There are all kinds of products that fall into the category of toner, but in the natural beauty world what we call by the same name can actually be very different.
Used as a step between cleansing and moisturising, toners can do everything from tackling bacteria to balancing your skin’s pH. Many mainstream toners can often simply be different versions of alcohol mixed with water. Organic and natural toners, however, can be anything from gentle floral mists to herbal astringents; unsurprisingly they all have different things to offer to your skin.
Floral hydrosols are essentially distilled or purified water infused with the nutrients and components of the plant through a steam distillation process. They are also referred to as floral waters. Cheap versions are often simply water with a few drops of essential oils, but this is not the same thing as a real hydrosol.
Mountain Rose Herbs explains true hydrosols:
Hydrosols are like essential oils but in far less of a concentration. When a distiller brews plant material with water in a large cooker the steam fills the pot and, as it rises, it causes the glands of the plants to burst and release the oils and essence of the plant into the steam. The oil rises through a condenser and collects in a separate vessel. This is what we know as essential oil, but what about all that fragrant water that was steamed with the original plant material? That is our hydrosol, or floral water.
The steam distillation technique can be used with a huge variety of plants. Perhaps the most popular hydrosol is rose. As well as extracting the nutrients and essence of the plant, you get the beautiful, gentle scent of rose. No wonder it’s so popular – who can say no to the smell of a rose? Other common hydrosols are lavender, neroli and chamomile. Each has different properties, and you’re sure to be able to find one that’s suitable for your skin.
Hydrosols are ideal used alone as a mist or under your makeup. They’re perfect for mature or typically dry skin that needs a hydration boost. Whilst many contain natural acids from the plants, their astringent effect is mild. This means that they pair well with sensitive skin types thanks to their gentle nature.
Hello Charlie’s picks:
Rose hydrosols are suitable for all skin types. We love the pure and simple Mt Retour Organic Rose Hydrosol. Made from pure distilled rose water, it’s especially good for dry and delicate skins. And the smell – like walking into a rose garden!
The Organic Witch Hazel Toner from Oil Garden is also a hydrosol. It’s gently astringent, which makes it perfect for oily and acne prone skin. It’s also anti-inflammatory and gently antiseptic, as well as being soothing and calming on skin.
Whilst acid sounds like something that you should avoid putting on your skin at all costs, it can actually be a game changer! Of course, they’re not for every skin type. But if your skin can handle them, the exfoliating effect of natural acids in small doses can target anything from wrinkles to blemishes.
There are two main types; AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) which include glycolic and lactic acid and BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) which is salicylic acid. While these appear a lot in conventional beauty products as lab made compounds, they’re abundant in nature, too. They can be sourced from fruits and plants to be integrated into your green beauty regime.
Salicylic acid, for example, can be extracted from the bark of white willow trees. It’s ideal for acneic or congested skin types as it is oil soluble, so penetrates deep into the surface of the skin.
On the other hand AHAs aid cell turnover and boost collagen production, ultimately making the texture of the skin more refined and smooth. If you’re using these for the first time start slowly and use only once to twice a week, but if your skin tolerates it well you could even use daily.
Make sure to only use these at night, as they can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
Hello Charlie’s pick:
One of the nicest things about using exfoliating toners is that by removing dead skin cells they can make skin look brighter and more even. Anadalou Naturals’ Brightening Clementine & C Illuminating Toner does just this. It tops up the natural AHA glycolic acid with vitamin C, known for its ability to reduce hyperpigmentation. Get ready to glow!
For the majority of people the first thing that springs to mind when you say toner are these pore tightening tonics. Quite often these are alcohol based. Whilst natural grain alcohol is an option, the alcohols you usually find in toners can dry out your skin too much. Opt for witch hazel instead. It’s an extremely effective astringent which helps to keep oil production balanced without drawing moisture out of the skin. That’s great news for those who want to knock that shine on the head!
Look for natural astringents that are high in tannins; think tea, cranberry and pomegranate. They’re great for oily skin. And if you’re transitioning to green beauty, you’ll find that these ingredients will give you that same clean skin feeling as traditional toners.
Hello Charlie’s pick:
You really need to look no further than the Acure Balancing Rose + Red Tea Facial Toner . It’s alcohol free, and it uses both witch hazel and organic rooibos tea to keep excess oil at bay. The added bonus is soothing extracts of chamomile and calendula, making this a must have for everyday use.