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You can make your own toner to add to your skin care routine, or buy one at the store. But once you have toner, what do you do with it?

While some skin care products like moisturizers are self-explanatory, the purpose of toner can be a bit more confusing.

Toner is usually a liquid that looks and feels a bit like water, though it may not always be clear. Used directly after cleansing, toner helps:

Apply toner right after washing your face. Toner helps break down any residue that’s left after cleansing. It leaves your face extra clean so it can absorb whatever products come next.

There’s no need to rinse off toner. In fact, it works better if it’s allowed to absorb.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to make your own DIY toners at home and which store-bought options are worth a try.

Whether it’s a tried-and-true skin care regimen, how often you wash your hair, or the cosmetics you’re curious about, beauty is personal.

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If you know a certain ingredient works well for your skin, you may want to use it in your own DIY toner. Below is a list of DIY toners by ingredient.

Keep in mind that because these homemade toners don’t have any preservatives, you’ll want to store them in your refrigerator and discard them after 2 to 3 days.

If you’re using an ingredient for the first time, always do a skin patch test and wait at least 30 minutes to see how your skin responds before applying it to your face.

1. Witch hazel

Witch hazel is an astringent that can calm:

  • irritation
  • inflammation
  • acne

You can spray pure witch hazel onto your face or apply it with a cotton pad. It’s soothing to your skin and may reduce the appearance of pores.

You can also try this DIY recipe:

  • 4 tbsp. witch hazel — make sure it’s alcohol-free, otherwise it will be drying
  • 2 tbsp. aloe vera
  • a few drops of your favorite essential oil

Thoroughly mix the ingredients together, then funnel the toner into a spray bottle or apply it to your face using clean hands or a cotton pad.

2. Aloe vera

Aloe vera brightens your skin and may help fight acne. It’s also moisturizing, so it’s a great toner to use for dry skin.

Try this easy DIY toner recipe that works well for sensitive skin. It’s a hydrating, antioxidant-packed toner that may help calm redness:

  • 1/2 cup rose water
  • 1/2 cup aloe vera

Mix together thoroughly, then apply to your clean, dry skin.

3. Essential oils

Essential oils can add a great scent to DIY toners. Some also have helpful properties for your skin.

Tea tree oil is a popular option for healing acne, but keep in mind it’s very strong and may cause a tingling or burning sensation on irritated areas. You can also consider these essential oils:

  • lavender
  • chamomile
  • clary sage
  • geranium
  • sandalwood
  • rose
  • jasmine

Try this DIY toner:

  • 1 tbsp. witch hazel
  • 1/2 tsp. vitamin E oil, which may be helpful for acne scars
  • 3 drops of lavender essential oils

While research suggests there are health benefits, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil and dilute any essential oil with a carrier oil so it doesn’t burn your skin.

4. Rosewater toner

Rose water can naturally balance your skin’s pH, which can get out of balance if you use a cleanser that’s too alkaline or an exfoliator that’s too acidic. Rose water is also gentle and hydrating, and it smells great.

Try this DIY rosewater toner:

  • 1 tbsp. rose water
  • 1 tbsp. alcohol-free witch hazel

Combine all ingredients and mist over your entire face.

5. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can naturally exfoliate your skin, making it look brighter and more even.

Try this soothing DIY toner recipe, which includes calming chamomile. Chamomile fights bacteria without changing the skin’s pH, and honey adds hydration:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 chamomile tea bag
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

6. Green tea

Green tea is rich in antioxidants, which can help neutralize free radicals. Plus, it’s naturally anti-inflammatory, so it may reduce redness.

Before you use this DIY toner, make sure the tea has totally cooled:

  • 1/3 cup green tea
  • 3–4 drops tea tree essential oil

Shake ingredients together before misting the toner over your face.

7. Cucumber witch hazel toner

Cucumber water is cooling, hydrating, and soothing to red, overheated, or irritated skin.

Try this simple toner:

  • 1 tbsp. cucumber water
  • 1 tbsp. alcohol-free witch hazel

Combine all ingredients and mist over your entire face.

You may want a DIY toner recipe that addresses a specific skin concern, whether that be:

  • aging
  • dryness
  • hyperpigmentation

Below are a few ideas for various skin concerns.

7. Aging skin

If you’re looking for anti-aging (or as we like to say, pro-aging) power, you’ll want to pick a moisturizing toner full of antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, so your skin isn’t as affected by damage from pollution or the sun.

You can try this antioxidant-rich green tea and pomegranate toner, as pomegranate may increase collagen production:

  • 1/4 cup green tea
  • 1/8 cup pure pomegranate juice
  • 1/8 cup filtered water

Make sure the steeped tea has cooled before combining ingredients in a spray bottle. Store in the refrigerator.

8. Dry skin

Dry skin can be caused by a variety of factors, including a lack of moisture in the air. So when making a DIY toner, you’ll want to make sure it has hydrating ingredients.

Cucumber is over 90 percent water, which makes it moisturizing. Combine it with aloe vera for extra hydration.

