Written by Grove Collaborative

What is a natural toner? The 5 best natural face toners for glowing skin.

Last Updated: October 22, 2020

Including one of these top natural toners in your skin care regimen is a quick, easy way to ensure your face is clean yet supple and ready for moisturizer and makeup.

Here at Grove Collaborative, we’re big believers in the power of natural products — both for ourselves and for the planet. But we know making the switch can be daunting, especially if you’re accustomed to conventional products and are new to the world of natural, eco-friendly alternatives. That’s why we’ve created Beginner’s Guides to Natural. Each week, we’ll give you a primer on the ins and outs of transitioning to a natural version of a common household item, plus a few of our favorite brands for making the switch. Let’s get to swapping!

What does a toner do to your face?

Similar to lightweight barbells toning up your muscles, a facial toner is a lightweight liquid that tones up your skin. (See what we did there?) More specifically, toners help remove residue from cleansers, makeup, oil, and dirt. Typically they have a thin, astringent consistency that refreshes and tightens pores. The best toners also hydrate, leaving your skin more balanced and ready for the next step in your skincare routine.

Are toners bad for your face?

Au contraire! Toners are great for your face and in fact, many dermatologists tout toners as a key step in a really awesome skincare regimen. Using a toner is a quick and easy swipe of refreshment for your face.

However, some old-school toners contain ingredients that can be too harsh for skin. Beware of possible reactions to the following:

  • SD, denatured, isopropyl, and benzyl alcohol can strip your skin of natural oil (sebum).
  • Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can cause redness, inflammation, and drying.
  • Phthalates, parabens, and petroleum are possible carcinogens.

All of these ingredients can leave your skin dry and flaky, or in some cases, cause your skin to overcompensate and produce too much sebum, resulting in breakouts.

The thing is, your skin will always strive to rebalance its pH level. pH stands for “potential” and “hydrogen,” or the water level. High-quality toners help your skin’s pH level by both deeply cleansing and hydrating, leaving your skin balanced and serene. Enter high quality natural toners, the yin/yang of skincare steps.

Are toners really necessary?

Look at it this way: If one quick, simple step in your morning and evening self-care routine wakes up your senses and helps to make your skin look and feel refreshed and happy, well… why wouldn’t you treat yourself? Remember, toners clean, calm, and prepare your skin to optimally absorb serums, moisturizers, and makeup, so they’re considered a must for truly healthy skin.

What is a natural toner?

Unlike toners with high levels of synthetic chemicals that can leave skin feeling Death Valley-dry, natural toners feature much gentler, plant-based key ingredients that work to cleanse, hydrate, and balance skin. This preps your skin in a healthy way, allowing it to better absorb serums, moisturizers, and makeup.

Ingredients to look for in natural toners

Astringents

Astringents deeply clean your pores. Look for witch hazel, rose water, mint, green tea, vinegar, and plant-derived alcohols such as cetyl, stearyl, behenyl, and cetearyl alcohol.

Exfoliators

Exfoliants remove dead skin cells. Ingredients such as willow bark, tea tree oil, and rose oil help polish your skin, reduce bacteria, and get your glow on.

Emollients

Emollients moisturize and soften your skin. Effective hydrators include hyaluronic acid, honey, aloe, vegetable glycerin, and algae.

Essential oils

Essential oils provide natural scents and a range of benefits to skin. See below for specific oils and their features.

Grove Tip

Suss out secret alcohol

Not all alcohols are skin-strippers (sounds a bit naughty, but you know what we mean). Look for these prefixes: cetyl, stearyl, behenyl, and cetearyl, which mean they’re plant-based and have more fatty acids that are kinder to skin.

Can you make DIY natural toners?

You can DIY just about anything, toners included. You’ll find lots of recipes out there, but they generally contain the following:

  • 6-8+ oz water - consider infusing with fresh cucumber
  • ½ to ¾ cup witch hazel
  • ½ to ¾ cup rose water
  • 1-2 tablespoons aloe vera
  • Up to 20 drops of essential oils, depending on needs of skin and preference.

