Let’s Get Chemical, Chemical . . .

I have praised the wonder that is exfoliating – the konjac sponge, the Clarisonic. And those are great, truly.

However, I have leveled up my exfoliation game. Big time. I discovered chemical exfoliation. I know, I know. It sounds scary. