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Is Toner Supposed To Burn?

by Gabbi
Woman With Face Toner

Your skincare routine should provide nourishment and protect your skin barrier. We can sometimes believe that if our skincare is burning, it means it’s working. However, your skincare shouldn’t cause discomfort or burning of any kind.

Toner is a product used to balance the skin’s pH levels. It’s not as popular as it once was, but now you can find a toner for every purpose. For example, a toner can have active ingredients to target your pores or nourishing properties to boost hydration.

In addition, a toner can remove any excess debris from the face and allow for better absorption of other products. However, toners are often confused with astringents, which are also a post-cleansing product targeting problematic skin.

Astringents are much more abrasive on the skin than toners because they contain a higher percentage of alcohol. So, if you use an astringent in place of toner, you could increase your skin’s sensitivity. Toners have more restorative properties.

So is toner supposed to burn? A toner should not burn your face or skin. If it does, it can mean a high percentage of active ingredients or alcohol. Also, you may not be using a toner correctly or are sensitive to a particular element.

So, if your toner is irritating your skin, you may want to think twice about what you’re putting on your face. Follow our guide below to relieve your skin and find out the best practices for using a toner.

What Is A Toner? 

A toner is a liquid tonic applied to the skin after cleansing. It can serve multiple purposes like balancing the skin’s pH levels, adding hydration, or reducing the appearance of pores. 

It can even clean excess debris from the face and add nourishment. One of the primary purposes of toner is to protect the skin. So, if you find that toner is causing you discomfort, it may be time to re-evaluate your skincare routine.

Types Of Toners

Nowadays, you can find a toner for every purpose. For example, toners were once essential after cleansing, but now they serve as an optional product in your routine.

Another reason toners were common back in the day is because cleansers were over-stripping the skin. So, a toner would remove excess dirt and balance the skin.

However, cleansers today have a much more gentle and effective formulation, so the need for toners diminished. 

Toners have now gotten a facelift, and they aren’t the same face-stinging tonics as you once remembered. Instead, the most popular types of toners you’ll see today are ones that are restorative or pore-targeting.


A classic toner usually provides hydration for your skin. In addition, they can still balance your skin’s pH levels. These types of toners are soothing and restoring for the skin, especially if you incorporate active ingredients in your routine. 

A hydrating toner can increase the absorption right of other products and protect the skin barrier. 


Toners can also have active ingredients. For example, toners can contain chemical exfoliants like AHAs, BHAs, PHAs, and other actives. A pore-targeting toner is excellent for problematic or acne-prone skin types. 

In addition, these types of toners can burn your skin if their active ingredient percentages are too high, overused, or mixed with the wrong products. However, they are wonderful for minimizing the appearance of pores and controlling sebum.

Toners Vs. Astringents

Toners are often confused as astringents. Both products are liquid tonics, but a toner is much milder. Astringents can also have a high percentage of active ingredients and other harsh components like alcohol.

Certain alcohols in skincare can increase your sensitivity, compromise your skin barrier, and cause burning. They can also be overly drying and cause further irritation.

What Should Toner Feel Like On The Skin?

Toners should feel lightweight and hydrating in texture. They should also absorb quickly into the skin. You’ll notice that most toners are very liquidy like water, and they don’t weigh down the skin.

However, toners can vary depending on the formulation. For example, a toner with active ingredients may feel different from a hydrating toner with soothing properties. Also, there shouldn’t be tingling, stinging, or burning regardless of the formulation. 

Why Your Toner Is Burning Your Skin

Is your toner burning your skin? There could be multiple reasons why your skin feels sensitive when applying toner. For example, you could be allergic to something in the toner, or it may not react well when you use other skincare products.

Harsh Ingredients

If your toner is burning your skin, it may contain harsh ingredients. We mentioned that toners and astringents could have alcohol that irritates your face. You’ll want to check your product’s ingredients list to identify any harsh components.

