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Facial Toners: Do You Really Need Them? (Plus 4 Natural DIY Toners You Can Make at Home!)

Posted by Sharon Gnatt Epel on

Once upon a time, using a skin toner was one of the irrefutable, basic staples of a woman’s beauty routine. Highly touted by major cosmetic companies, toners were considered a “must-have” for everyone but especially for teen-agers with oily skin, as the best way to remove residue left by heavy facial cleansers. Toners almost always contained alcohol, which explains their ability to cut through the excessive “grease” that is often the benchmark of a newly developing adolescent hormonal system. 

Nowadays we know that alcohol can strip the skin of beneficial oils and irritate tender facial skin, making it a less than stellar choice for women over 21 or younger individuals with dry skin.

Some beauty experts still advocate using toners for the purpose of maintaining a proper acid mantle balance. The acid mantle refers to the pH level of the surface of the skin, and is a number determined by the interaction of natural oils (sebum) and the good bacteria that live on the skin. The theory is that healthy skin needs a slightly acidic balance (which is a measure of acidity and alkalinity) in order to maintain good skin health, and that this balance needs to be restored every time you cleanse. When the acid mantle is out-of-balance, the skin is prone to drying out, aging prematurely, and is potentially at risk for increased bacterial and fungal infections.

The human body is in most cases - already capable of restoring the skin’s natural acid mantle without outside intervention. It is true that as we get older, it takes longer for our bodies to restore pH levels than it did when we were younger, but assuming that you are not overwashing your face or using harsh soaps and detergents, using a toner is not always necessary. We know that old habits can be hard to break and some of us find great comfort in perpetuating our beauty rituals, so for those of you who use toners, here are a few do-it-yourself recipes using safe ingredients that can be purchased at your local health food store and won’t leave your skin naked and vulnerable.

How To: Since witch hazel is an astringent and can be too drying to the skin, we advocate using a base of rosewater instead. Find a clean glass bottle and add the rosewater (you can find this online or in your local health food store), followed by the recommended dose of essential oils specified below. Make sure to close the cap and shake the bottle to combine the ingredients. Let the mixture “rest” for about 48 hours, and then shake again. Some formulators advocate filtering the mixture by using a paper coffee filter to remove any excess oils but it is not always necessary in these proportions. Be sure to shake the bottle each time you want to use the “toner”. Apply to the face with a clean cottonball.

1. For Oily to Normal skin types – combine 100 milliliters of rosewater to 1 drop of essential oil of geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), and 1 drop of essential oil of German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla). German chamomile, an intense-looking blue oil known for its calmative properties, blends very nicely with geranium, a strongly fragrant essential oil that offers relief from congested skin, whether oily or dry and creates a balance between the two.

2. For Sensitive skin - make a lighter infusion using 100 ml of rosewater and only 1 drop of essential oil of German chamomile.

3. For Dry skin – follow the same directions as in Number 1 above and substitute the German Chamomile for one or 2 drops of any of the following essential oils: rose, lavender, geranium, sandalwood, rosewood, ylang-ylang, chamomile. Do not exceed the recommended proportions – contrary to popular belief, more is not always better, especially when using potent essential oils.

4. For Mature skin - follow the same directions and substitute any of the following essential oils in place of the German chamomile: Frankincense, helichrysum, geranium, lavender, myrrh, sandalwood, carrot seed.

Again, do not exceed the recommended proportions, as more is not always better, especially when using essential oils. Refrigerating your new toner will help keep it viable longer. Be sure to make it fresh and often in small batches to minimize bacterial growth and get the best results.

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