Follow-up Post on Toners for Seborrheic Dermatitis, Oily Skin, and Acne: Skin Purging

I wanted to add something to my last post but decided creating a new post made more sense because it rings true not just to the toners I use. So the toners I use (COSRX toner with AHA and BHA in the evenings and Milk Makeup Matcha Toner in the mornings) are specifically for oily skin, enlarged pores, and for skin that needs more than just physical exfoliation (in other words, when physical exfoliation just isn’t doing the trick or the skin needs to be exfoliated too frequently–like everyday or every other day. That was my skin before using the AHA/BHA toner).

Whenever you add an exfoliation step to your routine or a pore refining step, expect to break out for a few weeks. I know this seems counter-intuitive: you’re adding this step so you stop breaking out. But as the skin works clogs out of the skin, flareups will tend to happen. When you first start, your pores are probably clogged, and a natural part of the process will be for the skin to start purging the pores. Just like when you do manual pore extractions, pores are prone to infection during this process. This is what a lot of people refer to as skin purging. It is quite common, especially when you start using a chemical exfoliant-containing product, for 4-8 weeks after starting this step. I know, it is annoying, and often times it can be disappointing when you start using it and think, “This is working so well! My skin feels amazing!” and then a few days later you feel like your complexion has reverted to that of your teenage years! Be patient, though. If after 8 weeks your skin is still severely breaking out, it may be necessary to rethink what you’re using. That being said, depending on how deep your pores are, the length of time the purging process requires can vary. If after 8 weeks, you are still breaking out, but not nearly as much, you know you’ve gotten through the worst of it.

The best way to tell if your skin is purging or if it is a product or step that is bad for your skin is by taking note of where you’re breaking out: if you’re breaking out with this new step in areas you typically get acne (whether it be blackheads, whiteheads, zits, or even cysts), it is definitely your skin purging. If you find you’re breaking out in areas that you don’t otherwise have these problems, it is most likely necessary to rethink your new routine.

Another thing to consider is what your new product contains that may cause skin purging: chemical exfoliants like AHA, BHA, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or lactic acid commonly cause skin purging. It is also common to have skin purging when starting a new product that contains witch hazel, which is a pore refining ingredient and is found in both toners I mentioned earlier.

Here’s a great article on Allure about breakouts vs skin purging. Here is an even better article that goes into a little more detail (and has fewer ads to slow your browser down!).

At the end of the day, remember to be patient when starting a new product that has chemical exfoliants. Give your skin time to detox, and hopefully after 8 weeks, your skin will never have looked better! (At least, this is what I keep telling myself, because two weeks into my new routine, and my face is really in full-purge mode, and it is not pretty…)

Toners for Seborrheic Dermatitis, Oily Skin, and Acne

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 81x8xkncsjl-_sx522_.jpgskin, 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.

41p1fyzjiol-_sy679_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!