a home remedy. You can find it in various forms in health food stores or get the raw stuff from beekeepers. I recommend it as a good topical treatment for uncomplicated wounds and, when used as a gargle or in spray form, as a remedy for sores and irritations in the mouth. I use propolis in tincture form to treat canker sores and sore throats.
He also cautions that people allergic to bees should stay away from products containing bee propolis, which makes sense.  The bit about it being a "good topical treatment for uncomplicated wounds" is what makes it such a good choice for acne and irritated skin, which is what I was looking for.  I am not sure how effective it was, but it definitely didn't aggravate my skin or cause breakouts.

The next element is the Calendula flowers, which has similar acne-fighting benefits but is more known for being "soothing" which is a great choice for a post-cleansing first layer.
Bees and flowers.  Yep.  You read that right.  
I recommend you read the full article on this site (click here) for the full explanation of everything Calendula does that helps with acne, but here are some highlights:
Calendula kills the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria that cause acne and the staph and strep bacteria that kill impetigo. It’s mildly antiviral, and gets the redness and swelling out of infections by its antiinflammatory activity. 
Skin researchers at the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil tested calendula creams as a means of preventing damage to the skin caused by ultraviolet light. They found that two compounds in the herb, narcissin and rutin, help regenerate the antioxidant glutathione. In turn, glutathione stops some of the inflammatory reactions that damage the skin when it has been exposed to UV light. On the other hand, calendula did not interfere with the action of an enzyme called gelatinase, which helps the skin get rid of damaged cells so it can replace them.   
And although it is not directly related to the ability of calendula to treat acne, it is worth mentioning that calendula creams and gels are as helpful as aloe vera when it comes to treating burns. 
So it kills acne bacteria, reduces inflammation, helps against sun damage, and is as soothing as aloe vera.  That's a lot of troubled skin-friendly firepower in one little plant.  Heyooo!

However, they also caution that if you are allergic to ragweed or plants from that family, you may react to Calendula as well, so as always be mindful of the things that may set you off.

I can't say that it did anything miraculous for my skin, but it did a fine job of hydrating my skin quickly and I found that any sebum plugs that had been loosened from my pores by cleansing were easily rubbed off as I massaged my face with the toner.  Once my skin felt plumped up with hydration, I would move on to my serum and then moisturizers.

Final thoughts:

I would definitely buy this toner again, but it's not something I can't live without.  Not that it's the toner's fault, but I think it's important to stay realistic in your expectations of a product and not assume that just because the ingredients are good for the skin you will get a similar effect from whatever concentration is in the product itself.  However, once I experiment with other toners in this "hydrating" style (as opposed to the "astringent" style) I may come back and modify my opinions if they change.

Leave me a comment with your favourite toner, or just to show me some love ;)
All the best,

**Disclaimer: All products reviewed/mentioned in my blog, are 100% purchased with my own money, with a single exception of a press sample I tested & reviewed in 2015 which swore me off of them forever.  This blog contains  both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and clicking the former before you shop means that this blog may receive a small commission to assist in this blog supporting itself.  Please see my Contact Info & Disclaimer policy for more information.


  1. AW MAN I'm allergic to bees. :( But I love the packaging so much! Plus it sounds nice for the summer. Oh well, I'll have to diversify my adorable animal-themed products another way...perhaps with the kitty lip gloss. :P

    1. There are lots of animal-themed products to choose from, I promise! Besides, in an animal battle between bees and snails, snail cosmetics win hands-down!

  2. Awwww I'm badly allergic to ragweed, which I am now sad about because this toner sounds awesome. Do you have any other hydrating toner recommendations?

    1. Not yet, but I have the Skinfood Gold Kiwi toner on the way, so that review will be coming up. :)

  3. Thanks for mentioning that ebay seller, wow, so many interesting products, so many choices!

    1. Yeah they have a wide selection, and they recently started carrying some Mizon products too, which is great. Their prices are decent, and their shipping is quicker than most. I have bought at least 4-6 packages from them in the last year.

      If you need Mizon and rubyruby76 doesn't carry it, try cantusprote http://myworld.ebay.com/cantusprote/ as they have a lot of Mizon stuff and I've had very good (repeat) experiences with them.

      There are a few other sellers I have gotten items from and wasn't happy with the experience for one reason or another. With the risk of buying off ebay or amazon, it's nice to have some field-tested options ;)

  4. I've been using this Calendula toner for the past 1 month or so, and my skin has been vastly improved. I have acne-prone skin and it's usually caused by hormones, and it's a combination of oily and dry and sensitive, sometimes I believe the worst skin you can imagine. And with skin like mine, I get paranoid about trying new products because it can potentially block my pores and create more acnes.

    Lately, my skin has been improving but it got so much better after using holika holika's Calendula toner and their moisturising cream. It has a very nice natural flowery smell and it reduces redness on my skin, reducing a lot and a lot of my pimples appearing. I'm not sure if it's because of other factors (such as my change in diet) but I'm so over the moon with using this toner that I'm planning to keep using it and trying other of their Bee's Care products. Of course I still have acnes but it's not as much as before and I'm so so relieved that i found this toner.

    1. Great to hear your experience with this toner were so positive! You're right about trying new products, it can feel like such a gamble to experiment with new things when your skin is troubled already to begin with.

  5. what is that thing inside the bottle?
    is it the flower?

    i love the idea of acne & sun damage fighter. will do some more research before deciding.. thanks for your review!

    btw have you tried secret key? :)

    1. Yes, inside the bottle it has petals from calendula flowers. :) I haven't heard of 'secret key', please do tell me about it!

  6. I WANT THIS. I have a sample of the Kiehl's calendula toner that I'm excited to try. Flowers+skincare=YASSSSSS.