The 21st Century HerbalistDIY Skin Care Month: Step 2 – Astringents and TonersKatie Glenn

Welcome, Gigglers, to week 3 of DIY Skin Care Month.  Today we’re talking about toners and astringents, and the reasons you should you use them.  Both toners and astringents are water-based solutions that are applied to the skin after cleansing but before moisturizing. They help remove excess oil and perspiration, along with any residue left behind by your cleanser.  They also balance your skin’s pH level while preparing it to better absorb your moisturizer.

Astringent vs. Toner
Astringents are usually stronger than toners, often containing isopropyl alcohol or acetone (yes, the stuff that nail polish remover is made with), which can be drying and harmful to your skin.  Astringents should only be used on oily, combination and normal skin types.  Toners are gentler than astringents and can be used on all skin types but are especially beneficial to those with dry or sensitive skin.  Currently there are not any regulations on the beauty product industry that verify the correct term is being used on a product, so read the ingredients.

Why is skin pH important?
As you may remember from your high school chemistry class, pH (potential hydrogen) is a measure of how much hydrogen something contains.  There is a standard scale that ranges from 0 (the most acidic) to 14 (the most basic) with 7 being neutral.  Healthy, balanced skin usually has a pH between 5 and 6.  Cleansers can leave residue on the skin’s surface and/or strip your skin of it’s natural acid mantle, changing your skin’s pH.  The acid mantle is a protective layer that your skin forms from the secretions of your sweat and oil glands.  This acid mantle and a proper pH prevent your skin from drying out and discourage bacterial penetration (which forms acne and blackheads).  When your skin pH is off, your skin will try to regulate itself by secreting more oil or sweat to the acid mantle…leading to acne, oily skin and even dry skin.  Toners and astringents reduce the likelihood of this by restoring your skin’s proper pH level.

DIY All-Natural and Gentle Skin Toners
There are so many toners on the market today but if you’re looking for a quick and cheap toner that is all-natural and effective, give one of the toners below a try.  This is just a small list of the many choices available.  If you have a favorite toner that you use, share it in the comments, along with your skin type because I always like to hear about what’s working for others!

To use any of the above toners, apply them to freshly cleaned skin using a soft cotton ball or pad.  Allow the toner to dry and follow with your favorite moisturizer.  If you prefer to skip the cotton, you can put the toner into a reusable spray bottle with a fine mist spray nozzle.  Spray your skin and allow to dry before applying your moisturizer.
That’s it for this week and as always, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll get back to you!

Next Week: DIY Skin Care Month – Step 3: Moisturizer

image via: istockphoto.com

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  1. I used to use Clinique toners because I have always had combination/oily skin but I realized that they were doing more damage than good, drying out my face to only produce more oil. Now I use Avalon Organics Vitamin C Balancing Facial Toner, it has made a HUGE difference to my complexion! I think a lot of people are under the impression that using a drying (alcohol based) toner on acne prone skin is how to get rid of the acne, but it just irritates the skin instead. Thanks for sharing these tips with us! I’m really looking forward to trying green tea or chamomile tea as a toner in the near future!

  2. I just want to say that this series is changing my perspective on skin care! I don’t know why I’d always treated my skin like a problem child, but I did. This is teaching me that if I just let it do it’s own thing a little more is actually incredibly well behaved. And such easy cheap solutions! Thank you so much, Katie.

    Have you ever done anything on under eye circles? If so could you post a link here? If not maybe after DIY skin care month? Pretty please??

    Anonymous | 5/21/2012 07:05 am
    • Aww, thank you so much for saying such sweet things! I’m so happy to help and I love that so many gigglers shared their natural solutions too.
      This week is all about moisturizers and next week (the last week of DIY Skin Care Month) will be all about the eyes! I’ll make sure there is a section for under eye circles. :)
      Thanks again for your lovely compliment!

  3. I use straight-up green tea as a toner, even though I have acne prone skin. It gives my skin a brighter, more even complexion and has significantly improved the marks blemishes leave behind. Usually I brew the tea as soon as I wake up, let it steep while I’m showering, cool down while i’m getting my outfit and things together, then apply it and moisturize :) Sometimes I don’t do it if I’m too tired or in a hurry, but I swear my skin looks and feels worse on those days!

    • Such a great and easy ritual! Green tea is high in antioxidants, so it definitely helps brighten skin and prevent acne. It also has strong anti-inflammatory properties, so it can reduce the swelling sometimes associated with blemishes. Love this idea, thanks for sharing with everyone!

