Nutrient Toner
4.4 fl. oz. for $32
Category:Skin Care > Toners > Toners
Last Updated:11.07.2012
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:No
Review Overview

Nutrient Toner contains a blend of pumpkin ferment (essentially, pumpkin wine) plus the AHA lactic acid for exfoliation. The pumpkin ferment isn’t known to exfoliate, and although the lactic acid is a well-researched effective AHA, it most likely is present in too low an amount in this toner for it to be an effective exfoliant.

What’s most disappointing is that this toner’s pH is 1.7 (consider that sulfuric acid can have a pH of 1.9!), which is exceedingly acidic, making this toner remarkably irritating for all skin types. Adding to this strong negative is the inclusion of clove, cinnamon, and ginger oils. They may smell dessert-like, but all three are potent skin irritants. This adds up to a product that can potentially hurt skin.

For the health of your skin, please leave this toner on the shelf; it has about the same amount of nutrition for your skin as polyester, only worse. If you’re seeking an AHA exfoliant in toner form, consider Paula’s Choice RESIST Weekly Resurfacing Treatment for an effective yet gentle option. Refer to More Info for details on why irritation is so bad for your skin.

  • None.
  • Contains a high amount of pumpkin ferment (pumpkin wine), which has no established benefit for skin and is most likely irritating.
  • Fragrant oils of clove, ginger, and cinnamon are potent irritants.
  • Very low, acidic pH (similar to that of sulfuric acid), making this toner a problem for all skin types.

More Info:

Irritation, whether you see it on the surface of your skin or not, causes inflammation, and as a result impairs healing, damages collagen, and depletes the vital substances your skin needs to stay young. For this reason, it is best to eliminate, or minimize as much as possible, your exposure to known skin irritants, especially when there are brilliant formulas available that do not include these types of problematic ingredients.

Daily use of products that contain a high amount of fragrance, whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or natural, causes chronic irritation that can damage healthy collagen production, lead to or worsen dryness, and impair your skin’s ability to heal. Fragrance-free is the best way to go for all skin types. If fragrance in your skin-care products is important to you, it should be a very low amount to minimize the risk to your skin (Sources: Inflammation Research, December 2008, pages 558–563; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2008, pages 124–135, and November-December 2000, pages 358–371; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, April 2008, pages 15–19; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2008, pages 78–82; Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, January 2007, pages 92–105; and British Journal of Dermatology, December 2005, pages S13–S22).


Nutrient Toner is a combination of vitamins, enzymes and amino acids to nourish skin and prepare it for further treatment. It also contains AHAs formulated to help refine pores and remove superficial dead skin cells, reducing your skin's risk of blemishes and other impurities. Appropriate for any skin type or condition.


Water, Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Ferment Extract, Sucrose, Lactic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Citric Acid, Phenyl-N-Butyl Nitrone, Aminoguanidine HCL, Yeast, Euglenia Caryophyllus (Clove) Leaf Oil, Cinnamomum Cassia Leaf Oil, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Oil

Brand Overview

PCA Skin At-a-Glance

Strengths: Every SPF-rated product provides reliable broad-spectrum sun protection; several products are fragrance-free; good eye cream and retinol serum.

Weaknesses: Way too expensive for what you get; several products contain irritating fragrant oils; the toners contain irritants; there are too many serums and many contain irritating ingredients; the acne products contain problematic ingredients.

PCA Skin is a product line you may have seen at your spa, salon, or dermatologist's office. Founded by an aesthetician in 1990, the brand became relatively popular after developing a series of professional alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) peels marketed as "medical clinical aesthetics"; in other words, these products are sold to dermatology practices offering cosmetic services such as facials. More recently, PCA Skin has teamed up with a dermatologist and other medical professionals to develop skin-care products. The peels are for professional use only and, in fact, except for a facial scrub, PCA Skin does not sell exfoliants that consumers can use at home.

Not surprisingly, PCA Skin's medical and aesthetics background is supposed to be rooted in science. The company states that "we use rigorous research and science to develop safe, highly effective products that deliver healthy, beautiful skin." Although PCA Skin products contain many beneficial, research-supported ingredients, they also contain numerous problematic ingredients that cause irritation; somehow, that "rigorous" research overlooked those. Irritation is always a problem for skin, causing inflammation and collagen breakdown, and impairing the skin's ability to heal.

Chief among the irritants you'll find throughout the PCA Skin line are witch hazel, citrus and numerous other fragrant oils (whether synthetic or natural, fragrance is almost always a problem for skin), drying cleansing agents, and alcohol (we mean, really, alcohol?!). In our Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary, we provide detailed information on why each of these ingredients is a problem; for all of their talk about science, chemistry, and research, PCA Skin should know better.

If you remain intrigued by this brand (or find the sales pressure from your aesthetician too intense to ignore), there are some worthwhile products. It’s great that every SPF-rated product from PCA Skin includes reliable broad-spectrum sun-protection ingredients, and fans of facial scrubs should know this brand does offer a gentle option. Also, their eye cream and retinol serum are worth a look, and several products are fragrance-free, although you need to choose carefully because many of their products contain fragrant plant extracts or oils despite being listed as fragrance-free.

PCA Skin's science-based mission is admirable, but just because an aesthetician and doctor teamed up, the results for these products aren't going to be spectacular, or even all that helpful.

For more information about PCA Skin, call (877) 722-7546 or visit www.pcaskin.com.

About the Experts

The new Beautypedia Team proudly and unequivocally maintains the commitment to help you find the best products possible for your skin. We do this by relentlessly pursuing and relying on published scientific research so you will have unbiased information on what works and what doesn't-and the sneaky ways you could be making your skin worse, not better!

The Beautypedia Team reviews all products using the same research, criteria, and objectivity, whether the product being reviewed is from Paula's Choice or another brand.

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Nutrient Toner

I can understand why you might look at some of the ingredients and have some concerns but you may want to investigate a bit further before labeling a product as irritating etc. PCA Skin is known for being "progressive, not aggressive" and it is a line created for esthetic/medical professionals. Nutrient Toner is not meant to be used as the completion of a daily cleansing process but in a treatment type of setting. PCA Clinicians advise clients on proper usage.

Reviewed by
Alli N.
Best toner I've ever used

For someone that has EXTREMELY sensitive skin, I had written off the idea of ever using a skin toner again. After using it and not experiencing the normal "alcohol burn" and fluorescent red that they always left me with- I was a believer. It actually does the complete opposite, it calms and soothes my skin. I buy it in bulk. As someone that religiously reads (and follows) the product reviews from Paula's choice, the negative review I read on this product leaves me questioning her judgement.

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