Make a clarifying skin toner

Make a clarifying skin toner

I was always envious of those girls with luminous, smooth, glowing skin.

Skin that looked refined and buffed.  Grandma might have called it ‘porcelain’ or ‘peaches-and-cream’.  That was never me.  I tend towards oily skin and big pores.  Glowing skin?  Yes, I glow.  But more from the greasies than some ethereal internal luminescence.

So making my own skincare has been a revelation for me.

Using the Oil Cleansing Method and Luxe facial oil have really normalized and improved my skin.  (I know, putting OIL on oily skin! Who woulda thunk it?)

And recently I have heard from a lot of readers who are struggling with oily, congested skin with pimples, acne and blackheads.  It seemed like a good time to create a third product we could add to our cleansing routine.  A product especially for the oily-skin prone among us!  (Don’t worry, dry skin types … I’ll describe how you could adapt this recipe to work for you too!)

4 really specific ingredients.

This skin toner only has 4 ingredients.  Just mix them together, et voila! skin toner.

But each ingredient has a really specific purpose.  I’ve chosen the ingredients based on the traditional medicinal usage.  They’re not just included to smell nice.  These ingredients work.


I believe if an ingredient or remedy has been used for hundreds of years for a specific purpose – it probably works.

(Otherwise, it would have passed from memory like a fad.)

On the other side of the coin, if there are hundreds of remedies for a specific condition, it’s probably because none of them work reliably for everyone (think: weight loss remedies or cold remedies.)

Let’s take a look at why these 4 ingredients are included in the Clarifying Skin Toner.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

You want to find a high-quality, raw / unpasteurized apple cider vinegar “with the mother”.  This is the true fermented ACV that generations of humans used.

ACV is an acid, and has long been known as a home remedy or ‘folk cure’ for zillions of ailments.  Many of these remedies aren’t true, of course.  But recently ACV has had a resurgence of popularity to take internally and externally for health and beauty.  I use Apple Cider Vinegar in my rosemary-nettle hair rinse and also in this homemade sports drink.  (Plus, I drink a tablespoon in water every morning as a local alternative to starting the morning with hot water and lemon.)

Apple Cider Vinegar in this toner is all about maintaining the pH of the skin.  Our skin is naturally at a pH of 5.5 or lower (slightly acidic).  Soap is very alkaline and will disrupt the pH of the skin, but it has been shown that even normal tap water can change the pH of our skin! (source)  Using ACV in the toner adds more acid to the skin, to bring it closer to the ideal skin pH.

Since ACV is an acid, it can irritate very sensitive skin.  If you find this toner too strong, just add more water and less ACV.  You may be able to increase the amount of ACV over time as your skin adjusts (up to a maximum of 50% ACV).

Where to buy Apple Cider Vinegar:  Look for raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar “with the mother” in your local health food shop. Or buy ACV online here.


Witch Hazel (Hamamelis)

You’ve probably heard of witch hazel before.  It’s used in many natural beauty products and is widely available in drugstores and pharmacies.

Witch Hazel is a cooling, anti-inflammatory and astringent (toning & tightening) plant.

Because of its cooling, soothing, tightening action, it’s used for varicose veins … and hemorrhoids (piles)!

But don’t let that dissuade you from using this lovely ingredient in your skin toner.

Adding witch hazel will tighten and tone your skin which is a great addition for slightly greasy, large-pored complexions!

When buying Witch Hazel, you need to read the ingredients.  Often you find witch hazel with alcohol.  I prefer using ‘distilled witch hazel’ or ‘witch hazel hydrosol’ which is simply witch hazel in water.  You can use the alcohol-based on in this toner, but keep in mind it will be more drying than the water-based witch hazel.  So you may want to use less.

Where to buy Witch Hazel:  In your local pharmacy or drug store!  You can also buy it online here.


Calendula (Marigold) Infusion

dried_calendula Ahhh golden, gorgeous marigolds!  Marigolds are amazing for healing the skin.  If you have any blemishes or scarring, including this plant will help your skin to repair itself and heal.

If you don’t have dried calendula available, you could also use Chamomile (just make some chamomile tea!) which would be very soothing and gentle on the skin.

Or just use rosewater.

