natural beauty: facial toner.

July 13, 2015

natural beauty: toner | reading my tea leavesWhen it comes to everything bath and beauty, it won’t come as a surprise that I keep things simple and natural. Which, of course, can seem more complicated at first look. Here’s what I’ve noticed: If you head to your neighborhood drugstore and have a walk down the aisles in the hope of finding a product to work some sort of magic without also including a ton of unpronounceable words, you’ll feel overwhelmed. It will seem like it’s impossible and confusing and too much trouble to find a pared down version of whatever drugstore variety beauty product you’re after. But if you generally avoid the bath and beauty aisles altogether, you’ll feel a whole lot more optimistic about the prospect of finding something to up your beauty routine without upping your toxin intake. natural beauty: toner | reading my tea leavesI’m going to talk a lot more about my general approach to all of this natural beauty stuff in my book, so I’ll try not to ruin surprises in this space, but since my tome isn’t a 500 page treatise on natural beauty, I thought it might be nice to unpack some of the specifics here.

Without further ado, toner.

Let me back up and say that in a lot of ways, my summertime skin is my favorite skin. It’s not as dry as it is in the wintertime and I wake up from a night’s sleep feeling just a little bit glowy—you know, that little we-don’t-have-an-air-conditioner je ne sais quoi.

In the hottest months of the year, one of my favorite ways to stay hydrated and to feel fancy is by spritzing myself amply with a little something that I’ll call toner, but that also masquerades as facial tonic, mist, spray, elixir, magic potion, etc. I keep mine refrigerated so that it’s always ready for a little midday cool-down.
natural beauty: toner | reading my tea leavesToner as one of the first beauty products that I ever used, if you don’t count the After Bath Splash (dear God) that I doused myself with liberally as a four year old. Toner is also one of those mystifying beauty products that I’m not sure is the secret to the fountain of youth, but it can sure feel that way. And what’s a beauty product if not a ritual anyway? It’s the refreshing spritz, the act of closing your eyes and misting your tired skin with a little bit of something meant to make it feel better, or at the very least smell better. I grew up using mostly Thayer’s Witchhazel Toner in the rose scent. I’d pour a bit onto a cotton ball every night and while I freely admit to never being much a face washer, I’d feel refreshed and clean and ready to hop into bed after a good wipe down.

Do It Yourself: 
If headed to the nearest grocery store and buying a jar of double-duty salad dressing and facial tonic is how you like to approach beauty, here are a few ideas for quick do-it-yourself toners.
  • Apple cider vinegar and water: One of those natural beauty ingredients that crops up just about everywhere you turn. Apple Cider Vinegar is so ubiquitous in home remedies that it’s often abbreviated to ACV and used for everything from conditioning hair to promoting gut health to cleaning your kitchen floor. Great for skin, too! Dilute in a ratio of 1:1 with fresh water. Refrigerate.
  • Cucumber and witch hazel: Cold Spring Apothecary’s The Home Apothecary has a few amazing facial tonic and toner recipes. The simplest is for cucumber toner. Here’s the short version: peel and chop a cucumber and blend with witch hazel and distilled water (about a 1/4 cup of each.) Strain with fine mesh strainer and pour into a sterile container. Refrigerate.
  • Rose water: Make like Cleopatra and douse yourself with rose water. You can make your own rose water if you have an abundance of fresh pesticide-free roses and some time. Or or you can keep a bottle of already made rose water on hand. You can apply rose water directly to your skin or dilute with distilled water. Add aloe vera gel for extra moisture or witch hazel for a light astringent. A teaspoon or two of each usually does the trick for me. Refrigerate.natural beauty: toner | reading my tea leaves
Let Someone Else Do It For You: 
If you’d rather leave the beauty products to the professionals, there are all kinds of beautiful natural toners and tonics out there made by some of my very favorite witches. Here are a few of my favorites:
  • Cold Spring Apothecary: Speaking of Cold Spring Apothecary, you can purchase on of their toner’s ready made. The Organic Peppermint Facial Toner is slightly astringent and good for oily skin.
  • Fig & Yarrow: These guys call their toners Complexion Waters, which is awfully fancy. As I’ve found myself on the far side of 30, I’m especially interested in their Yarrow/Immortelle/Rockrose blend for mature skin.
  • Marble & Milkweed: Briar’s been a sponsor of RMTL for going on a year now. I recently treated myself to her Rose + Tulsi Facial Tonic. I’ve been keeping it in the refrigerator and going in for a nice refreshing spritz every time I duck my head in there. The tulsi is spicy and delicious (and grown just for Marble & Milkweed) and the rose is every bit as decadent as it sounds. Delightful.
  • Nahla Beauty: I used their Bulgarian Rose Hydrating Mist a few summers ago and while I haven’t re-indulged yet, it was heavenly while it lasted. (And I’ve been reusing the glass bottle it came in ever since.)
  • Portland Apothecary: Another much-loved sponsor of this space, these women make a Balancing Facial Toner with hydrosols of rose geranium, chamomile, helichrysum and rosemary. I haven’t tried this one myself but if my experience with all of their other products is an indication, it’s terrific.
What about you guys? Tried and true home remedies that you use? Favorite potions made by other people?

