It’s perfectly possible to simply tone your skin, without using expensive plastic-packed bottles of chemicals. In fact (and say this quietly), many people are a bit iffy about whether toners are even necessary. There are certain times (see below) when they may help. But overall, you won’t die if you don’t use one.
So what is skin toner? It’s part of what beauty therapists call part of your ‘cleanse, tone and moisturise’ routine. First, you cleanse away the dirt and make-up, then you ‘tone’ by adding a water-based substance to remove grease, and then finish off with a skin cream. So what is the toner actually for? It’s a myth that toners (or anything) can close pores. So why use a toner? And more importantly, when you can avoid it?
A toner is simply a liquid to hydrate the skin and remove grease, and give the appearance of shrinking pores. Good toners claim to re-balance the PH of your skin. But of course, if you using a natural skincare product anyway, you should not making your skin so acidic, that you have to ‘tone it down’ in the first place.
Most toners do more harm than good. If you add chemicals to your skin, they are going to upset the delicate balance of your epidermis (the top layer). Most are also packed in plastic and usually don’t contain natural ingredients. Most are also used with disposable cotton rounds, to create more waste. The only time in fact they can be useful is for people with very oily or acne-prone skin, as they help to remove grease throughout the day. They feel refreshing – but then so does splashing your face with water.
Rosewater is probably the best natural toner (you can also use to flavour cakes and ice-cream), and has been used for hundreds of years. It does exactly the same job, it’s natural and costs less. You can also find orange blossom water, if you prefer. It’s made by distilling rose petals in water and has the same hydrating and anti-inflammatory action. You can find it in old-fashioned chemists.
The Best Commercial Toners
If you are going to splash out on a commercial toner, here are a few of the best. Use them with reusable washable cotton rounds, to avoid waste:
- Lucy Bee Dazzling Organic Skin Tonic gently enhances skin renewal, and is made with organic ingredients (they recommend a patch test).
- Evolve Beauty is a nice ethical beauty brand. It sells an organic facial mist to refresh, or a liquid 2-in-2 cleanser that cleanses and tones in one. The latter contains hyaluronic acid to lock water into the skin and is fragranced with rosewater.
- Flawless Hydrating Toner is sold in plastic-free packaging. It features organic rose and lavender to soothe sensitive skin, and witch hazel, to tighten pores. The bottles are made from recycled glass and aluminium.
- SW Basics is a New York brand of wonderful skincare, everything is natural with 5 ingredients or less. Founded by Adina Grigore (whose book Skin Cleanse includes tips and kitchen-ingredient recipes) her Toner is sold here. In zero waste packaging, it’s a simple blend of water, raw apple cider vinegar, witch hazel, and essential oils of sandalwood and clary sage. However, Adina says that giving up alcohol, dairy and refined sugar is the best remedy for clear skin.
Make Your Own Skin Toner
- Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water. You can do the same with lemon juice.
- Boil a few mint leaves in water, then strain and cool. Or just boil, strain and cool a peppermint tea bag, and apply to face, just like a cotton pad (choose organic brands free from nylon string). Or brew green tea, to do the same.
- The gel of an aloe vera leaf is a good toner (and also heals sunburn). Aloe vera can cause allergies in some and affect certain medications, so check with your doctor first.
- Witch hazel is an ancient toner, that comes from a native American shrub. But because it often contains ethanol, many say it’s too harsh. One beauty expert says it can’t ‘dry up acne’, as acne is not about having ‘wet skin’. You are usually better going for gentler methods and changing your diet.