Home / Simple Beauty / Body treatments / My great aunt, the Charleston and a homemade toner

My great aunt, the Charleston and a homemade toner

by Bele

Anyone else short on time and need a beauty shortcut? I might have just the trick.
But first, I would like to dedicate this post to my peace-loving, wilderness-defending and human-rights-advocating, Great Aunt Eve. She died just short of her 107th birthday (31st of May).
She lived in her own home where she looked after her cat, garden and the peace park up the road.  A child of the 1920s cultural revolution who never married, because she didn’t think it benefited women. She taught me the Charleston dance when she was 95 and when the roads authority took her driving licence away at 100 years of age she bought a bicycle.
Vale, Great Aunt Eve. Thank you for teaching me that feistiness and speaking out for what you believe in are not just for the young.

Apple cider vinegar

I’m not sure, but Great Aunt Eve was probably an advocate for something as wholesome and enduring as apple cider vinegar. If so, she would’ve been ahead of the cool kids, like Scarlett Johansson who apparently washes her face with it.
This time saving factor of doubling as a face wash is one of the reasons why I love this toner, although I need to warn you, it does smell vinegary. This doesn’t worry me as it seems to disappear quickly, but if it bothers you, it’s fine to rinse it off with water.
Our grandmothers (and great aunts) were on to something, because apple cider vinegar apparently contains powerful alpha hydroxy acids to help remove dead skin cells and reveal a fresher and healthier complexion underneath. Fermented beauty products like apple cider vinegar also help the beneficial bacteria on the skin to fight the good fight.
This means it’s important to use the real deal vinegar with its mother (the cloudy plume at the bottom of the bottle) intact. To keep the mother load, the vinegar is made by fermenting the sugars in pressed apple juice without heating, filtering or pasteurising.
We’ve started making our own apple cider vinegar and it’s very easy and great knowing  we’re working with the real thing. The only challenge is having enough left over apple cider to top it up.

Green tea

Diluted apple cider vinegar is fanastic by itself, so by all means keep it simple, but I was really keen to include green tea. The polyphenols in green tea are credited as an amazing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, with some scientists getting very excited about consuming or applying green tea to the skin as a, Possible strategy to reduce UV-induced skin cancer risk.
Who knows where this research will take them, but if they’re looking into it this seriously, then I think green tea makes a mighty fine addition to our toner. Besides, the Geishas have been using it to beautify for centuries and it’s a lot more pleasant than nightingale poo, another of the Geishas’ reputed beauty secrets.
Homemade toner recipe
Mention the word toner and a lot of people will reply with, ‘Meh, take it or leave it.’
What if I told you toners can be one of the most important parts of the beauty regime and if you use this green tea and apple cider vinegar toner you can skip the cleanser if you’re travelling or short of time. Just get your Scarlett on and use it as a face wash – easy peasy.
You see, a lot of cleansers are alkaline, but skin is happier when slightly acidic (around 4.7 pH) and in better condition.  This study shows that skin in the moderately acidic range suffers less water loss too. This makes me want to dip my pH stick into everything.
Homemade toner
After reading all this research I was curious and tried using a foaming cleanser without a toner and sure enough my skin started feeling weird and after three days I could feel the rumblings of a break out, so I started back with this toner and everything went back to business as usual.
Optimal skin pH has a small window, so it’s important not to go to extremes and go hard core acidic, as this might cause its own problems.
Most apple cider vinegar skin recipes recommend a dilution of three or five to one, but these are still very acidic (my test showed about 2, very acidic), whereas the seven to one ratio in this recipe had a pH of 3.5 in the test. There will be variance, but irrespectively this should gently pull an alkaline skin into the acidic realm. This is of course assuming you’re not using too harsh a cleanser.
The skin is designed to naturally rebalance itself and toners can support this process provided we use gentle cleansers, like the almond wash for normal to oily skin and oatmeal for combination, dry or sensitive skin. Or if you really need a foaming cleanser, but it’s even more important to follow with a slightly acidic toner.

The right essential oil

Sandalwood is nourishing for dry skin
Lavender is soothing and rebalancing for combination and sensitive skin types (as long as there isn’t an allergy to lavender!)
Thyme is rebalancing for oily skins prone to break outs (not if pregnant). It’s really important to test for irritation, because this is a very active oil.

