Saving Face: How to Make Citrus Toner

The key to saving money on beauty products is to realize that almost everything you need is either already in your kitchen or within arm’s reach at the grocery store. It might feel weird at first to go grocery shopping for beauty ingredients, but it’s such a smart financial decision in the long run.

Toners, which are an astringent that can improve the texture and oiliness of your skin, already contain similar ingredients found in a grocery store but cost double or triple the price. Here’s a recipe for making your own citrus-scented toner on a budget.

This recipe will make double the amount you will pay for your average toner for the same price or less. An 8.4 ounce Kiehl’s toner will set you back $16, and some even smaller sizes from other brands can cost upward of $30 or $40.

Photo by Gabriela Garcia

Photo by Gabriela Garcia

This clean, green-tea toner is the same price (and probably less, given that many of us have some of these ingredients lurking in our kitchens) and will last you twice as long. If you want to forgo the spray bottle, you can also put this in a jar or Tupperware container and just use your fingers to put it on. Once you have the base ingredients lying around, re-making the recipe will be super quick, easy, and even cheaper.


  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup cooled green tea
  • 2-3 drops lemon essential oil
  • 2 tablespoons witch hazel
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 12 - 16 ounce spray bottle (optional)

Instructions: Make a cup of hot green tea and let it cool in the fridge for about a half hour. Then pour the tea and remaining ingredients into the spray bottle before shaking it up real good.

Let’s break down the benefits and costs of this super simple recipe:

$3 - Witch hazel

Witch hazel is a plant-based astringent that helps disinfect skin and kill bacteria. It reduces inflammation on the skin, working especially well to de-puff under-eye circles and reduce redness and swelling during any bad skin moments.

You don’t have to buy witch hazel in the beauty aisle at Whole Foods to make this toner worthwhile. Just head down the CVS and buy their store brand bottle! It will have the same benefits and won’t affect the quality at all.

$5 – Lemon essential oil

First of all, lemon essential oil smells amazing. It has a powerful, clear scent that will mask the less appetizing scents of apple cider vinegar and witch hazel. The warm, citrus vibe will also complement the green tea. Lemon is widely considered to be one of the most invigorating and uplifting oils. It’s super energizing and has been known to help with headaches and concentration. Be careful not to use too much in your mixture, or you will smell like a lemon pretty consistently for about a week (not necessarily a bad thing, but still).

Essential oils are crazy expensive, right? Not necessarily. Google around and you’ll find some steals, like this 100% pure lemon essential oil from Eden’s Garden. If you think you want to play around more with DIY beauty and essential oils in the future, it might be worthwhile to purchase a set of oils for $15 or less. Look for those deals on Amazon and Groupon – they are actually very common!

$3 – Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a skin superhero, and a little goes a long way. It’s a strong, pH-balancing vinegar that has anti-aging properties and brightens skin. Similar to witch hazel, it has astringent and anti-fungal benefits that help prevent and quell breakouts.

You can buy a cheap bottle of ACV practically anywhere. You’ve probably seen them at the grocery store before, and those brands are totally fine to use on your skin. A consistently reliable brand is Bragg’s, but really any will do.

$2.50 – Green tea bags

Grab a box on your next grocery run if you don’t already have one in your kitchen. Green tea is detoxifying as hell, smells amazing, and improves skin elasticity because of its natural caffeine content. It’s also multipurpose. Use it to make toner, drink it, or wet a couple of bags, let them cool, and place them over your eyes for five minutes to decrease swelling. You don’t need expensive eye creams when you have this medicinal, accessible stuff.

$3 - Spray bottle

With the ingredient portions of this recipe, go for a 12-16 ounce spray bottle (available on Amazon or at any drug store).

Total estimated cost: $16.50

Gabriela Garcia is a graduate student at Columbia University in New York.