Have you ever asked yourself if a toner is necessary in your skincare routine? Or is it safe and effective to make a DIY toner?
We’ll clarify some misconceptions about the purpose of a toner—because depending on the type of skin you have, the reason you’ll use a toner will be different. And then we will show you how to make a gentle version that’s safe for even the most sensitive skin.
What does a face toner do?
If you have oily or acne-prone skin, you’re probably using a cleanser that is a little on the acidic or antibacterial side of the pH scale. But if you have dry or sensitive skin, you most likely are using a cleanser more on the alkaline or softening side. A toner helps equalize the skin’s pH after cleansing, bringing it back to its optimal level.
We want our skin to be at its natural pH as much of the time as possible. Due to the acid mantle, a protective layer on the surface of our skin, the pH typically should fall around a slightly acidic 5.5. When its pH is ideal, the skin can function best to protect and renew itself.
But it’s not all about pH balance. Face toner helps to:
Remove leftover dirt, makeup, and oil. Like a second cleanser, toner helps remove the remains of makeup and grime that you may have missed the first go-around in your skincare regimen.
Hydrate skin. Spritzing toner directly on skin helps replenish moisture. Use it prior to applying moisturizer to help seal in the ingredients.
Make skin appear smoother. Toner can also be applied with an exfoliating cotton round to remove any build-up of dead skin cells.
Infuse the skin with extra vitamins and botanicals. Adding herbs, green tea, and essential oils provides skin with a boost of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Encourage your other skincare products to sink in. After using a pH-balancing toner, your skin will be best prepared to absorb the effective ingredients in your skincare regimen.
Does everyone need to use toner?
No, it really depends on your skin type. If your skin is naturally smooth and radiant, you can get away with using fewer products on your skin, including toner.
But if you have oily or acne-prone skin, toner can help balance it out, so it appears less oily. Or if your skin is lacking certain vitamins and minerals, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a botanical boost or lock in extra moisture.
How to Make Your Own DIY Toner
The good news is it’s 100% safe to make your own face toner. I’ve put together 3 great toner recipes you can make at home—find the right recipe for your skin type!
Toner for Oily and Acne-Prone Skin
Green tea is an anti-inflammatory that can help with redness and acne [source], while the apple cider vinegar will bring your skin’s pH back to a normal level.
- 3/4 cup steeped green tea
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
After steeping a green tea bag in hot water, bring the tea to room temperature then discard the tea bag. Add the apple cider vinegar and mix. You can apply with a cotton ball, or spritz with a spray bottle. Store the remainder in the refrigerator for no longer than 10 days.
Face Toner for Sensitive Skin
Rose water is an antioxidant [source] that not only balances skin, but it’s also soothing and hydrating for irritated, sensitive skin. Because it’s so gentle, it’s the perfect DIY toner for all skin types.
- 1/2 cup dried rose buds
- hot filtered water
Pour the water over the rose buds and let sit for 1–2 hours. Use a strainer to separate the rose buds out from the rose water. I recommend spritzing this rose water on your face twice a day after cleansing.
If you make your own rosewater, you will want to store it in the refrigerator and use within 7–10 days. If you prefer store-bought, just follow storage instructions on the label. (And in case you’re wondering, this is my favorite store-bought rosewater.)
Toner for Dry Skin
- Rose water (see recipe above)
- Geranium essential oil
Using the recipe above to make rose water, just add a few drops of geranium oil for added hydration. Be sure to shake the spray bottle well before spritzing this toner on dry skin. Store it in the refrigerator, and use it within 7–10 days.
Face Toner FAQ
When should I apply face toner?
I recommend applying your DIY toner twice a day, just after cleansing your skin, but before applying your other skincare products.
Spritz it on directly or apply a light layer using a cotton ball, then allow it to sink in for about a minute. Before it’s had a chance to completely dry, apply your serum and then moisturizer to lock in the nutrients.
Can I use face toner on my body?
