5 Reasons You Need A Face Tonic In Your Skincare Routine

5 Reasons You Need A Face Tonic In Your Skincare Routine

Skincare always seems to be evolving, from toners, to tonics, essence, hydrosols, serums, and oil it’s hard to know what exactly to use or if your skin even needs it. 

The History Of Toners And Tonics

The "documented" history of skin care dates back to potentially the Qin dynasty 221–206 B.C, Ancient Egypt, and probably farther than that - which will be a whole different blog post. 

It wasn't until the early 19th century that skin tonics and toners or “toilet water, and toilet vinegar” made its way to Europe and parts of the Western world - here’s an ad from 1907:

These products were variable in composition and said to have medicinal claims. Beauty magazines published easy diy recipes like one from Sarah Bernhardt who was a French stage actress who starred in some of the most popular French plays of the late 19th and early 20th centuries:

Half a pint of alcohol, two ounces of spirits of camphor, two ounces of spirits of ammonia, and five ounces of sea-salt, to be added to sufficient boiling water to make a quart in all, when the mixture should be placed in a bottle and thoroughly shaken before use. This lotion, which should be well rubbed into the skin daily, is said to be especially efficacious in taking the fatigue out of tired muscles.

(Examiner, Launceston, Tasmania, 1904

The idea was that these skin tonics could soothe nerves and help tired muscles. At the time Eau de Cologne or cologne water was used both internally and externally to cure different diseases. 

The term “toilet” when speaking about toilet water and toilet vinegar has a bit of history on its own. When a lady sat down to beautify herself she performed her ‘toilette’, so it was that she used ‘toilette water’ and spritzed with ‘eau de toilette’. 

Toilet water: Water of the toilette, high in alcohol and volatile oils. Traditionally these products were named after a principal ingredient; some being geranium water, lavender water, lilac water, violet water, spirit of myrcia and 'eau de Bretfeld'.

Toilet vinegar: A popular and versatile way of incorporating herbal benefits into a recipe. They were created by packing your chosen herb, or herbs, into a jar and covering it with vinegar. 

Cologne water: Traditionally cologne is usually made of citrus oils and fragrances.  And is lighter than eau de toilette  (Fun fact: it was named for the city of Cologne, in Germany, where a particular scent was first made.) This category of scents are fresh, sometimes fruity, and often contain citrus oils such as lemon, orange, and neroli (bitter orange blossom). 

Historical Formulations Of Face Tonics

Common ingredients used in skin tonics included alcohol, witch hazel extract, tincture of benzoin, tincture of sage, camphor, and borax.

Skin tonic

per cent 

Tincture of benzoin


Boric acid








Witch hazel


Orange flower water


Procedure: Dissolve the tincture of benzoin and perfume in the alcohol. Warm the witch hazel and dissolve the boric acid in it. Mix the witch hazel and the orange flower water; add glycerin. Then add the tincture and alcohol. Mix thoroughly, age, and filter.

(Chilson, 1934, p. 214)


Astringents had higher alcohol content in them than the previous products. The belief of astringents at the time was that it was used to close pores and refine the skin's texture. As well as being used to remove excess oil and close skin pores, astringents were also used to treat loose or flabby skin (believed to be one of the main causes of wrinkles), puffiness under the eyes, to tighten crepiness in the throat and reduce double chins.

Cures for wrinkles varied between beauty experts but many reasoned that if skin tonics could cause pore muscles to contract, then a stronger astringent could tighten relaxed facial muscles and reduce the flabbiness and wrinkles this caused. This idea, which had been around in the nineteenth century, persisted right through the 1920s and 1930s. After the Second World War the term astringent became associated with harshness, so many products were rebadged as toners.

Introduction of Moisturizers

By the 1960s, the introduction of the moisturizer meant that most cosmetic companies had a regime of ‘cleanse, tone and moisturize’. The rise of post-war youth culture also saw a greater use of medicated astringents and toners. These were classified as pharmaceutical products, rather than cosmetics, and went through a higher level of testing. Testing lead to products making “claim” and “quackery” about how it would improve skin. 

Toners and Tonics Today

These two terms are used loosely these days and can come in different forms. Traditionally as mentioned before, toners act as an astringent for oily or inflamed skin and add extra nutrients to the skin to help prepare the skin for hydration/moisturizer. This is why alcohol based witch hazel and Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are common ingredients in toners. These ingredients help strip away any oily residues and clear out pores to prime the skin.

Tonics on the other hand, are an extra hydrating step which focuses on conditioning the skin and adding a moisture boost. Over the counter tonics tend to be heavier with moisturizing ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid and rose water. Generally it’s said that toners are for clearing and toning, Tonics are for moisture boosting and conditioning.

That’s not to say that a tonic can't do the same things as a toner can and vice versa. Depending on what it's made with and the properties contained, you could very well get your hands on a well rounded tonic/toner which is why I say these terms can be interchangeable. 

Which One Should I Choose?

Your skin type would be the best place to start. Normally oily or blemish prone skin would stick to skin refining toners. Dry or mature skin types opt for hydrating Tonics as these provide the extra nutrients and moisture that they need. However, tonics tend to be more diverse for all skin types and find that toners can be overly drying (depending on the ingredients). Climates may differ as well, people in dry climates may also benefit from a tonic rather than toners and vice versa for those living in high humidity locations. With that said there are still tonics that do what toners do and vice versa. 

