In this article, I'm going to focus on witch hazel. It is widely known as an excellent toner for skin and I know from experience that it works very well for me. The astringent properties intrinsic to witch hazel help to tighten and dry tissues (facial skin) and stop discharge of fluids (dries up oil) (ew, I know). Additionally, some people use toner to remove any traces cleanser from their face. This is another bone of contention between those for and those against toner. Skin experts against toner say that a good cleanser should completely wash off your face. The experts on the water from my well, in other words - me, say that sometimes it is hard to completely remove cleanser when you have soft water. Witch hazel toner not only tightens up my pores and removes any leftover oil, it also removes the occasional trace of cleanser.
Now that we've had a basic primer on how awesome witch hazel is, you're thinking that you can go on down to your grocer, drugstore, or favorite hippie store and get you some witch hazel to put right on your face. Well, you could. But plain witch hazel is boring and has the potential to be so much more. The key to maximizing your bottle of witch hazel is what you add to it. My skin likes to break out on occasion, so I like to add products to my toner that will stop breakouts or heal one if some blemishes sneak through the perimeter. My perfect toner is this: a bottle of T.N. Dickinson's Witch Hazel, 0.5 ounces tea tree oil, 10-12 drops of sweet orange essential oil, and, depending on what mood I'm in, maybe a couple drops of another antiseptic or clarifying essential oil like lavender or grapefruit. Basically, I'm using the witch hazel as a souped-up carrier for other essential oils that treat acne-prone skin. If you're feeling experimental you can also try lemongrass for oily or acne-prone skin, chamomile oil for dry skin, or rose oil for sensitive skin.
When you make this blend you'll notice that the oils don't completely incorporate into the witch hazel. I could go into the properties of the oils and the witch hazel and the alcohol, but I don't know why they don't blend and I'd have to do a lot of research to find out. (If you know, teach me something and leave it in the comments!) What I do know is that is easily remedied with a vigorous shake of the bottle before dampening a cotton ball or pad and applying to your face.
As you can see, making your own toner is super simple and fairly cheap. You can buy a bottle of your favorite witch hazel for around $3-5, depending on the brand, and a bottle of lavender essential oil will cost you around $10 and last for nearly a year. Happy experimenting!