Toner is used to aid in the cleansing process of your face. Cleaner and unclogged skin is able to respond better to moisturizers and serums you apply afterwards. If you use a really good toner with antioxidants and skin soothing ingredients, it can also hydrate and replenish your skin.


When it came to choosing a recipe for my DIY toner I didn’t have to look far. Last year I read Grace Charlotte’s post on DIY Toner and was intrigued. Her choice of ingredients? Apple Cider Vinegar, Tea Tree Oil and purified water.


Rather than blindly following and hoping for the best, I turned to Cheri Cochrane – skin expert and owner of Dermology Sandton for an opinion on DIY Cosmetics.


“You can get very hydrating plants and natural ingredients. I’ve experimented with them and they won’t do any harm. I’m not against them at all but you have to do your homework to see which ingredients you can use.


For example, Aloe Vera and tea tree are known for their healing properties but using them neat on the skin is never a good idea, it burns the skin and needs to be diluted and mixed with other creams.”


Her top tip: You have to be careful – you can’t put just anything on your face. It’s all about research.


So I researched both tea tree oil and Apple Cider Vinegar ad nauseam and settled on the opinion of aesthetician Veronica Gorgeois. Ever since following her advice on bentonite clay powder, I’ve come to value her no-nonsense educated view on products and ingredients.


1. Tea Tree oil


“Tea tree is both good and possibly bad, depending on your skin and circumstances. It does not fall under the classification of fragrant (or volatile) plant oils but can have the potential for high irritation. It is also a very effective antiseptic treatment that can be a good spot treatment for acne, and even cold sores. I think it’s alright to try in very small amounts on small areas, but if you show any signs of irritation, use a carrier oil, like jojoba or grapeseed, to dilute it.”


2. Apple Cider Vinegar


“It’s not a good idea to use [Apple Cider Vinegar] at 100% concentration, not that I don’t think it’s a valid or worthwhile ingredient overall. It’s not like lemon oil and lemon juice, which never belong on the face at any concentration. I don’t object to using diluted ACV–a lot of people really love ACV, and it can have very beneficial actions. Just keep pH in mind, and dilute it with water. If you want to use it as a toner, dilute it about 50/50, in a mask, about 67/33 (ACV/h20) or 75/25, and as a spot tx, about 75/25.”


I was finally ready. I used the 50/50 ratio, mixing 15ml of Apple Cider Vinegar with 15ml water in a handy spray bottle and tipped in 6 drops of Tea Tree Oil just as Grace Charlotte had. It took all of a minute to add and shake the ingredients together so I could spritz the solution on a cotton pad.


I tried DIY toner


It smelt like a salad – a salad that died. It seriously stank and my fear stepped up a few notches.


Isn’t it strange how we’ll so thoughtlessly use any store bought toner without understanding all the ingredients, knowing for sure some are bad for you and just because it’s in a pretty bottle with a pleasant fragrance?


The toner I was using contains water, Alcohol Denat, Salicylic Acid, Witch Hazel, Butylene Glycol, Glycerine, Trehalose, Sodium Hyaluronate, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA, BHT, Phenoxyethanol, Benzophenone-4, EXT.Violet 2, RED 6, & Orange 4. I can’t tell you what all of them are, but I can say that Alcohol Denat, in particular, is an ingredient that is warned against.


I ignored the smell and used my new DIY Toner for 10 days straight and this is what happened (With some handy hints):


  • It stank.
  • Once I applied my moisturiser on top of it, the smell was diluted considerably.
  • The earlier in a night that I applied it, the less potent it smelled when I went to bed.
  • When I woke up in the morning days 1-3, my skin looked seriously good. It was brighter, less oily and I didn’t feel the need to dust on any powders pre-workout.
  • I try to convince my sisters to use it, but to no avail – they were scared and the smell wasn’t helping convince them
  • Day 4 welcomed a pimple. On my chin, on a day I historically get pimples, but naturally, I wanted to blame the toner. Nevertheless, I continued.
  • Days 5-8, pimple disappeared and I was back to loving my morning face.
  • Day 9. I got a new pimple, again on my chin. This time I definitely believed it was the toner but gave it another try. I started to notice it made my face feel slightly sticky when used with a light moisturiser as opposed to a thicker cream.
  • Day 10, my pimple was still there but hadn’t worsened. I decided I was done and abandoned the DIY Toner.
  • Day 11, pimple still there, my chin is looking a bit splotchy. I still have half a bottle left so decide I’m ready to try it again.
  • Day 13, chin has cleared and as I’m applying my morning moisturiser I realise my skin is feeling incredibly soft. I decide I’m going to keep up with this toner after all.


Want to give it a try? Shop the ingredients you need below, but before you do, there is only one rule you need to follow.


If you share your bed with anyone, it is unnecessarily cruel to use this toner. It was good, but the results were not groundbreaking to the point that you could justify attacking your partner’s nostrils. Save it for solo nights, or find a different recipe.


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