Our Replenishing Facial Tonic

While our Replenishing Facial Tonic contains alcohol free witch hazel and would be considered a toner due to that one ingredient, we feel that it falls under the tonic category due to its moisturizing properties. The properties of all the herbs extracted are very hydrating, picks up dirt left over from cleansing, preps the skin's surface for moisturizer, has a pH balance of 5.5 to help regulate oil production across the face, and plumps the texture of skin. Each herb is selected specifically for the skins benefit it includes: Chamomile, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Rose Petals, Peppermint, Calendula, Comfrey, Aloe Vera, Alcohol  Free Witch Hazel, and Chlorophyll.

Replenishing Facial Tonic

5 Reasons You Need A Face Tonic In Your Skincare Routine

With everything we covered in this post these are the main 5 reasons you need a face tonic in your skincare routine. 

ONE: Face Tonics Soothes Skin

Botanically sourced facial tonics are a great way to create a calming sensation for your skin, alleviating any temporary redness due to irritation and/or discomfort. Our facial tonic in particular is made for even the most sensitive skin and people prone to acne, rosacea, eczema, hives, dry or flakiness, and skin allergies. 

TWO: Face Tonics Are Hydrating

Our Replenishing Facial Tonic aims to restore hydration to your skin after cleansing. This includes botanically hydrating ingredients that bind together for your skin to have longer-lasting moisture and balance. The great thing about this tonic is that you can even add it to powdered face masks for added hydrating nutrients instead of water. 

THREE: Face Tonics Rebalance Skin

Due to harsh ingredients found in some cleansers, they can over-strip your skin as it cleanses, drying it out in the process. Using a tonic after cleansing helps to restore balance to your skin and replenishing lost nutrients. Replenishing Facial Tonic has a pH balance of 5.5 and works wonders to rebalance skin and leave it feeling clean and refreshed instead of dry and tight.

FOUR: Face Tonics Helps Remove Excess Oil And Dirt

Adding a facial tonic to your daily routine can help breakout excess dirt and other impurities left on your skin. This helps pores retain their normal size instead of stretching when they are full of dirt, bacteria, oil, and makeup. The Replenishing Facial Tonic also helps prevent breakouts while not stripping the skin of its natural barrier. 

FIVE: Face Tonics Are Refreshing 

Adding a face tonic to your daily skincare routine is a great way to start (and end) the day. Our Replenishing Facial Tonic has a specific sweet earthy herbal smell which grounds you and the coolness feels amazing (pro tip: put it in the fridge for an added cooling effect!).

Five Common Myths About Skin Tonics

MYTH ONE: Tonics are drying

Truth: If you choose one that is alcohol free, AHA, ABA, and salicylic acid free -  tonics can actually be extremely hydrating. Not all tonics are created equally and unfortunately you have to really READ THE LABEL to understand what you are getting. When I first started using tonics in high school my skin used to get tight and itchy. This is due to the alcohol which strips the skin of its natural barrier and changes the pH of the skin. It ends up working in the opposite way and you end up producing more oil because the skin will work harder to overcompensate for the dryness. 

MYTH TWO: Tonics are harsh astringents

Truth: Tonics can be a safe and effective way to get rid of dead skin cells without inflaming the skin. Between cleansing and before moisturizing the top layer of skin is being gently exfoliated and new skin cells are being formed. Using a tonic helps prep the surface for the next step like oil or moisturizer and can help them penetrate better. Astringents are traditionally used to shrink tissues and reduce the appearance of pores which tonics do not. 

Replenishing Facial Tonic

herbal facial tonic, herbal medicine, medicinal herbs, herbalism, herbology, herbs, phytotherapy

MYTH THREE: Tonics are not needed if you are cleansing

Truth: The great part about tonics is that it helps do what cleansers sometimes can't; it can take off any oil and traces of dirt, bacteria, and pollution left behind on the face. And as stated in myth two, helps prep the skin's surface for moisturizer. However, tonics aren’t an alternative to cleansers and are best when used together. Cleansers can be just as beneficial to the skin as tonics are as long as you know what’s in your ingredient list. Opt for ingredients that you can actually pronounce and understand. Try to avoid anything on THIS LIST when it comes to skin and body care products. 

MYTH FOUR: Tonics will shrink your pores

Truth: Pores can't actually shrink or change the size. They can, however, stretch when they are clogged. This means pores clear of dirt, makeup, and oil look smaller and more refined. Tonics are able to improve cell turnover and absorb into them to clear dirt, makeup and oil out. This helps the pores in turn not stretch due to being clogged and giving the appearance of smaller pores. 

MYTH FIVE: Tonics are not good for sensitive skin

Truth: This is a yes and no type of myth. Common store bought products have so many harsh ingredients in them that can indeed be harmful to sensitive skin. Check THIS LIST to find out what should and shouldn't be on the list of ingredients ever. Look for calming ingredients if you choose to buy over the counter like chamomile, rose water, and aloe vera. These help inflammation and redness. Our Replenish Facial Tonic has simple ingredients, is full of wonderful properties, and more. It’s great for sensitive skin ( I myself have sensitive skin so I made it especially for us!). 


With all we have gone over, no wonder it’s hard to know what to choose. Face toner and face tonics have such a strong history and as time has shown, is still evolving rapidly. It’s important to note that all face toners and face tonics should not be treated equally, but based on their list of ingredients. Here at the apothecary we encourage research and give you the option to learn how to create your own skin care so that you know exactly what you are getting. If that’s too time consuming we also offer convenient options as well like our Replenishing Facial Tonic. If you think this is something you want to learn check out our online booklets to get started, continue on the blog for more FREE diy, or eyeball our membership program to get the full experience and exclusive deals. Skincare doesn’t have to be complicated. It should feel easy, clean, effective, and allow your natural skin to glow - men and women!

If you liked this post you might enjoy learning about How To Switch To Natural Skin And Body Care Products: 


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