In addition, consistently using a product with abrasive ingredients can weaken your skin barrier and increase sensitivity, explaining why it burns when you apply it.

High Percentage Of Actives

A toner with active ingredients can be excellent for targeting a specific skin concern. However, if the percentage of your active ingredients is too high, it can also weaken the skin barrier and increase the risk of burning or stinging.

For example, Niacinamide is much more gentle and effective at 5% than at 10%. You’ll also want to look at the percentages if your toner contains chemical exfoliants. 

Using a toner with many active ingredients can wear down your skin and cause irritation. However, you can also limit how often you use these types of toners.

Doesn’t Pair Well With Your Other Products 

Another reason why your toner can burn is that it’s layered with the wrong products. For example, chemical exfoliants should never be mixed with retinoids. Both exfoliate the skin and cause an adverse reaction when paired together.

Layering a chemical exfoliant in toner with a retinoid can increase your skin’s sensitivity. This can lead to burning, redness, inflammation, acne, and more.

So, the best solution is to keep your routine simple instead of overloading it with products. 

Allergic Reaction 

You may find out that a specific skincare ingredient can cause an allergic reaction. If that’s the case, you’ll want to stop using your toner immediately and seek advice from a dermatologist.

What Happens When Your Skincare Burns 

If your skin care products, including toner, burns your skin, it can weaken your skin barrier. The skin barrier is the outermost layer of our skin and protects us from harsh environmental factors.

A product that burns, itches, or stings the face can compromise your skin barrier, primarily if you use it consistently. A damaged skin barrier can lead to inflammation, acne, redness, and more.

Signs Of A Damaged Skin Barrier

Your skincare products are just one way the skin barrier can weaken. Other factors that affect your skin barrier are your environment, over-exfoliating, lack of sun protection, genetics, and even stress.

Your skin barrier may be compromised if it’s tender, certain products burn the skin, or you have redness. Other signs include dry and itchy skin, acne, or more severe skin conditions.

What To Do If Your Toner Burns

You’re doing your skincare routine, and it’s time to apply your toner. Then, you notice a burning, stinging, or tingling sensation as you’re using it. The best thing you can do is immediately rinse the toner from your skin.

Once you’ve washed the toner from the face, you’ll want to add a ceramide barrier repair serum or a skin barrier restoring cream. This will ensure your skin stays calm and nourished. 

How To Prevent Your Toner From Burning

Thankfully, there are multiple ways you can prevent your toner from burning. Now, you’ll be able to lower the risk of having a bad reaction to a skincare product. You’ll want to conduct a patch test, research skincare ingredients, and wear SPF. 

All of the following steps can reduce the chance of a toner burning or stinging your face. It will also keep your skin barrier happy and healthy. 

Patch Test

A patch test is a simple and easy way to know if a product will work for you. It can show if you may have an allergic reaction to a certain product or ingredient.

The best way to conduct a patch test is by applying the product to the inner forearm and leaving it for 24-48 hours. If no reaction occurs, it can indicate that it’s safe to use on the face.

Take a look at this video from FaceTory to learn how to do a patch test properly.


Read The Ingredients

It’s always wise to read the ingredients list. This is especially helpful if you want to stop using products with harsh components or if you’re allergic to a particular ingredient. It can also help you establish your ideal skincare routine.

Wear SPF

Finally, you’ll want to wear SPF daily, especially if you use a toner with active ingredients that can make you more sensitive to the sun. If you don’t protect the skin, then the active ingredients won’t have the chance to provide benefits for your skin. 

In addition, a lack of sun protection or a lot of exposure to the sun can weaken the skin barrier. So, wearing SPF daily will ensure your skin is nourished, protected, and healthy.

Consult A Dermatologist 

If you still struggle with your toner or other skincare products burning your skin, it may be time to see a dermatologist. As always, a dermatologist will be able to analyze your skin and tailor your products to fit your needs. 

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