Is Toner Supposed to Burn, Tingle Or Sting?

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You may be skeptical about including a facial toner in your skincare routine. Well, you’re not alone.

The hesitation in using toner as part of an everyday skincare regimen is hardly surprising. For a long time, it has long been perceived to cause a burning sensation when applied to the face. 

But toner formulations have come a long way. They’re one of the highly recommended products to regularly use on our skin today.

a young woman with body wrapped in white towel is putting a toner on a cotton pad

It’s understandable if you have questions about the product.

Should toner burn or tingle your skin? How do you get the best skincare experience when using toners?

Before you say no to using toner, keep reading to learn more about why you should consider making it part of your beauty regimen.

What Is Toner?

Nowadays, most toners you’ll find in the stores have water-based formulas meant to cleanse and refresh your face.

It’s designed to remove dirt, impurities, or makeup residue that may have been missed when you washed your face with cleanser and water.

One of the great things about toners, even in the early days, is that they’ve been formulated to balance the pH level on your face.

This was particularly important in the past because older soaps tend to be harsher on the skin, especially on the face.

Also, back in the day, toner ingredients commonly had high amounts of alcohol.

As a result, toners gained a reputation for drying out the skin, making them almost exclusively suited for oily skin types.

But formulations of toners have significantly developed over the years.

Skincare brands have maintained the toner’s ability to maintain a balanced pH. And there are now wide varieties of toners that can address specific skin concerns.

More importantly, many brands now offer alcohol-free toners, making them well-suited for all skin types.

Benefits of Using Toners

Reinforces your facial cleanser

While every skincare routine should start with a facial cleanser, we often miss a lot of dirt, impurities, and makeup residue. That’s why applying toner after washing your face is highly recommended. 

By applying toner, you’re making sure that the pollutants that come in contact with your face after a long day are removed.

You’ll also sleep better knowing that you’ve cleaned all makeup from your face, which, otherwise, would have caused more skin issues.

It helps the skin absorb your products better

With a clean face and clear pores, you’re also making sure that no debris will block your serum, moisturizer, and sunscreen from being fully absorbed by your skin. 

Many toners you’ll find today are also formulated to hydrate your face, which helps skincare products to penetrate deeper into your skin.

Balances the skin’s pH

The toners nowadays have the best of both their old and modern benefits.

While formulas have changed for the better, many toners retain properties that help balance the skin’s pH.

This is one of the most important benefits of using toners because it’s easy for a facial cleanser to alter the pH level of our skin. Luckily, many skin toners now are formulated to help maintain the optimal pH of the skin. 

a woman with hair in a near bun is touching her acne-free and healthy skin while eyes closed

Is Face Toner Supposed to Burn?

Now let’s dive into the reason you’re here. Is toner supposed to burn your face? Is it supposed to sting?

You’ve probably already heard someone say that when a skincare product stings, it’s because it’s working. But that’s not always the case.

Generally speaking, experts say burning or tingling sensation on the skin, along with redness and itchiness, that occurs after applying a skincare product is not a good sign.

That is especially true if those skin reactions last long after applying the product. 

On the other hand, remember that toners affect your skin’s pH. So it’s not uncommon to feel a slight reaction when you apply toners as your skin’s pH adjusts.

But should toner burn or sting your skin persistently and if the reactions last more than a few minutes, it could indicate several issues.

And that’s not a normal reaction from a skincare product. 

Why Your Skin Burns From Your Toner

There can be several reasons why toner burns or stings your skin. But it could be remedied with a few tweaks in your skincare routine.

One of the most likely reasons face toners burn the skin is their content.

While toner formulas have become milder, many products still have low to high concentrations of alcohol and/or other strong chemicals.

The burning and tingling feeling you get when applying face toner could also be exacerbated by skin condition you have.

Are you using cleansers with harsh formulas? Are you exfoliating a little too hard and more frequently than needed?

Also, if you’ve been treating your skin for acne, you may have used anti-acne products that may cause inflammation.

Those are just some factors that could weaken or damage your skin barrier. And they can make your skin more sensitive and prone to adverse reactions when applying toners.

Regardless, as soon as you feel a burn from applying face toner, it’s highly advised to check the label. See if it has alcohol and other chemicals that may not be a good match for your skin.

But you don’t have to completely and immediately remove toner from your skincare routine. You might need to make changes to find what works better for your skin.

The good news is, with the vast array of modern toners out there, you’ll certainly have an easy time finding a more suitable replacement. 

Choosing the Right Toner

You don’t have to miss out on the benefits of using face toners if you come across one product that stings your skin.

And when it comes to taking care of your skin, every detail counts. So the key is finding the right toner with the right ingredients for you.

Of course, it starts by determining your skin type.

a blonde woman applying toner on her face using a cotton pad while looking at the bathroom mirror

What to Look For in a Toner

For Oily and Acne-Prone Skin

Glycolic acid is one of the more commonly used alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) in skin care and is known for its exfoliating, brightening, and anti-aging properties.

Despite having “acid” in its name, AHAs are derived from plants, so they’re mostly safe on the skin.

Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane and is an effective exfoliant that can clean the outermost layer of skin cells to remove excess oil from your face.