But specifically for people with acne and pimples (ie, little abraisons on the skin) I think calendula is a really nice addition to this toner.

Where to buy dried Calendula / Marigolds: You can buy dried calendula online here.


Vegetable Glycerine

Glycerine is a humectant which means it attracts water.  Adding glycerine makes a silkier toner, and also attracts moisture from the air into the skin.

You don’t want to use too much glycerine, because over time it will draw moisture FROM the skin into it as well, which can be drying.  But a little glycerine in the toner really improves the texture.

Glycerine is optional, but I like to include it for texture and moisturization.

You want to buy vegetable glycerine which is produced from vegetable oils, as opposed to other glycerine which can be a byproduct of petroleum, yuck.

Where to buy Vegetable Glycerine: You can find vegetable glycerine in your local pharmacy, or online here.



Clarifying Skin Toner

  • 40 ml Apple Cider Vinegar ((preferably raw and unpasteurized))
  • 40 ml Calendula infusion ((or chamomile infusion or rosewater))
  • 15 ml Witch Hazel ((preferably water-based))
  • 5 ml vegetable glycerine
  1. (Makes 100ml / scant 1/2 cup of skin toner)

    Make the calendula (or chamomile) infusion by putting a spoonful of dried herbs in a cup of freshly boiled water. (You can drink the rest of the infusion that you don’t use!)

  2. Mix all ingredients together in a bottle.

  3. Apply with a cotton pad after cleansing your face (avoid eyes!) and follow with moisturizer.

  4. The finished product does smell like weak apple cider vinegar. So if that puts you off, try using less ACV, or adding 2 drops of an essential oil (like rose or lavender).

  5. Recipe adjustment ideas for…

  6. Dry skin: Leave out the witch hazel altogether and instead use an extra 15ml (1 Tb) of rosewater.

  7. Sensitive skin: Use half the amount of ACV. Replace the witch hazel with rosewater. You might use chamomile infusion instead of calendula because it’s so soothing.

About the author

Amanda Cook is an author, entrepreneur, and alchemist. She helps successful women create lives of meaning & magic by connecting with the seasons. Her work has appeared on BBC Radio 4, The Sunday Telegraph, Natural Health UK Magazine, and more. Learn more at

Amanda Cook is an author, entrepreneur, and alchemist. She helps successful women create lives of meaning & magic by connecting with the seasons. Her work has appeared on BBC Radio 4, The Sunday Telegraph, Natural Health UK Magazine, and more. Learn more at

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  1. Hi Amanda, This toner is great! Working for me, it removes dead skin cells and dirts too, it also hydrates my skin. Thank you so much. From Nigeria.

  2. Thank you for this post! Was wondering if ACV, Witch Hazel or Veg Glycerine were natural preservatives and can prolong shelf life of this DIY toner? Also what’s the difference in terms of benefits of Witch Hazel and ACV? aren’t they both ph balancing and toning?

  3. Hi ! Ive gone through a lot of reasearch about using an apple cider vinegar as a toner. And mostly of it said that it has to be the unfiltered one. But unfortunately, I cant seem to find one here on my area, so I only had the filtered one and it said that it is made from juiced apples and diluted with water. It also had a 5% acidity. Does this thing still works? Is it safe to apply it on my face ? Im hoping for your response soon :). Thanks !

  4. Hi Amanda I’ve heard lavender oil is also good for skin? And how do you cleanse with oils?

  5. Hi! Bought a mixture similar to this, but I’m hoping to use this recipe to make my own. If want to add ylang ylang essential oil, how much would you recommend adding? Thank you!

  6. hello Amanda this is my first time here… I’ve used a dozen products for my face and nothing seems to be working, I have oily skin and it’s prone to acne plus I have dark scars left behind by the pimples… I’m at a loss, could you recommend a natural mixture for me and the best brands to look out for and how best to store it… hope to hear from you soon. Thanks

    1. Hi Annie – for oily skin definitely start with the Hot Cloth Cleanser – it’s a kind of ‘oil cleansing method’ which has really balanced out the oil production for many people. Also it’s worth looking at dietary causes as well, for example dairy products and sugar can trigger outbreaks in some people.

