Caru Witch Hazel + Bee Balm Toner Review - The Acne Experiment

Caru Witch Hazel + Bee Balm Toner Review - The Acne Experiment

Hi-yo! I'm kicking off a series of toner reviews with a super simple one. Dominique Caron of Caru Skincare contacted me to see if I'd be willing to test out a few of her products. Yes, I got this toner for free and I don't care who knows it. Anyone who has dedicated a ton of time to product testing will say that getting free stuff is tits, and this was my first gratis product. I cried salty tears all over my irritated face when I got that email from her. So exciting.

Caru Witch Hazel + Bee Balm Toner is a combination of several hydrosols, which is a fancy word for floral water. I didn't know what a hydrosol was until a few months ago, when I looked it up, on the Internet. Here's what I figured out: Hydrosols act as a milder, gentler form of essential oil. This is because hydrosols are the watery co-product of essential oil distillation.

When an essential oil is distilled from plants, and the oil rises and is collected, there is a good amount of "fragrant water" left over. This water is what most hydrosols are made from. For higher quality hydrosols, the purpose of the distilling process is to create a hydrosol rather than create an essential oil. Caru hydrosols come from both the US and France (ooo la la), are certified organic, and -- like all true hydrosols -- are 100% alcohol free.

The Bee Balm hydrosol I tested has a pH between 4 and 6 which is the right range for skincare products. It is all natural, and free of preservatives, so it is only supposed to be good for about 4-8 weeks after opening. I opted for refrigeration and avoided double dipping (ie I wet a clean cotton ball and applied, but never wet that same cotton ball again); this significantly prolonged the shelf life of the product.



  1. Wash and dry face as usual. (I've been water washing for months now. Love.)
  2. Get your fancy schmancy hydrosol out of the fridge.
  3. Saturate a clean cotton ball and apply all over face. 
  4. Don't contaminate the bottle with your finger or an eyelash or something.
  5. Put your fancy schamncy hydrosol back in the fridge.
  6. Once the toner is dry, apply any additional products/spot treatments.
  7. Get your fancy schmancy hydrosol back out of the fridge.
  8. Beg a friend or loved one to apply the hydrosol to your back.
  9. Get really mad when they inevitably hesitate.
  10. (They'll do it for you if they love you. Make sad face.)
  11. Put your fancy schmancy hydrosol back in the fridge.
  12. Smile to yourself. YOU WON. YOU WON DAMMIT.


Before we get to photos/conclusions, I want to discuss the ingredients in this product: witch hazel, bee balm, thyme, and lavender.

Caru Witch Hazel + Bee Balm Facial Toner

Lavender is supposed to be healing and thyme is supposed to cleansing. Witch hazel is well known as "nature's astringent": soothing, anti-inflammatory, and high in anti-oxidants. The nice thing about using a pure witch hazel hydrosol is that unlike most witch hazels, it does not contain any additional ingredients (so so many of them contain alcohol, which is super drying). Bee balm, aka "monarda didyma" aka wild bergamot, comes from the mint family and is antimicrobial. Good stuff.

Not good stuff: Paula Bergeron, who may or may not be the boss of me, says all of these ingredients are classified as irritants. eeeps. I realize Paula is not the end-all-be-all when it comes to skincare, and her recommendations tend to fall on the cautious side. I'm thinking, meh? Paula, meh on this.

Not all "irritants" are irritants to all skin. Additionally, the concentration of the ingredients needs to be taken into account; applying undiluted lavender oil to the skin is not the same as applying a lavender hydrosol. Unless you have a known problem with any of these ingredients, hydrosols are probably going to be very mild. As it goes with anything topical - spot test first if you are concerned.

My take on the Caru toner:

My first impression was, holy hell this toner smells like pizza. The thyme hydrosol gives this stuff a straight-up savory scent. It's not super strong, and I got used to it fairly quickly, but it was a little off-putting the first few times I used it. For this first trial, I tested it along my hairline/forehead/nose (I included the chin pics for kicks):

Caru Witch Hazel + Bee Balm Before & After
Before & After Caru Witch Hazel + Bee Balm (Trial #1)
After = results after two weeks of testing the Caru toner

Caru Witch Hazel + Bee Balm Before & After :: The Acne Experiment
Before & After Caru Witch Hazel + Bee Balm Toner :: The Acne Experiment

I didn't react to the stuff at all. If anything, I saw a mild improvement, which could have been due to the exfoliant/spot treatments I was using. Who knows. I decided to test it AGAIN a few weeks later:

Caru Witch Hazel + Bee Balm Toner Before & After
Before & After Caru Witch Hazel + Bee Balm (Trial #2)
After = results after 2.5 weeks of testing the Caru toner (In the After pic, i'm wearing eye/lip makeup only) 

Caru Witch Hazel + Bee Balm Hydrosol Before & After :: The Acne Experiment
Before & After Caru Witch Hazel + Bee Balm Hydrosol :: The Acne Experiment

You'll notice some congestion in my forehead area, particularly in the before shots. This was from the Rosehip oil trial. That mess got worse then better while testing this toner, so I opted to leave the mid trial photos out to avoid confusion. This explanation perhaps added to your confusion. Sorry guys.

A Hot Tip for You:

I used this toner primarily after workouts as an alternative to cleansing. It was *super refresh* for that purpose. Try applying an ice-cold toner straight from the refrigerator when you're overheated, it's a game changer. I think I'm going to start doing this with toners that don't need to be refrigerated; I liked it that much. It also applied it sporadically to my back and chest, and I think it helped a little with the situation going on there. No, I don't have photos of that. I don't take pictures of my body acne. A girl's gotta keep a little mystery about her. I have to draw the line somewhere. Stop harassing me.

Would I use this toner again? Probably. I've had a lot of bad experiences with new products lately, so not having a reaction was nice for a change. At $24-$28, this toner is a bit spendy, but I'd love to eventually use this or one of the other Caru hydrosols post-workout. In the meantime, I'll see if I can dig up a low-ingredient witch hazel and do it like the proletariat do.

Next Up:  Paula's Choice Resist Toner


PS: If you're curious, this toner lasted for way longer than 8 weeks after opening. According to Dominique, the owner, you can tell it has gone bad if there is a milky white film at the bottom. It has yet to get to that point for me, and it's been open for a whopping 11 weeks at the time of writing this.

PPS: Yes, I received this product for free. No, I did not get paid to write this review.* Yes, all opinions are my own. No, I am not a liar/poser/hipster/loser. Yes, I received a second product (charcoal soap), no I did not try it. Soap is too a-scary. Maybe I'll try it on my mottled back.

*Amy Poehler told me to limit my "always" and my "nevers," but seriously, I will never accept payment to write a review on this blog. Never ever. Sorry Amy.

All Acne Experiment Posts + FAQs are in The Acne Experiment MOTHER HUB

Witch Hazel + Bee Balm Hydrosol :: The Acne Experiment
Witch Hazel + Bee Balm 4 Week Review :: The Acne Experiment

All Images © Crappy Candle / The Acne Experiment

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