Niacinamide is known for neutralizing sebum to help regulate the skin’s oil production. By reducing the chances of overproduction of oil on the skin, you’ll also have less chance of developing acne and blemishes. 

For Dry Skin

Hyaluronic acid does more than rehydrate dry skin as it’s also known for helping skin cells retain moisture. 

Again, don’t be fooled by its name. It might sound like a harsh chemical, but it’s actually naturally produced in the human body or through the fermentation of certain bacteria.

Vitamin E is yet another popular skincare ingredient widely recommended to people with dry skin because it helps prevent dehydration.

And with its cell-protecting and moisturizing properties, it’s also commonly found in anti-aging products.

For Sensitive Skin

Chamomile is a wonder plant that provides wide-ranging benefits, including healing and anti-inflammatory properties for the skin. It’s safe to use on sensitive skin, and it is also safe to use even for people with skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea. 

Aloe vera is popular for being one of the most common humectants found in skincare products, which means it helps in reducing the loss of natural skin moisture.

But it’s also known for its powerful soothing properties that help ease itchiness and skin redness.

How to Apply Face Toner the Right Way

Applying face toners should be easy if you’ve had your skincare journey for a long time. But if you’ve held off on trying toners because you’re worried they might burn or sting, don’t worry!

It’s one of the most straightforward skincare products to use.                           

1. Always wash your face first with your favorite cleanser to remove dirt and oil from your skin.

2.  Dry your face. Everyone has their preferred methods of drying their face after cleansing. People commonly do it by patting their faces with a clean towel. But others suggest letting it air-dry because damp skin is supposed to be better for applying skincare products.

Whatever you choose, don’t dry your face by hastily rubbing a towel against it.

3. Apply toner with a cotton ball or pad. Make sure you apply the toner on your entire face to remove all impurities and to better absorb other skincare products.

4. If you’re using serum, apply it after your toner. If not, you can skip ahead and apply your moisturizer.

Whether its serum, moisturizer, or both, ensure you follow up your toner with a product that will hydrate your skin even when using a hydrating toner.

a beautiful woman looking at the camera while holding a cotton pad with toner on her cheeks

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Use Toner Every Day?

Most toners nowadays no longer include alcohol in their ingredients list. And if that’s the one you’re using, skincare gurus recommend incorporating it into your daily routine.

You’ll also get the best out of regularly using toner if you choose a product with other benefits, such as anti-aging, reducing uneven skin tone and blemishes, or brightening your skin.

Is The Ordinary Toner Supposed to Burn?

Skincare brand The Ordinary has a popular toner called the Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution. And its main ingredient is, you guessed it, the popular exfoliant glycolic acid.

The Ordinary says its toner targets uneven skin tone and dullness, although it is suited for all skin types.

But the brand has specific instructions about using it, such as applying it only once a day and never using it on “sensitive, peeling, or compromised skin.”

Like other toners, The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution should not burn or sting your face. So no, The Ordinary’s face toner is not supposed to burn.

And the brand’s website says to rinse it off and stop using it once you experience skin irritation.

When to Use Face Toner?

In the order of products to put on your skin, remember that toners should always follow your facial cleanser. Doing so will ensure that you’re correctly getting rid of the impurities, dirt, and excess oil and clearing your pores to ready your skin for the rest of your beauty regimen.

Formulas for toners are now gentler on the skin. Brands have been incorporating more natural ingredients while reducing chemicals and removing alcohol.

So including toner in your morning and nighttime routines is definitely okay.

But remember to always read product labels and instructions. Depending on the ingredients in a toner, some products can only be used once a day. 

Can I Use Toner When Going Out in the Daytime?

Yes. Toners, especially with modern formulations, are safe to use even when you’re planning on going out for the day. Just remember to always cleanse your face first before applying your toner.

Do take note of the ingredients in your toner. Some of them, like AHAs, increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

Although you’re safe to go out, use your best sunscreen and limit your sun exposure to avoid getting sunburned.

Is Toner Safe for All Skin Types?

Yes, they are safe for all skin types, thanks to more brands introducing mild and natural variants for toners. Because toner has become a skincare product category of its own, you’ll be able to find the perfect toner suited for just about any skin type.

Determine your skin type and the skin concerns you want to target before choosing a face toner. Opt for toners that are alcohol-free and rich with natural ingredients for a worry-free skincare routine.

So Is Toner Supposed to Burn?

The face toner has gone a very long way as a skincare product. From something people used to have to be so cautious about, toners these days are safe enough to be part of your daily beauty routine.

Toners, especially those with modern formulas, should not burn, sting, or even tingle your skin.

Just remember that what your skin needs are often precise. What’s working for others may not work for you. 

If you observe skin reactions after application, don’t hesitate to stop using it and look for another that perfectly suits your skin type and skincare needs.

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  • Ashley Pena

    Ashley Pena brings over 13 years of seasoned writing and editing expertise, fortified by her Bachelor of Science in Management. Esteemed in the beauty domain, her content captivates readers with its depth and authenticity. While she navigates a broad spectrum of beauty trends, Ashley shines particularly as our resident K-beauty guru. Her articles are a harmonious blend of passion and profound knowledge, inspiring readers on their unique beauty journeys.

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