Always do an allergy patch test first with diluted oil.

Essential oils for different skin types

Oily skin: geranium, rosemary, frankincense, neroli, clary sage, tea tree, lemon

Dry skin: lavender, chamomile, sandalwood

Hyperpigmentation: carrot seed, pomegranate, ylang ylang

Mature skin: rose, myrrh, patchouli

Grove tip

Did you know?

A good quality toner will contain ingredients that gently address a multitude of skin types and issues, from cleansing to tightening to hydrating.

What are the best natural toners for the face?

How to choose the best toner for your skin type

While you can create a DIY toner, we’ve gathered some remarkable natural toners here at Grove that customers and our staff love. Whatever your skin type, you’ll find our best natural toners below. Try one, and rejuvenate your face — and your senses.

Best for: Combination skin, dry skin, mature skin

Osea Sea Minerals Mist

The brand: Osea’s line of products is beautiful inside and out, and their ethos is amazing. In fact, Osea was the first business to sign the Compact for Global Production of Safe Health and Beauty Products in 2002. Founders Jenefer and Melissa Palmer have worked relentlessly to create a truly cruelty-free, plant-based collection of top-quality beauty products. Many are crafted from bioavailable, certified organic seaweed combined with steam-distilled and cold-pressed essential oils, among other natural ingredients from around the world. Nothing derived from animals or synthetics, everything gleaned from pure Mother Nature’s land and sea.


The toner: Osea Sea Minerals Mist is seriously like walking along the ocean’s edge at dawn. A light mist refreshes your skin with essential minerals and natural ingredients, leaving your skin hydrated and soothed.


Main ingredients:

  • Patagonian seaweed: Abundant along the coasts of South America, this sustainable seaweed is gathered from oxygen-rich waters and is full of healthful chlorophyll (remember, from 8th grade science? It’s the good green stuff in plants) and phytoplankton, plus potassium, calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins. Super nourishing.
  • Dead Sea salt: an excellent exfoliator and deliverer of zinc, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Calms the skin and helps restore pH balance. Pretty ironic, that the Dead Sea can make your skin feel so alive.
  • Aloe vera: provides antioxidants, polyphenols, and a soothing barrier to calm redness and help hydrate skin. You remember aloe vera from the sunburns of (hopefully) yesteryear.



Best for: dry skin, combination skin, mature skin, sensitive skin

Indie Lee CoQ-10


The brand: Founder Indie Lee survived a brain tumor that doctors suspected could have been caused by skin products. This was the catalyst for her journey into building an amazing natural skincare company, one that’s known for its commitment to education as well as clean products. The company takes great care to avoid anything toxic or harmful to the body and to the earth. They marry nature and science to create innovative, healthful beauty products. Indie Lee offers video tutorials, articles, and master classes to teach and inspire you to live your best, most beautiful life. We love the learning aspect of the brand.


The toner: Indie Lee'sCoQ-10 Toner balances your skin and provides excellent hydration, thanks to its alcohol-free mist that features antioxidant CoQ10 and hyaluronic acid for a protective, priming step in your skincare routine. Its cucumber, papaya, sage, and chamomile work together to refresh and soothe your skin.


Main ingredients:

  • CoQ10: An antioxidant that generates energy found in cells. CoQ10 has been shown to improve a host of health issues, and in this case, the turnover and regeneration of skin cells - especially effective for aging skin.
  • Hyaluronic acid: Our bodies make hyaluronic acid, although this product is plant-derived. Hyaluronic acid is a favorite among moisturizers, as it holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water. It’s a wonderfully light yet effective hydrator.
  • Aloe: The gel of this plant soothes and calms skin. The water-dense leaves, combined with special plant compounds called complex carbohydrates, make it an effective face moisturizer and pain reliever.



