Why Does Moisturizer Burn? What is the Burning Sensation When Applying Moisturizer?

Woman's face after chemical peeling. Peeling skin on the face. Exfoliation of old skin. Facial rejuvenation. Retinoic face peeling
LuxeLuminous is reader supported. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

When it comes to skincare routines, one of the products most commonly used is moisturizer. It is the key skincare product to use because it helps keep your skin healthy and avoid dryness. 

However, some people can still experience stinging or burning when they use a moisturizer. Have you ever experienced a burning sensation when you applied a moisturizer?

Why does moisturizer burn your skin, sometimes?

There are several reasons why moisturizer might cause a burning sensation. It could be due to the state of your skin or the ingredients in the moisturizer.

In this article, I’ll discuss those reasons in detail. 


Is Moisturizer Supposed to Cause a Burning Sensation?

Different products can have different effects on the skin. Some products naturally produce burning or stinging sensations. However, most of us will be surprised when a simple moisturizer produces a burning sensation. After all, it’s supposed to hydrate!

Moisturizers are typically designed to soothe the skin. They usually help make the skin feel more comfortable because the moisture helps get rid of dryness! 

When your skin feels tight and feels like it is tearing due to dryness, applying moisturizer to it will help soothe the skin. It will help make the skin feel supple and soft. 

It is not normal for moisturizers to cause a burning sensation on the skin. In case that happens, it could be a warning sign that tells you that something is wrong with your skin or it could be reacting irritably to the moisturizer. 

It is not normal for moisturizers to cause a burning sensation on the skin. 

Why Does Moisturizer Burn Your Skin?

Although a moisturizer isn’t supposed to burn, it is still possible for you to feel a burning sensation when you apply it. In some cases, the burning sensation doesn’t happen every time you use it, and can randomly come and go. 

When it does, we are left wondering why it happens.

Here are the six most common reasons why the wrong moisturizer could cause a burning sensation:

1. Compromised Skin

One of the most common reasons why you feel a burning sensation when you apply your moisturizer is because your skin is compromised. The outermost layer of your skin may be in rough shape due to various environmental factors like pollution, bacteria, or UV rays. 

If your skin is already inflamed and overly dry, adding some moisturizers will make things worse. It becomes more susceptible to various skin issues like skin sensitivity, redness, and dryness. 

Apart from the moisturizer application, you may also feel a burning sensation when you apply other products like your toner, serum, or even your cleanser. 

2. Dryness and Irritated Skin

Another reason for the burning sensation is that the skin is already irritated or dry. Moisturizers are supposed to prevent dry skin when regularly used. 

However, there are instances when the products in your skincare routine may not all be compatible with your skin. That is why it could lead to problems such as dryness and irritation. 

When you use the wrong type of moisturizer on skin that’s already dry and irritated, the problem can worsen and could be causing the burning sensation. There are multiple different types of moisturizers in the market and it is important to select one that is compatible with your skin type. 

CeraVe and Cetaphil are good places to start your moisturizing journey and are both pretty mild.

3. Sensitive Skin

People with sensitive skin may experience a burning sensation when applying moisturizers, particularly those moisturizers that contain retinol. Although most people may not have the same burning reaction to a specific moisturizer, it may be too much for those with sensitive skin to handle. 

Some people with sensitive skin do not only feel a burning sensation when a moisturizer is applied but when other skincare products are applied. In such cases, you have to find products with a gentle formulation. 

There may be irritants in some moisturizers that could cause those with sensitive skin to react negatively to them. If you have sensitive skin, it would be best to select fragrance-free products that are specifically formulated for those with sensitive skin. 

4. Irritant In The Moisturizer

It is possible to feel a burning sensation in certain moisturizers even if your skin isn’t sensitive. Some people may have an allergic reaction or may react negatively to certain ingredients in some moisturizers. This is particularly common if you are using a new moisturizer.

Your skin is trying to tell you something: stop using this moisturizer!

It is important to look at the ingredient list to see what could have caused the reaction. There are many moisturizing ingredients, and it’s not uncommon for moisturizers to include harsh ingredients like fragrances and perfumes.

You may need to switch to other formulations if you tend to feel a burning sensation whenever you use that certain moisturizer. 

Although some ingredients may be moisturizing for some, being allergic or having a negative reaction to those will worsen your skin if you continue using them. 

5. Unpleasant Ingredients And Harsh Chemicals

Some people may handle harsh chemicals and unpleasant ingredients to some extent. However, others who have more sensitive skin may not. 

Various ingredients like fragrance, parabens, and alcohol could be too harsh for some people. Although they could help make the product smell better or last longer, they could still cause problems for some people. 

The good news is that many brands formulate their moisturizers without harsh or unpleasant ingredients. They may be a bit more expensive, but you are better off using them than irritating your skin with more affordable products. 

6. Over-Exfoliation

Exfoliation is a good thing when it is done properly. There are physical and chemical exfoliants that you can use but using them far too often or scrubbing too harshly with physical exfoliators will harm the skin. 

Instead of just helping the skin shed some of the dead skin cells, you may be helping to shed too much that the skin’s surface becomes compromised.

Several signs could tell you that you’ve over-exfoliated your skin like redness and dryness.

What To Do If You Feel a Burning or Stinging Sensation When Applying Moisturizer

In case your skin burns when you use a moisturizer, stop using the moisturizer, at least for a while, until you figure out what causes your skin to burn.

Wash off the product you’ve applied to your skin, and give your skincare routine a break for a little while. This should relieve the burning and calm things down.

If it’s your skin that’s compromised, it may just need time to heal itself, and you may need to visit a dermatologist. 

Giving your skin a break can help it heal itself. After a little while, go ahead and try using the moisturizer again. If it still burns, then there might be something in your moisturizer that’s causing the reaction.

Consider changing your moisturizer into something more compatible with your skin. 

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).