Yes, definitely. These DIY toners are gentle enough to help tame razor burn or soothe “bacne.” But you might want to do a spot test to make sure you don’t have an adverse reaction (apple cider vinegar can sometimes irritate sensitive skin).
Is toner supposed to burn?
Honestly, it depends on the ingredients. Apple cider vinegar has been known to sting, especially if you have sensitive skin. If you notice redness or a burning sensation, go ahead and add more water or green tea to dilute your toner. Or switch to one of the rose water toners, which shouldn’t burn or irritate skin.
Can I add a preservative to make my toner last longer?
You can, if you like, although I haven’t tried it myself. If you choose to experiment with a preservative, I recommend using a natural one like grapefruit seed extract to keep your toner as clean as possible.
You can also make extra toner ahead of time and freeze it in an ice cube tray. Thaw the toner one ice cube at a time and store it in the fridge for up to a week.
What’s a good DIY toner for normal skin?
Straight witch hazel is great for normal skin. You can also make a toner of plain green tea (without the ACV) if you want the anti-aging and antioxidant benefits of tea [source] without the astringent effects of vinegar.
Am I supposed to wash the toner off?
Nope! No need to. You’ll want to give it ample time to sink in, so the ingredients can nourish the outer layer of skin.
Boost your skincare routine with more DIY face toners
- How to Make a Rosewater Facial Toner
- 5 Ways to Make Toner with Witch Hazel
- Homemade Firming Antioxidant Vitamin C Citrus Toner
- Homemade Toner Recipe for Your Face with Fennel
Do you currently use a toner daily? Is it something you’d like to give a try?
This post was medically reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Haley, a board-certified dermatologist with extensive experience in medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical reviewers here. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Photos by Lindsey Rose Johnson568
Please advise on the best preservative to add to green tea toner and the vitamin c toner. I would prefer they lasted a month? Thank you
spray on toner says
Great DIY toner recipe to try! If you don't want to DIY, you may try any store-bought <a href=“https://emmediane.com/">spray on toner</a> that moisturizes dry and dehydrated skin while simultaneously restoring the pH balance of skin for a soothing effect from reputable skin professionals.
Thank you so much for this!
Rosanna c says
How would you make the product last longer? Can we add any type of preservative to make it last longer than 10 days?
Brenda Genung says
I have very sensitive skin not only to perfume, but most commercial products. I have combination skin with a t-zone of oil and still get breakouts at 65 years old. I am looking for something natural that I can make at home to balance out my skin and yet be anti-aging. Can you help?
Andria Tulloh says
I just started diy facial stuff…the odd thing is i have always had perfect skin…no breakouts no oily or dry.. Rosy…I mean no matter what I did it never broke out until i started with baking soda with water paste and using Coconut oil for moisturizer. I use leman and covonut water and onbeyebrows and lashes castor oil…now I’m breaking out it’s really odd for me and my bff is shocked to see me with less than perfect skin. All my life I’ve drank a ton of water so what do i do for the wrinkles? I’m45 and they’re making an appearance
I’ve found that Coconut oil is my skins enemy for my face. It rates pretty high on the comedogenic scale, a 4 out of 5. I try using oils lower such as jojoba or safflower.
Coconut oil can be very drying on the skin when used alone. It is definitely not the oil you want to use on mature skin.
I have always have to buy oily skin products because my skin is so oily, but I found a product that is for oily skin, and has anti-aging properties I have been using the Made from Earth Skin Correcting Toner and now have smooth, dry and soft skin. The effect is it plumps up wrinkles, making them less obvious. My dermatologist pronounced my skin “glowing!”.
hi… i dont know why people never suggest cucumber water. i used cucumber as toner because i love the smell. it is smell so great even without fragrance added. now i would like to try green tea toner recipe you make. i get bored of this cucumber. wanna try something different.
cucumber water made my skin extremely oily and i’m not sure why, throughout the day my face normally only gets oily around my T zone. however, about an hour after using the cucumber water toner, my entire face felt moist almost as if i had just worked out. does anyone know why that is?
