This all-natural Skin Brightening Toner Mist formulation is part hydrating toner and part serum, featuring some fantastic soothing, moisturizing, barrier-boosting, and brightening ingredients. It’s quite simple to make, with just a wee bit of heating, and you can easily customize the scent by using your favourite hydrosol to create a uniquely yours skin treat. I’m really enjoying it as the middle step of my skincare routine, sandwiched between cleansing and creams, and I hope you do, too!
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The bulk of this formulation is a blend of three watery ingredients; distilled water, anti-inflammatory and astringent witch hazel distillate, and a fragrant hydrosol of your choice. I used sweetgrass hydrosol, which smells wonderfully of sunshine on long prairie grass in the summer. It also totally masks the smell of the witch hazel, which isn’t… lovely. It’s a bit musty and pretty thoroughly “meh”. If you’re not a witch hazel fan you could replace it with some aloe vera juice.
The star brightening ingredients in this formulation are N-Acetyl Glucosamine and niacinamide (Vitamin B3). They are both lovely skincare actives on their own, (helping improve barrier function, reducing transepidermal water loss (TEWL), and boosting healing), but when combined they’re an extra-awesome skin brightening duo. Studies have shown “treatment with an N-acetyl glucosamine and niacinamide complex resulted in a reduction in both hyper-melanized spot size and heterogeneity of melanin distribution” (source). Definitely read through this article for more info!
N-Acetyl Glucosamine and niacinamide (Vitamin B3) get some extra moisturizing help from panthenol (Vitamin B5), sodium lactate, and quite interestingly—our preservative, Geogard Ultra™! Panthenol (Vitamin B5) is a wonderfully soothing and moisturizing ingredient, and sodium lactate is a powerful but not-sticky humectant. Geogard Ultra™ (INCI: Gluconolactone [and] Sodium Benzoate [and] Calcium Gluconate) is a natural broad-spectrum preservative, and according to the manufacturer, “There is also a moisturization benefit on the skin with the Geogard™ Ultra™. In the same moisturizing cream formulation used to demonstrate preservative efficacy, Geogard™ Ultra™ produced a quantitative moisturization benefit to the skin. Over a period of time, Geogard™ Ultra™ produced a moisturizing effect that was comparable to the use of 2 percent glycerin” (source). I think that’s pretty cool!
I packaged this Skin Brightening Toner Mist in a mister bottle so I can spritz it over my skin as part of my skincare routine, but you definitely don’t have to mist this if you don’t want to. If you’re more of a toner-on-cotton-pads kind of person you could package this in a simple bottle and use it that way. Let’s dive in!
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Relevant links & further reading
- Witch Hazel in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Geogard Ultra™ in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Sodium Lactate in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Panthenol (Vitamin B5) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- N-Acetyl Glucosamine (NAG) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- What’s up with hydrosols, distillates, and floral waters?
- Other toner formulations:
- How long will ______ last? What is its shelf life?
- Can I use a different preservative than the one you’ve used?
Skin Brightening Toner Mist
11.2g | 28% distilled water
10g | 25% witch hazel distillate (USA / Canada)
0.4g | 1% Geogard Ultra™ (USA / Canada / UK / NZ / Aus / South Africa)
12g | 30% hydrosol of choice
2.8g | 7% sodium lactate (USA / Canada)
1.2g | 3% panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
1.2g | 3% niacinamide (vitamin B3) (USA / Canada)
1.2g | 3% N-Acetyl Glucosamine (USA / Canada)
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan.
Weigh the heated phase ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or beaker. Weigh the entire lot (measuring cup + ingredients) and note that weight for use later. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath until the Geogard Ultra has dissolved.
Once the Geogard Ultra has dissolved, remove your beaker from the water bath. Weigh the beaker and add enough distilled water to bring the weight back up to what it was before heating. Up next, add the hydrosol, sodium lactate, and panthenol. Stir to combine.
At this point the overall mixture should be relatively cool to the touch—if it’s not, or you’re not sure, leave it a while longer until it’s cooled to room temperature, and then add the niacinamide (Vitamin B3) and N-Acetyl Glucosamine. Stir to combine. Once the last two ingredients have dissolved, it’s time to test the pH!
To test and adjust the pH: create a 10% dilution by weighing 2g product and 18g distilled water into a small bowl or beaker and whisk to combine (wondering why?). Check the pH with your pH meter (I have this one [USA / Canada]). Depending on the shape of your bowl/beaker you may need to tilt it in order to fully submerge the sensor on your pH meter. The pH should come out to 5.15–5.20, which is great! I’d say anything in the 5–5.5 range is fine. If yours is outside that range, please read this article to learn more about pH adjusting.
Once you know your formulation is a-ok in the pH department, it’s time to package it up! I used a blue 30mL (1fl oz) mister bottle from YellowBee for mine. You certainly don’t have to mist this if you don’t want to; if you prefer using a cotton pad or your hands for application you could use a different sort of bottle and cap—whatever strikes your fancy!
