For a long time I went without using any toners. My initial experience with toners was quite bad: as a teenager with atypically severe acne I was recommended Clinique, the ever-worshipped place to go for everything a girl struggling with acne could need from makeup to skincare. I tried the Clinique routine, including their horrific toners, which are mostly denatured alcohol. Note here that denatured alcohol is the worst possible thing you could put on your skin: it dehydrates (not good for oil control) and damages by thinning the skin out. I started with the level 2 toner and within a year had graduated to level 5. My skin’s oiliness just kept getting worse!!
Eventually, I took toners out of my routine all together, though I continued to struggle with severe oiliness and acne. I won’t go on a rant about how I came to manage my oiliness (you can read those posts here and here). What I will tell you is how I returned to toners and what toners I have found to be absolutely amazing for all of my skin issues!
For a while I was using an Innisfree green tea toner, but it wasn’t really doing much for me. I applied it twice daily for several months, and it just never seemed to really do anything… at all. After a while, before I even finished the bottle, I simply stopped using it. It seemed like just an extra expense and step to my morning and evening routine, which might I add I try to keep as simple as possible. I am a big believer that you don’t need to use a mountain of products day and night to maintain healthy skin, and the longer I have been doing this the more I find that this is true: you just need to choose the right products.
I was however having issues with skin texture from the seborrheic dermatitis. Every morning and evening before cleansing my skin would be gritty. I had tried microdermabrasion with good results as long as I had it done every 6-8 weeks, but it got expensive and I decided not to continue. My skin needed to be exfoliated 3-4 times a week to control the grittiness and roughness, which was also causing my pores to clog, get deeper, and often led to painful, deep pimples. Physical exfoliation just didn’t seem to be quite doing the trick for maintaining my skin. I had avoided chemical exfoliation up to this point, because chemical exfoliation can be quite harsh and is certainly a step over physical exfoliation. If you exfoliate more than what your skin needs, it will backfire on you. So I took a step-wise approach to increasing the degree of exfoliation that I was doing, but with physical exfoliation alone, I was not getting any improvements.
After reading about the glass skin K-trend and an article about different toners for different skin types and what ingredients to look for, I decided to entertain the idea again. I stumbled across a Korean toner on YesStyle (where I get about half of my skincare products and most of my Korean and Japanese skincare items) that amazingly met several criteria: it contains small amounts of both AHA and BHA for daily exfoliation as well as witch hazel, which is an important ingredient managing oily skin and refining pores. I thought it was a long shot, a totally random find, but the item was on sale for $13 instead of the usual price of $32, so what the heck? I like trying new things.
Best discovery ever!! This toner has seriously changed my life. My skin has never felt smoother or more supple. My lotions and creams absorb so quickly. I can also tell that my pores are slowly but surely being refined and are in the process of shrinking. In addition, this toner with my other products has pretty much eliminated my oily skin. I can wash my face at 7AM, apply my makeup, go about my day, and not remove my makeup and wash my face until 8:30PM and my skin remains almost completely oil-free all day! That’s 12 hours of practically being oil-free! I started by using this twice a day for the first couple of weeks, and after that I only use it in the evenings so my heaviest skincare products that I use at night can be absorbed really well thanks to the exfoliating properties of the toner. This brand, COSRX, is a Korean brand that I had never heard of, but this toner and other COSRX products have gotten great reviews on YesStyle. If you have seborrheic dermatitis on your face, oily skin, acne, or skin that seems to need excessive physical exfoliation throughout the week, I highly recommend trying this toner! I still exfoliate once a week using Natural Aqua Gel Cure (you can also find this on Amazon in the US), a very gentle exfoliating gel, as well as a SkinFood black sugar and strawberry mask.
In the mornings, I use a gel matcha toner from Milk Makeup that contains witch hazel to continue getting the pore refining and oil control benefits. Between those two toners, my skin has never felt better. For the first time in my life, my skin looks and feels healthy, the oiliness is completely under control. I used to be the girl who saw others with flawless, healthy, smooth, clear skin and wondered what they do and what they use to get their skin so lovely. Now I feel like I am the girl that other girls look at wondering what my secret is to such nice skin! It has a radiant glow, it’s smooth, youthful, and healthy.
Next time, I will write a post on my upgraded skincare routine! I finally feel like I have mastered a routine that is making my skin amazing. I want to share all the amazing products I have found that have changed my life and my skin for the better! If you want faster updates on my skincare routine and short versions of skincare product reviews, follow me on Instagram!