Have you ever wondered if skin toner is the pet rock of beauty products – basically an attempt to get you to spend money on something you don’t need? I have!
The short answer to that question is that consumers that are slathering hormone-disrupting, synthetic cleansers on their face probably don’t need toner. However, if you use a natural cleanser, toner can really benefit your skin. I’ll explain why in this post, and share a simple recipe that you can make in under five minutes.
Why your skin needs acid, even if it isn’t oily
Soap, though fantastic for grimy armpits and such, is not great at preserving our skin’s built-in protection system: the acid mantle.
If you’ve never heard of it, the acid mantle is “like an invisible veil that keeps the good stuff (lipids, moisture) in and the bad stuff (pollution, bacteria) out. As the name indicates, the acid mantle is at its strongest—and therefore most naturally balanced—when the skin is slightly acidic, with an optimum pH of about 5.5.” (source)
When we wash with soap, two things happen . . .
1. We remove debris and transient bacteria from the environment. We also rinse away some of the good bacteria that are part of our natural microbiome, but those bacteria also live in the deeper layers of our skin that water doesn’t touch and therefore quickly repopulate.
2. Unfortunately, soap also changes the skin’s pH from acid to alkaline and washes off the “protective film” part of the mantle, which is sebum produced by our skin. Or as New York dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe put it, “The natural acidity in our skin can be disrupted when we use harsh cleansers and soaps. This in turn destroys the acid mantle protecting our skin from harmful bacteria, germs, and pollutants.”
So, how does apple cider vinegar benefit skin?
According to Dr. Bowe, apple cider vinegar “returns acidity to your skin and the malic acid in apple cider vinegar makes it antibacterial, wiping out bacteria.” Using a toner made with apple cider vinegar restores pH, and then all you need to do is smooth on moisturizer and you’re done!
It may also help to prevent premature aging. According to this article, skin “Alkalinity might also play a role in aging. A study published in British Journal of Dermatology by Greg Hillebrand, PhD, of P&G Beauty Science showed that women with an alkaline stratum corneum (the skin’s outermost layer) developed more fine lines and crow’s-feet than those with acidic skin over an eight-year period.” (emphasis mine)
I recommend this this hydrating skin repair face serum recipe or homemade tallow balm, which is uniquely compatible with our skin’s biology due to it’s similarity to the sebum that makes up our protective layer.
If you don’t have easy access to tallow or are short on time, my friend Emilie sells pre-made tallow balm blends that smell amazing. If you want to try it out, click here and use MOMMYPOTAMUS at checkout for 10% off your first order.
What are the benefits of apple cider vinegar for acne?
In this interview, New York dermatologist Sejal Shah, M.D., says that “While there haven’t been any scientific studies specifically evaluating apple cider vinegar for acne, the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar has both antibacterial and keratolytic properties.”
“In other words,” continues the article, “it has the potential to help zap your bumps from the source.”
Should I add essential oils?
It depends. I’ll explain in more detail below, but basically what you need to know is that different ratios of apple cider vinegar to water work for different people. If the formula that works best for you contains less than 50% apple cider vinegar, the essential oils will not disperse and instead will float on the top of the toner, making it very difficult to get an even application.
That’s why for this recipe I recommend using hydrosols, which are “flower waters” that have similar therapeutic properties as their essential oil counterparts, but work better in water-based formulas. Here are a few of my favorites for skincare:
- Organic Calendula Hydrosol – Gentle and soothing. Good for all skin types.
- Organic Lavender Hydrosol – Similar to calendula in properties, but smells like a field of lavender.
- Organic Helichrysum Hydrosol – Often called “The Everlasting Flower” due to it’s skin renewing properties.
- Organic Peppermint Hydrosol – Helpful for acne prone skin. Also makes a good homemade mouthwash.
- Organic Rose Hydrosol – Gentle and balancing. Good for anti-aging formulas.
- Organic Tea Tree Hydrosol – Helpful for acne prone skin.
Apple Cider Vinegar Toner Recipe
Because your skin is unique, the ratio of apple cider vinegar to water (or hydrosol) that works best for you may be different than what works best for someone else. In general, I recommend starting with apple cider vinegar that has been well-diluted (see the 1:4 ratio below), then increasing the amount of apple cider vinegar in the recipe if it makes your skin happy.
- raw apple cider vinegar (if you’re a DIY person, you can use apple scraps to make apple cider vinegar)
- distilled water or hydrosol (see recommended options above)
1:4 Ratio – Recommended for sensitive skin or if you’re just starting to use toner: Add 1 part apple cider vinegar to 4 parts distilled water or hydrosol. This can mean 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 4 tablespoons water/hydrosol, or 1 ounce vinegar to 4 ounces water/hydrosol.
1:3 Ratio – Add 1 part apple cider vinegar to 3 parts distilled water or hydrosol.
1:2 Ratio – Add 1 part apple cider vinegar to 2 parts distilled water or hydrosol.
1:1 Ratio – If adding essential oils, use this dilution and add a maximum of 3 drops lavender or tea tree essential oil per tablespoon of liquid. Mix the essential oils with the vinegar first, then add in the water/hydrosol and shake before using. For example, if you’re making 1/2 cup of toner, what you want to do is mix up to 24 drops essential oil in 1/4 cup vinegar, then add in 1/4 cup water or hydrosol and shake well.
Apply to skin using a cotton pad or clean cloth. Some people prefer to pour it into a small spray bottle and spritz it on – that works too! Allow the apple cider vinegar toner to dry, then follow with a moisturizer like this face serum recipe.
Don’t Want To Use Soap At All?
If you’d prefer to skip soap altogether, try the oil cleansing method or a honey face wash instead. Recipe for the face wash coming soon!