To use; I like to mist this over my skin after cleansing and then follow up with a cream or oil serum. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this formulation contains water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. Even with a preservative, this project may eventually spoil as our kitchens are not sterile laboratories, so in the event you notice any change in colour, scent, or texture, chuck it out and make a fresh batch.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the recipe, you will get a different final product than I did.
- As I’ve provided this recipe in percentages as well as grams you can easily calculate it to any size using a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams this recipe will make 40g.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, including why they’re included and what you can substitute them with, please visit the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have everything in it yet, but there’s lots of good information there! If I have not given a specific substitution suggestion in this list please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- As the pH is important for the niacinamide (aiming for a final pH of 5–6), if you change anything please make sure you test the pH and adjust if required. More info on that is linked in the instructions above.
- You could replace the witch hazel with more distilled water or aloe vera juice.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart. Liquid Germall™ Plus (INCI: Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate) will work well; if you use it, the entire formulation should be cold processed (and remember to adjust the usage rate).
- You can use any hydrosol you want.
- You could try propanediol 1,3 instead of sodium lactate. You could also try other humectants, but start small and test—some may be tackier than you want.
- I don’t recommend replacing the niacinamide (Vitamin B3), panthenol (Vitamin B5), or N-Acetyl Glucosamine. They’re all pretty darn integral to the performance and identity of this formulation.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
The 30mL (1fl oz) mister bottle was gifted by YellowBee. The sweetgrass hydrosol was gifted by Plant’s Power.
This sounds really wonderfull formulation. I’m so excited about this! This preservative you’ve used sounds really good and I bed it has lots of potential..and we have access to it – yay! thanks so much for your hard work!
I’ve tried to find good, reliable preservative (like LGP) for months, I mean broad spec preservative that has broad pH range (above 5), doesn’t ruin/ hide scent of hydrosols, doesn’t cause yellowing and is water soluble (preferably not too expencive). Haven’t found anything yet so it doesn’t hurt to try this new one. I’m definitevly giving this DIY a go too, without NAG, though!
Please can you clarify for me. I’m a bit confused. I’ve read that for niacinamide the pH MUST be 6. This has made me ignore niacinamide in products. Is it then fine to use it with a pH of 5 – 5.5? If so, it would be fantastic news!
I look forward to hearing what you think of Geogard Ultra! I’ve really been enjoying playing with it lately 🙂
Hi it looks great! Thank you for your inspiration
I hope it’s ok to ask- do you mind sharing the digital scale you use? Maybe you already did that but I couldn’t find in your site ..
Please read through my “scale” entries in the equipment section of the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia (https://www.humblebeeandme.com/diy-encyclopedia/) 🙂 Happy making!
Thank you for the formula. I have all exept N-Acetyl Glucosamine, what do you think if I replace it with caffeine powder?
I wouldn’t do that as a 1-to-1 swap; if you look up caffeine in the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia (https://www.humblebeeandme.com/diy-encyclopedia/) you’ll see its usage rate is far lower. If you adjust the usage rate that should be ok, though it will obviously be a different end product. Happy making!
Thanks a lot, I will use less, maybe between 0,5 to 1% and add some allantoin as on your make-up finish spray recipe. Will see how it works 🙂
Sorry, just saw your reference to Amanda’s and Stephen’s articles about niacinamide pH. I’ll read those.
Hi Karin. I’m not sure if you asked the pH question from me or from Marie? Hopefully you found your aswer. Based on HBAM encyclopedia, all the research I’ve done (products on the market) and my own trials I don’t neccessarily agree with you.
Also, what I meant is that any water soluble, possibly broad spectrum preservative that works well above pH 5/5,5 is a gold mine for me because I haven’t tried one before (difficult to access). Most of the water soluble preservatives I’ve tried are based on organic salts, which often means that they work in narrow pH range (max. ~ ph 5-5,5 depending on which one we’re speaking)… some others, however, were tricky to work with (intense scent or color, needs to be combined with another preservative or doesn’t work with surfactants or nonionics) and/ or oil soluble. It took me years to test different preservatives (I run my own stability tests in different temperatures, including fridge temp). Sorry about long answer, hope this helps. With all this in mind, you propably understand why I’m excited to try this preservative! 😀
Thank you again, for another recipe, which I’d like to try this weekend, but need to know in advance if the substitute ingredients on hand will work.
1. I don’t have a ph tester but the Apera model you mentioned is on my “to buy list”
2. I don’t have Optiphen+, but have a lot of other good substitutes like Germall Liquid, Phenonip, PhytoCide Elderberry OS. Without a ph tester, will any of these give me a ph in the 5-5.5 range.
3. I don’t have N-Acetyl Gluco. Can I increase the niacinamide to 2.4 or just wait and buy the darn NAG? lol
4. You must have a separate fridge where you store all your raw materials? There’s no way you can have such an inventory of prods without storing in a fridge. Just among the preservatives’ family, there must be at least 10!!
