Why Do Hair Toners Burn? (We Have the Answer!)

why do hair toners burn

You can use hair toners to freshen your color or opt for a new color altogether. Whether you self-apply the semi-permanent toner or visit the salon, you want to ensure it’s a painless process. So, why do hair toners burn sometimes?

If you’ve ever experienced a burn from hair toner, you know it’s uncomfortable and irritable. In addition, you probably want to know how to avoid it in the future. If you want to understand why hair toners burn, read below to see why it’s happening to you. 

Chemicals – The Reason behind the Toner’s Burn Risk

Hair toners burn because of potent chemical ingredients, allergies, sensitive skin, overuse of hair toners, and leaving the toner on too long. Unfortunately, if you misuse hair toners, you can cause significant damage to your hair and scalp. 

Toning helps reduce orange and yellow tones and achieves an ideal overall look. If you’re interested in learning more about why hair toner burns, keep reading to find out! 

Is It Normal For Hair Toner To Burn?

It is not normal for hair toner to burn; if you experience burning, you must stop using your product. In general, no hair products should cause pain, and burning is not required to ensure the product works correctly, despite what the label says. 

While you may feel some sensation while you apply the toner to your hair, you should not experience pain or discomfort. For example, if you are at a salon and the toner is causing distress, you should speak up and say something to the stylist because they may not know it’s causing pain. 

Finally, when used properly, hair toners will correctly modify and alter your hair’s brightness and will not be harmful. Remember, it’s all about how you use the hair toner. If you are interested in using a toner, opt for a 20 volume because it will prove gentler on your hair and scalp. 

Weaker hair may prove more effective with a 10-volume toner, and while the color won’t be as effective, it still will help tone any yellow tones. 

Toners and Scalp Burns

Toners won’t usually burn your scalp without a specific reason. While it is common for people to experience scalp irritation from hair toner, burning is not normal. Instead, you should always follow the directions and ensure you don’t leave the toner on for longer than recommended. 

If your scalp is sensitive, you are more likely to experience a burning sensation from your hair toner. Your toner is burning your scalp for the following reasons:

  • Your left toner on longer than instructed advice
  • You are allergic to one of the chemical ingredients 
  • You used poor-quality toner 
  • You did not correctly apply the toner to your hair 

Toner Won’t Burn Your Hair, But it Will Damage it Period

Using hair toner can damage your hair over time, but can it burn it? You are more susceptible to damage if you tone your hair repetitively over a long period. To avoid the chance of burning your hair, avoid ammonia-based toners that are harsher on your hair. 

In addition, there are ammonia-free hair products that are gentler on your hair and less likely to cause damage. However, any time you use a product that opens your hair cuticles, you can be prone to damage your hair. Hair toner won’t necessarily burn your hair, but it can turn it brittle and dry it out. 

Finally, if you attempt to bleach and tone your hair on the same day, you will not get the desired look. Over bleaching your hair can ruin it at the end of the day. 

Chemical Burns Due to Hair Toner

You can get chemical burns from hair toner, so you must discontinue use if you experience any burning. According to the National Health Service (NHS), you may experience red, swollen, or blistered skin from a chemical burn. 

Paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a common chemical in hair toner, is a known irritant and allergen and can cause such reactions. The NHS also states that symptoms usually appear within 48 hours, but strong reactions can occur immediately. 

If you receive a chemical burn from hair toner, you should rinse your hair with fragrance-free shampoo and avoid using any products until the irritation has recovered. You may consider contacting your doctor for further evaluation if the burns are extreme. 

Finally, chemical burns can lead to scarring and hair loss, so you must correctly apply the toner to your hair. While extreme reactions are rare, you must understand the signs of a chemical burn. 

How To Avoid Hair Toner Burns 

There are several ways to avoid hair toner burns. Even if you don’t think you are at risk of burning, it’s wise to take precautions to prevent the issue. Here are the best ways to avoid hair toner burns:

  • Test a small area the first time you use hair toner
  • Read the ingredient list to ensure you won’t have an adverse reaction
  • Don’t wash your hair before using hair toner to allow the natural oils to protect your scalp and hair. 
  • Don’t go the cheap route and use high-quality toners
  • Use a purple shampoo to help tone your hair 

According to the Baylor College of Medicine, you should also limit your time under the dryer. In addition, the additives in the toner or bleach will affect any potential reactions. 


Your hair toner should not burn your skin, and understanding why it happens can help reduce the chances of it happening to you. You should not leave the toner on longer than recommended and allow ample time between toning sessions. 

While chemical burns are possible from hair toners, you can avoid the painful side effects by testing a small area before use and reading the ingredients to ensure you don’t have allergies to any chemical components. 

Finally, you shouldn’t be afraid to use hair toner but must ensure you use it properly. Hair toner is a fantastic way to enhance your hair color and provide a semi-permanent look. 

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