I haven’t always used a toner in my skincare routine, mostly because I found that conventional toners were too drying. The vast majority of mass-produced toners contain some form of alcohol, which is one of our no-go ingredients because it is very drying and can cause cell death. Even brands like Burt’s Bees use alcohol in their toner formulations, so I knew that there was a real problem that needed to be solved. Toners were some of the first skincare products that I developed.
I knew that I wanted to create toners using tea bases, plant hydrosols, and whole, fresh herbs. I also knew that creating different formulas for different skin types was a high priority, since one-size-fits-all face products usually don’t perform as well as more targeted formulations. I decided to develop four different formulations: Gentle (for sensitive skin), Hydrating (for dry skin), Balancing (for normal/combination skin), and Clarifying (for oily skin).
I wanted the base of each formula to be roughly the same – a combination of (alcohol-free) witch hazel hydrosol, rose hydrosol, and rice water. The proportions of each are slightly different for each formula, and took some finagling and patience, but all variations contain these ingredients. Here is a short list of their benefits:
- Witch hazel hydrosol – antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiviral, emollient, cooling for inflammatory skin conditions
- Rose hydrosol – anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, emollient, cooling for inflammatory skin conditions
- Rice water – anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, emollient, cooling for inflammatory skin conditions
All formulas contain the same proportion of organic aloe vera powder because of its many benefits for all skin types:
- Aloe vera – antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, hydrating, noncomedogenic; very soothing for even the most sensitive skin
I had my eye on tea as another main element of the formulas, and I was already a big fan of both Chamomile tea and Green tea for both consumption and topical use. The benefits of these teas for skin closely mirror their benefits for the gut and body:
- Chamomile tea – anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial; very soothing for even the most sensitive skin
- Green tea – antioxidant, anti-inflammatory; reduces puffiness
I then set out looking up the skincare properties of many different herbs. After doing more learning and research, I settled on the following three choices as options:
- Rosemary – antibacterial, antioxidant, and antifungal; increases elasticity; reduces inflammation and irritation; repairs sun damage and minimizes signs of skin aging
- Mint – antibacterial, anti-itch, anti-inflammatory; treats acne, redness, and irritation; cooling for skin inflammation
- Thyme – anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant; soothes skin irritation and inflammation; improves skin’s moisture retention
Once I had my proverbial “bank” of ingredients to choose from, I set out deciding which formulas would contain which herbs and teas, and decided on the following:
- Gentle – chamomile tea only. I wanted to leave out herbs to accommodate more sensitive skin types who might not tolerate an herbal infusion as well.
- Hydrating – chamomile tea and thyme. Chamomile tea is soothing for dry skin without being too astringent (like green tea). Thyme was the logical choice because of its ability to improve skin’s natural retention of moisture.
- Balancing – chamomile tea, green tea, thyme, and rosemary. For normal and combination skin, soothing chamomile and more astringent green tea were a balanced approach to reducing inflammation and managing oilier areas. Thyme helps drier areas maintain moisture while rosemary boosts elasticity and fights oxidation.
- Clarifying – green tea, thyme, rosemary, and mint. Green tea’s astringency helps to manage oilier skin types. Gentle thyme, antioxidant rosemary, and extra cooling mint combine to fight excess oil, redness, and inflammation.
After establishing the base proportions, teas, and herbs, the last elements were pH balancers, preservatives, and essential oils. I decided to use apple cider vinegar and lemon juice to adjust the pH because they are 100% natural and organic ingredients and are powerful in their own right - apple cider vinegar improves cellular turnover and lemon juice is brightening. The preservatives were an easy choice – my go-to probiotic preservatives, lactobacillus ferment. and lactobacillus and cocos nucifera extract were up for the task.
When it came to choosing the essential oils for each formula, of course I wanted something that would smell good, but first and foremost I wanted to choose an oil that would boost the power of the existing formula. After reflecting on the base of each formula, I decided on the following:
- Gentle – geranium essential oil. Rose geranium is one of the gentlest essential oils out there, and can be soothing for even the most sensitive skin. With the uncomplicated chamomile tea base, gentle and well-tolerated geranium was the logical choice.
- Hydrating – geranium and ylang ylang essential oil. Gentle geranium pairs well with soothing ylang ylang, which also helps improve circulation and therefore boost the skin’s natural moisture-producing powers.
- Balancing – rosemary essential oil. This powerful herbaceous antioxidant boosts the power of the whole rosemary used in this formula.
- Clarifying – peppermint essential oil. This powerful herbaceous anti-inflammatory boosts the power of the whole mint used in this formula.
While on paper it seems like a pretty smooth process, in reality it took several iterations before I was happy with the exact proportions in each formula. When I first launched, I released just the Balancing & Gentle formulas, and I was recently able to release Hydrating & Clarifying with the help of Luna Aesthetics & Spa.
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Until next time,