Best for: sensitive skin, combination skin, mature skin (Sensitive); dry skin, combination skin, mature skin (purifying)

Rooted Beauty Facial Mist


The brand: Rooted Beauty has its, um, roots in providing clean beauty products featuring the brand’s signature R7 complex. This exclusive combination of antioxidant-rich extracts from plant roots helps nourish skin. Rooted Beauty’s R7 complex is then paired with essential oils and other natural ingredients to create skincare products specifically geared toward skin type - i.e., “sensitive” or “purifying.”


The toner: Both versions of the toner contain the special R7 root-based complex, which is then combined with other plant-based ingredients and essential oils to address specific skin issues.


Main ingredients (sensitive):

  • R7: Complex that includes nutrients found in the following roots: marshmallow, burdock, yucca, ginger, panax ginseng, licorice, and angelica.
  • Aloe: Gel from the aloe vera plant that soothes the skin.
  • Calendula: Nutrients from this flower provide calming coolness and reduce redness and irritation.
  • Lavender: This essential oil has a wonderfully relaxing scent and has a cleansing effect on skin.

Main ingredients (purifying):

  • R7: Complex that includes nutrients found in the following roots: marshmallow, burdock, yucca, ginger, panax ginseng, licorice, and angelica.
  • Glycerin: A plant-based multi-purpose moisturizer used to heal dry skin and cleanse the skin.
  • White tea: This is used to cleanse and rejuvenate skin.
  • Eucalyptus: A refreshing scent that has cleansing and aromatherapeutical uses.
  • Hyaluronic acid: A plant-derived hydrating gel that holds 1,000 times its weight in water. Wonderful for moisturizing without a heavy oily feel.




Best for: all skin types, all ages.

Kari Gran Essential Hydrating Tonic

The brand: Founders Kari Gran and Lisa Strain believe in the beauty of simplicity, and it shows. When Kari faced health issues in her 20s, she began experimenting and creating her homemade skincare products. Word of mouth and high demand eventually resulted in today’s Kari Gran line of natural, eco-luxe products.

Luxe, to be sure - the brand’s products contain NO added water! Plant-derived, organic, wild-harvested, and non-GMO ingredients that are pure, clean, and oil-based come together into an easy routine meant to transform your skin and get you out the door and into the world. The brand’s key phrase is “we focus on health and prevention over youth and perfection.” Consider us impressed.

The toner: Available in lavender or rose, the Kari Gran Essential Hydrating Tonic is simplicity at its best. Customers rave about the quality of this organic toner, and what makes Kari Gran stand out even more is how easy the skincare regimen is. Cleanse, spritz the tonic, then combine tonic and serum to make an instant moisturizer. That’s it. So the tonic is especially key.



Ingredients:

  • Aloe vera: 100% fractionally distilled aloe soothes and moisturizes skin.
  • Vegetable glycerin: Acts as a moisture barrier, keeping skin hydrated.
  • Bulgarian rose or lavender: Essential oils for gentle, uplifting scents.




Best for: combination skin, maturing skin, oily skin

Salt by Hendrix Glisten Toning Face Essence

The brand: In a word, magical. This Australia-based company has a fairy-dust vibe wrapped up in a company with serious plant-based know-how and an intention to make all of its customers feel special. With products like “Mermaid Face Oil” and “Stardust Tonic Serum,” this brand is as whimsical as it is whip-smart. All products are cruelty-free and full of clean botanicals.

The toner:The Glisten Toning Face Essence is a superfine mist that’s packed with plant essences and essential oils. The result is a toner that addresses numerous skin conditions and is like a rocket booster for any skin type.

Main ingredients:

  • Jasmine flower water: An anti-inflammatory, soothing water that tightens pores and tones skin.
  • Vitamin B5: Has been shown to help acne and oily skin.
  • Calendula: This calming extract is an anti-bacterial and helps ease eczema.
  • Green tea extract: One of the superheroes of nature, green tea has been shown to reduce redness/rosacea, sun damage, and helps prevent loss of elasticity in aging skin.



Shop natural skincare products


Looking for cleaning how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered with our buying and cleaning guides. And let us know how if you have any natural skin care questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to make the switch to natural toner, shop Grove Collaborative's skin care selection for the natural products that make the job easy.

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