Do-It-Yourself at Home Beauty & Skin Care Secret: Aromatherapy Facial Toners


I guess I’ve got facials on the brain. Earlier this week, I posted about the benefits of essential oil facial steams, and today, I’m back to talk about facial toners. Before I owned a spa, I used to think that facial toners were one of those unnecessary items that the esthetician tried to sell me just to line her pockets. Not true. It turns out that toners are a very important part of your skin care regime, because they help to a) remove excess makeup; b) balance the acid mantle on your face (that the cleanser has usually taken off); c) hydrate and refresh; and d) serve as an astringent to stem any pus or blood or other liquids draining from any wounds, pimples, or comedones. (Sometimes you can scrub too hard or use too harsh of an exfoliant).

Anyway, while toners are a vital part of your skin care routine, they can also cost a pretty penny. A commercial toner from a high-end brand can sell for anywhere from $19 to $60 for a mere 4 to 8 ounces. In fact, the line I used to carry, Eminence Organics, retailed their “toniques” for $38 for a 4 ounce spray bottle. But with a little knowledge and some Aromatherapy trade secrets, you can substitute these expensive toners with just-as-effective products, or even make your own. And I’m about to share these secrets with you.

This nice little graphic shows how hydrosols, or "floral waters" come about in the steam distillation process.

Secret #1: Hydrosols make great facial toners. What is a hydrosol? A hydrosol (sometimes called “hydrolat” or “floral water”) is a by-product of the essential oil steam distillation process (although sometimes the hydrosol is the end-goal of the steam distillation, not the by-product). During this process, hot steam is moved through the plant material, forcing it to give up its “essence.” Once it does, the steam containing the essence is moved through a condenser and into a separator, where the oil is separated from the water. The oil is the essential oil, of course, and the water is the hydrosol. Many (but not all) of the essential oil’s chemical constituents are retained in the hydrosol, which means that it also retains many of the essential oil’s properties (the end-hydrosol usually contains about .02% essential oil, so it is highly diluted). And, hydrosols are quite affordable: depending upon the essential oil that was used to steam-distill the hydrosol, you can purchase it for $10 to $15 per 4 ounces.

Hydrosols are wonderful because they contain no alcohol whatsoever (which many toners do, and it can be very drying to the skin). Also, hydrosols are primarily acids, which make them useful as antiseptics and astringents – if you’ve noticed, bacteria do not thrive in an acidic environment. Now, your only question should be: which hydrosol should I use? Truthfully, any hydrosol whose smell you like will do, but here are my personal preferences depending upon skin concern and skin type:

  • For oily skin:
    • Lavender hydrosol
    • Orange Blossom hydrosol (also called Orange Flower Water)
  • For dry skin:
    • Rose hydrosol (it’s not nearly as expensive as the essential oil)
    • Chamomile hydrosol
  • For acneic skin:
    • Yarrow hydrosol
    • Rosemary hydrosol
    • Sage hydrosol
  • For hormonal skin:
    • Geranium hydrosol (also called “Rose Geranium”)
    • Vitex hydrosol
    • Clary sage hydrosol
  • For inflamed skin:
    • Cucumber hydrosol (very soothing!)
  • For cold sores:
    • Lemon balm hydrosol (also called “Melissa”)
    • A note: true Melissa essential oil is extremely rare and costly because it yields so little. If you see it on the market, it’s usually cut or adulterated and of low quality. The hydrosol, however, is much more reasonably priced. Lemon balm is a wonderful herb indicated for herpes and for lifting the spirits.

Found this beautiful illustration of witch hazel on a hemorrhoids treatment site! Har har.

Secret #2: Witch hazel hydrosol makes for a great toner. Witch hazel is the plant Hamamelis virginiana, and is called “witch hazel” because it blooms in January, not because it is used by cauldron-toting covens (well, then again, I wouldn’t know). Witch hazel is known to be highly astringent, and as such, is an ideal facial toner, especially for oily, acne-prone skin. The problem is, most of the witch hazel products you find in a drugstore is NOT suitable because they are not witch hazel hydrosols, but witch-hazel-in-alcohol. I wanted to call this out in particular because so many people will get fooled into buying the kind with alcohol…if you’re going to buy witch hazel as a toner, look in the ingredients list and make sure there is no alcohol. Or, you can just buy witch hazel hydrosol from a reputable on-line supplier.

Secret #3: You can make your own toners, too. By adding essential oils to distilled water, you can create your very own aromatherapy facial toners. This way, you can customize it to your particular needs. Here is how I recommend you make it:

  • A 4 oz glass bottle (preferably cobalt or amber, not clear)
  • An atomizer (a spray top, basically)
  • 2 oz of distilled water
  • 2 oz of your favorite hydrosol (OPTIONAL)
  • 45-60 drops of your favorite essential oils

First, add your distilled water to your hydrosol in the glass bottle. If you don’t have hydrosol, that is fine, just use 4 ounces of distilled water (make sure it’s distilled!). Or, if you want to use an all-hydrosol base, then just add 4 ounces of the hydrosol to the glass bottle. Then, add your essential oils – the rules for choosing the essential oils for toners are similar to what I outlined in a past post on how to make essential oil skin care blends. Finally, screw on the spray top, shake shake shake, and then spray spray spray! You will enjoy your personalized toner so much.

Here’s what goes into my personal facial toner:

  • 2 ounces of Orange Blossom Hydrosol
  • 2 ounces of Rose Hydrosol
  • 15 drops of Geranium (for hormone-balancing)
  • 15 drops of Immortelle (for rejuvenating)
  • 15 drops of Palmarosa (for hydrating)
  • 15 drops of Yarrow (to prevent breakouts and pimples)

Want to make your very own facial toner, but want to ask questions about what the ideal toner would be for YOU? Go ahead and ask away below in the comments section. I will respond as promptly and quickly as I can!



About Mare

is a Master Herbalist, Certified Aromatherapist, and enthusiastic natural mommy to a beautiful tot of 2, the Little Apple. She shares her parenting adventures (sometimes mis-adventures) via this blog.
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3 Responses to Do-It-Yourself at Home Beauty & Skin Care Secret: Aromatherapy Facial Toners

  1. Paige Fisher says:

    How long do you think the toner you mentioned at the bottom would last? (the one you use) And also where do you purchase your oils from and what do you think the average price is for you to make that toner? Thank you!

    • Mare says:

      Hi Paige,

      Good questions! Let me price out everything and get back to you. Just wanted to acknowledge that I received your comment and am working on it. – Mare

    • Mare says:

      Hi Paige. Mea culpa. It’s taken me forever to get back to you. I felt so bad, and your question so good, that I decided to devote an entire blog post to it. You can find the answers to the questions you raise above here. Thank you so much for your patience.

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