Geesh, huh – I have so many products on hand and many close to expiry, I’m definitely going to have to invest in a small fridge just for my raw materials.
Thank you again for the amazing formulas.
Hi! I’m afraid I can’t tell you if any of these swaps are going to alter the pH meaningfully without making every different perm/comb, and I am not going to do that. I would probably choose Liquid Germall™ Plus as an alternative preservative, but I would recommend testing and adjusting the pH to ensure the niacinamide (Vitamin B3) is happy. You could use more niacinamide (Vitamin B3)—6% is on the higher end of usage for it, but definitely still ok 🙂 And yes, I do have a separate mini-fridge for DIY ingredients! It’s a mini-fridge I purchased second-hand for about $40 and it was very worth it. Happy making!
Marie, my error above – PhytoCide ELderberry OS is not intended for water-based prods. I do have Leucidal Liquid SF, which I think would work, but it’s a bit old, although it still smells fine. I don’t always get hung up with discarding prods after their expiry dates, as long as they smell fine and are stored in relatively cool place and in dark coloured containers. Anyway, I just found the Leucidal Liquid, and think it may work??
I made this with vit C + B3 and with another preservative + solubilizer. It is really lovely! 🙂
I’m still waiting until I can place my order regarding NAG and the preservative. I found both locally – yay!
Hooray on both fronts!
Hey Johanna, thanks for the comment about the VitC. I purchased some L-Ascorbic Acid Ultrafine powder from Lotioncrafter some time ago and never used it. It’s been sealed in a dark container. I may just try it!!
I know Marie is probably thinking “these ladies are crazy” but what the hell, huh? I don’t have a lot to loose and it may turn out pretty good 🙂
Hey Elizabeth! Just a head’s up that L-Ascorbic Acid is pretty darn unstable, so if you’re going to use it be sure you are making a small enough batch to use in about a week 🙂 Johanna may’ve used a more stable derivative like MAP or SAP (magnesium/sodium ascorbyl phosphate). Lab Muffin has shared a simple vitamin C formulation here + more info. Happy making!
Thanks for asking! Marie is right, I didn’t use ascorbic acid. SAP / sodium ascorbyl phosphate is the vit C I use typically use and prefer. I’ve found it stable and compatible with B3 (pH 5,6-6 has worked well). Make sure you leave enough empty water space as one likely needs to adjust pH down wards (used citric acid). I have a big bag of ascorbic acid left too and I honestly don’t use it too much because of the stability issues… cleansing powders or fresh masks maybe?
Hello! How could I add essential oils to this? I have tried to use poly 80 but the solution turned out milky. I’m desperate for an answer as I really want to create toners with my essential oils.
I really look forward to your response and thank you for being so informative!
Would there be a difference in using liquid?
Using liquid what?
Made it yesterday with orange blossom hydrosol, euxyl pe9010 and euxyl k712 and some pentylene glycol as it helps with stability (preservative doesn’t separate in fridge like it sometimes does). That heating tip is valuable! My skin loves this. I tried it on yesterday and my skin looked more firm and plumped up right after application. Yaay!
Just wanted to thank you for this toner. Best part is that I bought 100 grams of NAG so I can easily use it in bodycare too – and perhaps in hand cream. B3 NAG creations of yours are solid part of my skincare routine – I don’t know how on earth I survived without them ealier! 😛 I love this toner in 7skin method. My skin looks firmer, more glow’ing and brighter thanks to these.
Can I use this with the Brightening Gel Serum or the B5 serum and the Raspberry Marula facial serum ? Or should I use 1 or more in the AM and 1 or more in the evening?
There’s no hard reason not to—let your skin my your guide 🙂
I’ve been using this toner twice a day for about 8 months and I’ve been using it as a sheet mask since your sheet mask video, and the mask format magically erases post-acne hyperpigmentation… But. But! I tried a jelly mask from TaraLee’s channel, and that was just too much fun, so I had to try it here.
So last night I made a 50g batch with two small changes: I traded the sodium lactate for glycerin (1:1 swap) and I traded 2% water for 2% xanthan gum soft. (Xanthan gum soft isn’t like normal xanthan gum. Try it!) I made a glycerin/xanthan slurry and added all the other ingredients the way Tara does in her jelly mask videos. The pH came out at 7.0, probably due to ingredient changes, and I adjusted it down to 5.2 with 10 drops of 33% citric acid solution.
The main con of a jelly mask is that you have to clean it off afterwards, unlike most sheet masks. On the other hand, no sheet mask to throw away, and you can walk around the house with it on! I’d say it stays wet for about the same amount of time as a sheet mask. Tip for jelly masks: add some mica so it’s easier to see where you’ve already painted it on your face. For my 50g batch, I added less than 0.01g.
OOoh, very cool! And I FINALLY got some soft xanthan so I’ve got to start playing with that soon
I tried the recipe but found it to feel very tacky/sticky after drying. Is this due to the 7% sodium lactate?
I’d encourage you to read this FAQ 🙂 I didn’t find this to be unpleasantly sticky, personally.