Ellen Humphreys is an actress, freelance content producer and micro-influencer based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Born and raised in Oklahoma, trained in Boston + refined in Los Angeles, she’s chosen the high desert as her home base to build a career as a creatrix, thinker + writer. A devoted stewardess of the Earth and the life around her.

ROOTS is an everyday resource for a mindful + beautiful life, built on the values of integrity, responsibility, practicality, and authenticity.

The Cheaper, Easier, and Non-Toxic Toner: DIY Recipes for Every Skin Type

All photos courtesy of  Ally Dawson / Serving Face First

All photos courtesy of Ally Dawson/Serving Face First

So many of us are trying to live a little “cleaner”. But as we go through the process of clarifying how we eat and what we surround ourselves with, it can start to feel daunting. Our food has been poisoned, our beauty products have been used to torture animals, and toxic chemicals are apparently hiding in everything from our dish soap to our toothpaste.

At least in the USA, beauty brands are required to go through a very minor approval process only for color additives and ingredients classified as OTC drugs. This means the products we use in and on our bodies every day may contain skin irritants, endocrine disrupters and carcinogens. Even high-end toners may contain harmful phthalates and parabens, and products targeting oily skin will likely use salicylic acid and benzyl alcohol—skin irritants that are fine to use as directed by a doctor, but aren’t typically necessary for the average consumer.

I teamed up with homemade beauty guru Ally Dawson of Serving Face First to talk about one of those skincare “necessities” that’s always eluded me: toner.

OBY: “What’s the benefit of using a toner?”
SFF: "So a toner is the last step in your "cleansing" routine before you continue with treatment (serums, moisturizers etc).  A toner helps remove any residual dirt, oil, and makeup still stuck on your skin after cleansing. Think of a toner as liquid hydration that is going to help prep your pores so that your skin can absorb the treatment more deeply into the skin. I don't consider my skin fully clean unless I have toned my skin. I found that toning alone has helped keep my oils at bay and the acne away."

OBY: “I have acne-prone skin, but it’s also sensitive. Is there a toner for me?”
SFF: "Absolutely! The most important part of skincare is LISTENING to your skin. How does my skin feel today? What do I need in this moment? This time of year? If you are someone with dry skin and you live in Vermont, you may not want something with tea tree or alcohol in it as that minty clean feeling combined with cold temperatures might make your skin feel even more tight and uncomfortable. I have oily/combination skin so I love to cocktail my toners together for what I need on a given day. I'll use a tea tree based toner and a Calendula toner that is going to soothe any irritation but also clean up the oils in my t-zone. The key to beautiful skin is hydration, no matter the skin type. Toning is going to reaaalllyyy help your skin absorb whatever you put on after. It lays the foundation for better absorption."

OBY: “Why are the benefits of making homemade toner, as opposed to buying a high-end brand, for example?”
SFF: "Learning about ingredients can be a daunting task, and I don't have time to Google every ingredient that I can't pronounce while in the checkout line. This is precisely the reason I love to make my own products so that I know exactly what I'm putting onto my face. You'll find that most of the products you can buy at Sephora will say they have this herb, and this plant, etc. Instead of paying an arm and a leg for a cucumber eye mask, buy some cucumbers and make one! I love knowing that I'm supporting my local farms and businesses when I buy these ingredients or better yet, that I can grow them myself. Having beautiful skin doesn't have to cost you a fortune!"

Cheers to that!

Here are Ally’s recipes for DIY toners for every skin type.

Normal Skin/Anti-Aging

  • 1pt Hibiscus water
  • 1pt Green Tea
  • 1pt Rosewater 
  1. Soak 3-4 green tea bags in 1 cup of boiling water (more tea bags = more concentrated Green Tea benefits!). Fill a spray bottle with equal parts tea concentration, hibiscus water + rosewater. Oh, and if you don’t have the flower waters lying around, you can make your own with hot water and dried petals from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Oily Skin

  • 5 drops Tea Tree essential oil
  • Springs of Thyme
  • 1/2tb lemon juice
  • 3tb Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 3 tb water (or rosewater)
  1. Combine into a bottle and shake before each use. May use a spray bottle or a cotton pad.



Dry Skin

  • 1pt Aloe Vera juice (or gel)
  • 1pt Cucumber water
  • 1pt Rice water
  1. To make the cucumber water: peel and chop about 1/3 of a cucumber. Place into a pan with a bit of water and simmer on low for 5-10 minutes. Let cool, blend for about 20 seconds, then strain. For the rice water: soak 1/4c rice in water for 5-10 minutes until the water becomes cloudy, then strain. Combine one part of each ingredient into a spray bottle.



Sensitive Skin

  • 2tb Calendula
  • 2tb Chamomile
  • 2tsp Honey 
  1. Add calendula + chamomile to 1.5c boiling water, soak + strain. Add honey while water is still hot and whisk thoroughly. Let cool, then transfer to a spray bottle. *Note: if the honey isn’t fully whisked initially, you’ll have to shake the toner bottle before each use to prevent the honey from congealing.


I’m making an oily skin-focused toner to use with a cotton pad over my t-zone, and a sensitive skin toner in a spray bottle to spritz on after! What toner best suits your skin? Share that, questions + more with us below!