  4. I use witch hazel and love it, but before that I used to use chamomile tea (2 bags steeped in water in a jar I kept in my fridge for about a week) It cleared up my skin and gave it a healthy glow, the only reason I don’t anymore because I always forget to buy more tea :p

    • Hahaha, get to the store! :) For the readers that want to give this a try, it’s a great suggestion! Brew the tea (about 1 bag per cup of water) in distilled water for 20-30 minutes. Any time you’re brewing herbs for medicinal use, always steep for at least 20 minutes. Thanks Katrina!

  5. That sounds like a good one too. If you have sensitive, sometimes dry skin, then I would stay away from the tea tree oil, while it is great stuff, you may experience a reaction to it. For anyone with dry or sensitive skin, I always have them start with the gentle stuff first then move up if needed. For you, I would recommend leaving out the lemon juice and tea tree oil. If you’re looking for a way to achieve a more-even skin tone (ie. acne scar healing) you could add chamomile tea to the mix. I’d say, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 cup green tea and 1 cup chamomile tea. Both the chamomile and green tea will help reduce acne scaring and even skin tone, but should be gentle enough not to irritate your skin. For the dryness, I would suggest doing a honey mask like this one: http://hellogiggles.com/calming-oatmeal-facial. Once a week, should help and it’s gentle. Thanks for stopping by!

    Katie Glenn | 5/17/2012 01:05 pm
  6. I am curious to try this (but haven’t gotten around to it):
    http://www.cutoutandkeep.net/projects/acnescar-reducing-toner

    I have been using Neutrogena Alcohol Free Toner for the last few years & like it quite a bit. It’s the only Neutrogena product that I have liked. I have very sensitive, combination skin…sometimes on the dry side.

    • That sounds like a good one too. If you have sensitive, sometimes dry skin, then I would stay away from the tea tree oil, while it is great stuff, you may experience a reaction to it. For anyone with dry or sensitive skin, I always have them start with the gentle stuff first then move up if needed. For you, I would recommend leaving out the lemon juice and tea tree oil. If you’re looking for a way to achieve a more-even skin tone (ie. acne scar healing) you could add chamomile tea to the mix. I’d say, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 cup green tea and 1 cup chamomile tea. Both the chamomile and green tea will help reduce acne scaring and even skin tone, but should be gentle enough not to irritate your skin. For the dryness, I would suggest doing a honey mask like this one: http://hellogiggles.com/calming-oatmeal-facial. Once a week, should help and it’s gentle. Thanks for stopping by!

      Katie Glenn | 5/17/2012 01:05 pm
  7. I have weird combonation skin so everything is an experiment. But I started using this as a toner and it really calmed my skin down. (Which reminds me I’m all out and have to buy more) Thayer – Witch Hazel Toner-Rose Petal with Aloe Vera and its alcohol free.

    • That sounds lovely! I usually use apple cider vinegar as the base for my toner but next time I’m making rose water, I’ll use witch hazel instead. Thanks for sharing!

      Katie Glenn | 5/17/2012 01:05 pm
  8. I use a toner from Clinique which I love, but it is pricey. I will definately give some of these a try. Hopefully one will work. BTW will lemon water or vinegar water keep for a week or two without growing bacteria in the bottle?

    • I used to love Clinique toners but they were a bit pricey. I use only the homemade (specifically the “easy herbal and apple cider toner” recipe above) and I’ve been thrilled with it! My skin has never looked better…and that’s saying something. The lemon water lasts quite a while (at least 3 weeks) because of the high acid content. The apple cider vinegar acts as a preservative and I’ve never had a batch go bad on me and I made the last batch back in November! Anytime you dilute something that will not be refrigerated, hedge your bets and use distilled water instead of tap or filtered water. I hope one of these works for you, they’ve been magic for me!

      Katie Glenn | 5/17/2012 01:05 pm
  9. Someone (online that I don’t actually know) suggested a mix of apple cider vinegar, green tea, and rose water. Ever heard of that? I use diluted vinegar, but I feel like it doesn’t quite clean up my skin enough.

    • All of those are great ingredients for the skin. I presume the green tea is for the antioxidant content. If you wanted to use this mix, then you should first clean your face, pat it dry then apply this as a toner before you moisturize. This would NOT work well as a cleanser, but as a toner, it’s good. When mixing I would use, 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of green tea and 1 cup of rose water. If you are brewing your own green tea and rose water, use distilled water instead of tap water. You can also use rose water as a toner by itself or the diluted apple cider vinegar by itself. I wouldn’t want to use the green tea by itself, it’s not a very good antiseptic. Hope that helps!

      Katie Glenn | 5/17/2012 01:05 pm