Homemade toner ingredientsHomemade toner recipe

Makes about 4 fl oz or 125 ml
about $9 (based on an average natural toner costing $10 )
Does not contain
parabens, SLS, or artificial fragrances and colours
carbon emissions and water use, especially if you make your own
1 tablespoon green tea
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, unpasteurised
½ cup boiling water
6 drops sandalwood, lavender or 3 drops of thyme essential oil (see above for best choice)
4 fl oz or 125 ml sterile or very clean spray bottle
Pour the boiling water over the green tea and leave it to steep for half an hour or until cool. Strain and pour seven tablespoons of green tea with one tablespoon vinegar and your chosen essential oil into a sterile or very clean spray or easy pour bottle. Label with ingredients and date and store in the fridge. Aim to use in a fortnight so the ingredients are as fresh and active as possible and avoid exposing the toner to the air or putting your fingers in the mix.
To use:
Test on a discrete spot to check for skin irritation.
Spritz onto face as a toner (avoiding mouth and eyes), after cleansing or use as a cleanser and spray on face (avoiding mouth and eyes) and wipe off with soft cloth. Follow with your favourite moisturiser.
Bele x
What did your grandparents and co. teach you that you treasure?
We’re linking with the lovely Grace’s FYBF and Maxabella Loves’ Weekend Rewind

About BlahBlahMagazine

Cybele Masterman (Bele) trained as a beauty therapist, aromatherapist and journalist. After working as all of the above has found herself on a quest for a beautiful and meaningful life that doesn't cost the earth. Follow on google: +blahblahmagazine twitter: @blahblahzine or Instagram: BlahBlahMagazine

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  1. What is matcha and why is it better?

  2. Matcha is revered and harvested with great care. It’s a finely milled, high quality Green Tea, considered one of the finest teas in the world. It contains ten times the nutrients of other teas.

    Matcha is rich in chlorophyll, which is an excellent source of antioxidants for detoxying. It’s also high in catechin, an antioxidant that helps fight bacteria and infections. L-theanine, an amino acid found in Matcha is credited as naturally enhancing your mood, sense of well being, focus and concentration.

    However, it can be quite hard to find and my healthfood store was out of stock so I used another green tea.

  3. You are a genius! Seriously you are so full of awesome info and you may have convinced me to use a toner for the first time in… oh 40 years 😉 xx

  4. Do you have an online recommendation for the Thyme Oil? I am having trouble finding it locally. Thanks!

    • Hi, good point. Red and white thyme oils are both good,but red thyme is believed to have slightly stronger antibacterial properties and better for this. If you’re in the US I’m told MountainRosesherbs.com are good. I use Escentialsofaustralia.com
      Hope this helps and I’d love to hear how you go. Bele

  5. Oh, and also white or red thyme oil? Thanks again!!

  6. This sounds great. My toner is ACV mixed in with aloe vera. But i think i will try this adding the oil. Also how would you store it?

    • This can be stored in a cool dark place, because the vinegar is a preservative and the essential oils also have anti-bacterial properties. If you’re adding aloe vera, the preservative in the gel should mean it’s fine out of the fridge, but if using fresh aloe vera I would keep it in the fridge.
      I hope this helps x

  7. I love this! The story, the recipe, all the info. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  8. Once the mixture is made and stored into a clean spray bottle, how long will it last?

    • I’ve been trying to get a scientific guideline on how long vinegar, diluted with water will last on the shelf, but haven’t had any luck as yet. Vinegar is a preservative, but adding water to anything is always problematic. I have been making enough to last a month and throwing any remaining out after that time and I haven’t had any problems, but mine is stored in a cool dark cupboard.The safest bet is to keep it in the fridge for that time. I’m sorry I can’t give you a better answer, but I hope this helps. Bele

  9. I love this so much, I have very sensitive, problematic skin that loves to break out in cystic acne. Apple cider vinegar and tons of moisture helps to keep it normal. I was wondering where you got the cute spray bottle pictured?

  10. Hej:D I adore your blog and recipes! you are huge inspiration! I would like to experiment with homemade cosmetics and wanted to ask for any book recomendations. I am looking for advanced essential oils, aromatherapy book that would guide me through and give up to date information about their purpose, safety, benefits etc:) I would be really grateful if you could recommend me some literature in this topic:) hugs!

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