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
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.