Megan Hodges says
It might have been how it reacted with your skin. Cucumber is used a lot for hydration, so it might have over-hydrated your skin, since you have oily skin to begin with. Hope that helps!
What would you suggest for normal skin?
Cassidy Rose says
witch hazel on a cotton pad
thank you!!! i have a really bad face right now acne redness bumbs just everywhere on my face that was sups helpful so again THANK YOUUU SOOOO MUCH!!!! this will really help me get back to my old beautiful attractive sexy face
Is it safe to store the toner in a spray bottle and put it in the fridge for more than 10 days?
hi, i have a very oily skin and a sensitive skin.. how do i make my own toner?
Candace @ The Wheatless Kitchen says
This is great! I can’t wait to make the green tea toner for oily skin!
Hi! I was wondering how many days it lasts if it is not in the fridge? I forgot the fridge part and put it in my bathroom counter..
Thank You.I have to try one Recipe. Just can’t deal with the commercialised toners. I will post my results here.
Abby Nonymous says
This is so great! I made the acne toner and added Ylang Ylang and Tea Tree.
Thank you for the post. I want to talk about my own recipe, I love it so much. It has white tea, green tea and Helichrysum. I make a tea with them and after cooling add ACV. It has amazing feeling.
I have both dry and acne-prone skin. Any suggestions for my best bet? Would it be effective to use the green tea/ACV toner in the morning, and the rosewater/geranium toner at night?
Is there a substitute for the rose water in the dry skin toner? I know it’s benefits, but I hate the smell of roses. Or does the geranium oil scent over power the rose smell?
Geranium is going to make it smell more like a flower. If you do half mixture of apple cider vinegar and half Rose water, it balances out. I use that for mine and add a couple drops tea tree and lavender oils.
Smriti J says
I know this is a toner recipe, but should I wash it off before I put my make up on? Or should I go to sleep with it? Or… do I use it in the shower?
Lindsey Johnson says
Smriti J, I use a homemade toner both after I get out of the shower in the morning and at night. I don’t wash them off, but I also don’t wear a lot of make up either. I would definitely not wash it off at night. Try it during the day not washing it off and if it affects your makeup, try using it only at night. The rosewater one is pretty light. That’s what I use and I don’t think it should be much of a problem with makeup over top.
Ok I have a few questions, 1 where do I get geranium oil? 2 can I make it myself? 3 where would I get rosebuds? All the roses I have are all done producing, do rose petals work as well? Thanks for any info..
Deborah Harju says
You can order geranium essential oil from a number of online retailers. I am not sure how you would make the essential oil yourself unless you’re experienced in that. Rose petals should work great!
Great post! I love making my own beauty products, but I have a question. I have combination skin – it’s very sensitive and can get really dry, but I am also dealing with a lot of acne. Which toner would you suggest using?
You’re going to have to treat the sensitive part of your skin as a priority. So I would stick to the toner for sensitive skin. You can treat the acne with a spot treatment. Sometimes when we are really dry AND have acne, the problem is lack of exfoliation. I would look into that as well. If there’s a layer of dead skin on the surface, than your moisturizer can’t really penetrate well, and then the clogged pores full of dead skin can lead to breakouts. A good exfoliant or alpha hydroxy might be great to solve those issues. But always test a product first because of your sensitivity. Hope that helps!
It does help! Thank you so much! I really appreciate it!
I’m a little confused why the toner for oily skin uses apple cider vinegar. I thought that since cleansers for oily skin are more acidic, you would want the toner to be more alkaline to balance it out? The toner is lovely, I just don’t understand how it works.
Hi Em, Apple cider vinegar, although acidic, actually has an alkaline effect on our bodies. It helps dissolve dead skin which is great for those of us with oily/clogged pores. Have you ever heard when our stomachs are over producing acids to drink grapefruit or orange juice? It really works to neutralize the acid, even though you’d think it makes the problem worse. And some cleansers out there for oily skin can be more alkaline because they are softening the skin, loosening blackheads, etc. Great question!!! Thank you for asking!