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Ali @ Anything You Want July 13, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    I've tried a few DIY, at-home hair cleansers that have worked really well (the secret seems to be vinegar). I haven't tried a facial cleanser yet but I'm curious about some of these recipes. Perhaps I'll give them a try!

  • Reply Anonymous July 13, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    I'm all about DIY & natural beauty/self care, and recently went to the store to get some rose water for the same luxurious spritzing you described, but instead I came home with the rose face care sampler kit from Evanhealy and it is so so good. The rose geranium "hydrosoul" is a tonic/spray that apparently is distilled at low temperatures in copper pots, which adds to its magic aura and potency. I have very dry skin and often find witch hazel too astringent, but the hydrosoul is bliss. The cleansing milk and serum are top notch too!

  • Reply sophie July 13, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    You should check out Damn Good Facewash. You can find Kate on etsy or instagram. Her products are all natural and she's totally transformed my skin!

  • Reply SarahE July 13, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    I started using Old Crow Natural Skin Care ( after my mom introduced me to it. The company is in South Central PA, and I love their Dew Point Toner. I have rosacea, so my skin is really sensitive. The Spilt Milk cleanser and Delicate Flower moisturizer really help with not stripping my dry skin, and calming the redness.

    I've gone through the direct-marketing skincare, the try to make it myself skincare, the expensive natural brand skincare, and Old Crow is what has worked best for me, hands-down.

  • Reply Kaolee Hoyle July 13, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    I use a witch hazel toner but have never considered making my own. The apple cider vinegar ones sounds interesting. I'll have to give it a try!

  • Reply Kate July 13, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    My grandmother swears by Jean Nate. 🙂 I have really been enjoying this toner from Wild Carrot:

  • Reply Archana July 13, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    I use Kiehl's toners – love love them. Used Rose water when in India. Cant seem to find some in the US that doesnt break me out. But I am gonna look into making my own.

    Anyone : how does make at home rose water compare to store bought one ? more/less fragrant ? any thoughts ?

    Apple cider vinegar smells pretty bad. Could never use it.

  • Reply Aja Lake July 13, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    Love this.

  • Reply Katherine Stookesberry July 13, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Juice Beauty Hydrating Mist is the BEST! I use it on my face, arms, and sometimes legs daily and it lasts me several months! Totally recommend.

  • Reply Stephanie Abdon July 14, 2015 at 1:25 am

    Little Barn Apothecary are great guys with fab products!

  • Reply Brittany Renken July 14, 2015 at 1:59 am

    I'm so glad you did this post! In an effort to put fewer chemicals in and on my body, as well as cut costs, I recently switched to natural, homemade beauty products. I currently use Apple Cider Vinegar and water as toner, lemon juice and honey as cleanser, and water and olive oil as makeup remover. Aside from the makeup remover being a little oily (unsurprisingly), so far, so good. I posted the full recipes here:

  • Reply Lisa B. July 14, 2015 at 5:43 am

    I don't know what the beauty quotient of this is, but I bought a blue glass bottle with a spray dealio, and use organic essential oils to make a refreshing concoction that I use every day to set my make up and to refresh my skin and sometimes just to spray all over. I vary what I put in it, but I love rose geranium, some sort of mint, clove, and tea tree oil, all mixed together. It's cooling and refreshing and I lurve it. I fill my bottle with water, then tap the bottom of my oils like ten times (is that ten drops? who knows?), then shake it up. It is magical.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Comments are moderated.