Give this DIY toner a try:

  • 1 grated or pulverized cucumber
  • 3–4 tbsp. fresh aloe gel

Combine ingredients together until a watery consistency is achieved. You may need to add a few teaspoons of distilled water or blend the ingredients to get the desired liquid consistency.

9. Natural glow

If your skin is in pretty good shape, you may want to give it just a little brightening boost.

Rice water is a simple ingredient found in many beauty products because it has a lot of nutrients and antioxidants that the skin can absorb.

You can easily make rice water by soaking rice — ideally jasmine rice — in cool water for at least 2 hours. Overnight is better:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tbsp. jasmine rice

Soak the rice in water for 2 hours, then strain it. Bottle the liquid and use it as a mist to refresh your face.

10. Acne scars

Acne scars can be difficult to treat, but using the right toner may help your skin’s appearance.

Apple cider vinegar is an astringent, which means it can kill bacteria and help neutralize the skin’s pH. This DIY toner can be diluted more for sensitive skin:

  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. distilled water

11. Large pores

If your skin is oily, you may experience large or noticeable pores. Using a toner with witch hazel can help reduce the appearance of pores, because witch hazel is a strong astringent that can help clean out pores:

  • 2 tbsp. witch hazel
  • 3 drops aloe vera

12. Combination skin

Combination skin is skin that’s dry in some places and oily in others. If you have combination skin, you may have trouble finding skin care products that fit your needs.

Cranberry provides pro-aging support. When combined with rose water and witch hazel, it makes a soothing toner that won’t add oiliness or dry out your skin.

  • 2 tbsp. cranberry juice
  • 2 tbsp. rose water
  • 1/2 cup witch hazel

13. Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is dark spots from acne or sun damage. Hyperpigmentation can be hard to completely reverse, but some ingredients may make it less noticeable.

Lemon juice contains alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and vitamin C that can speed up cell renewal and ultimately lighten dark spots. Coconut water is gentle and hydrating:

  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 3 tbsp. coconut water

Combine ingredients and pour into a spray bottle, then mist.

Use extreme caution when using lemon on the skin. Overuse of lemon juice and other citrus products can lead to photosensitivity, actually causing darkening in the skin. Never go out in sun and always apply sunscreen after using lemon juice on the skin, especially the face.

Store-bought toner isn’t necessarily better than DIY toner. It just comes down to what you’re looking for in a product.

With DIY, you have total control over what goes into a product and can keep it 100 percent natural.

Store-bought toners may have preservatives in them, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on the preservative used. This also means it will keep longer.

Whether any toner will make a noticeable difference in skin care concerns is up for debate. Talk with your dermatologist if you have specific skin issues that you’d like to address.

Still have questions? We’ve got you covered.

What is a natural face toner?

A “natural” face toner is a toner without alcohol, preservatives, or synthetic ingredients. Synthetic ingredients are those made in a lab.

Instead, natural toners contain ingredients you’re more likely to recognize, like cucumber, rose water, and witch hazel.

What skin type needs toner?

Every skin type can benefit from toner. It’s especially useful for those who wear makeup or use heavy products during the day, like sunscreen. Toner can help remove the residue left behind.

Acne-prone and oily skin can also benefit from toner because it helps to absorb excess sebum. Even dry skin can benefit from hydrating toners, like those that contain aloe vera and rose water.

What ingredients should I avoid in a toner?

When looking for a toner, avoid irritating ingredients such as:

  • alcohol, ethanol, or methanol (all forms of alcohol)
  • menthol
  • fragrance
  • citrus
  • cinnamon

Astringents like witch hazel may also be irritating for dry or sensitive skin.

Is rice water a toner?

Similar to rose water, rice water has been used for centuries for the skin, particularly as a skin toner.

The vitamins and minerals in rice may have benefits for the skin, though more research is needed. Rice water may also help form a barrier over the skin to protect from water loss.

In a 2018 study, 12 volunteers used a topical gel formulation containing rice water for 28 days. Rice water was found to be a beneficial anti-aging ingredient that’s “biocompatible with the human skin.” Rice water also showed antioxidant activity and an elastase inhibitory, or anti-inflammatory, effect in vitro.

A small 2020 study found that amazake, a traditional Japanese health drink made with rice alcohol, may decrease sebum and dark circles when ingested.

More studies are needed to determine whether topically applied rice water is effective for the skin.

If you decide to buy a toner from a store, there are plenty of great options at varying price points. You may want to consider trying:

There are times when you may want to reach out to a dermatologist about your skin care needs. If your acne is painful or seems to be getting worse, it’s always a good idea to contact a doctor.

If you’re experiencing the following symptoms, it’s also wise to connect with a dermatologist who will help you get to the root of the issue:

  • bleeding
  • pus
  • pain
  • a burning sensation

Toner is the skin care step that comes directly after cleansing. It’s a liquid product you can apply with your hands or a cotton pad or spray directly using a spray bottle.

Toner can help remove grime or makeup that’s left over after cleaning. It can also neutralize the skin’s pH, which may change due to cleanser use.

There are plenty of easy DIY toners you can make at home. Just remember to store them in the refrigerator and throw them away after 2 to 3 days, as DIY options have no preservatives.