  7. Do you have to put it on with a cotton ball? I made one weeks ago, very similar to this, and just put it in a spray bottle and spritz it on my face after I wash. But I haven’t yet been blown away like others who have commented here. Does it really make a difference how it gets to our face?

    1. Hi Mia, sure you could apply it either way, but I do think that using a cotton ball has a gentle exfoliation action, “sweeping away the excess cleanser / dead skin cells” etc. Whereas when you spray on a toner, IMO that’s more for refreshing your makeup / complexion during the day. Give it a try with a cotton ball and let us know?

  8. I have made small batches twice and I really like this toner (using alcohol free cucumber witch hazel and chamomile tea instead of calendula) but I was wondering if this needs to be refrigerated or can I just keep it in my bathroom cabinet?

    1. Hi Jill – I’ve left mine on the bathroom counter without a problem – for a month or so. You need to watch it because it contains water, but the ACV does act as a gentle preservative. Just make small batches (ie, for a month) and you should be fine.

  9. Hi Amanda,

    I just gathered all the ingredients needed to make the toner and the luxe facial oil. I just started trying natural skin care methods and so far I have been rinsing with diluted ACV and moisturizing with coconut oil after, which I have already seen results. I was wondering what the best way to incorporate the toner and luxe facial oil into my regimen would be? I plan to replace the diluted ACV with the toner but when should I use the luxe facial oil?


    1. Hi Megan, I do a 3 step system: cleanse, tone, moisturize. So you can use the luxe facial oil as a moisturizer, or if you already have a preferred moisturizer, you can use it as an evening treat before your moisturizer. Keep in mind it doesn’t contain sunscreen so if using it daytime (I do), you need to apply sunscreen separately.

  10. Hi there! I’m thinking of doing this more skin because I’m been leaning more towards home-made skincare for a while. I do have a question though, is there any adjustments for combination skin? My skin is really oily at the t-zone but dry around the corners of my mouth and cheeks. Hope you can help! Appreciate it loads! xx

    1. Hi Siti, in that case I would only apply this toner to your oily areas (T-zone). Then finish with a moisturizer all-over.

  11. Can this be used on the body, say after you shower? Have tons of marigold petals and need something to moisturize the entire body. Hoping this will work. Thanks

    1. You could put it in a spray bottle and spritz on the body – but it’s not really moisturizing, it’s more of a toner/clarifier. Why don’t you just infuse some marigold petals into sunflower or olive oil and use it as a body oil? That would be great!

  12. My 13 year old son is starting to get little breakouts around his nose.. i am wondering if you have any advice for a teenagers delicate skin? Would you recommend the sensitive version of this toner? and what about cleanser and moisturizer? Thank you so much!

  13. What would you say the expiration date is? I want to make a lot at once, but not if it goes bad before I can use it.

    1. Hi Jessica, I think it should last from 3-6 months … but in general I recommend making smaller batches of products so you can adjust them if your skin changes, and keep them fresher!

  14. Is there really a big difference between raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar and cheap acv? the cheap one has been working fine for me, I still have the occasional acne but im wondering if i should upgrade to unpasteurized and raw acv? Thanks!

    1. Hi Clara, I think for external use, the cheap one should be fine. However when drinking it, I always use the raw unpasteurized.

  15. Are you using witch hazel extract or witch hazel toner? My local organic store only had Thayers Witch Hazel Toner with Aloe Vera.. is this okay?

    1. Hi Emily, I think the toner would be fine, just read the ingredients to see what it contains (so it doesn’t contain any parabens or other unwanted chemicals, which kind of defeats the purpose of making an all natural product). You can always buy Witch Hazel from Mountain Rose Herbs or another organic beauty product supplier too.

  16. Amanda I have been using a clarifying toner from a prominent cosmetic company but am put off by the list of toxic ingredients not to mention the outrageous price. I am also allergic to sodium laurate sulphate. I love this toner , it makes my skin look lovely, knowing the ingredients are pure is so comforting.

    1. Hi Lynette, so glad it’s working for you! I’m loving this toner too, a new staple in my daily routine…

  17. Very good,iam living in SA and have very oily skin it works for me thank you Amanda love youre site,lots of love out of South-Africa

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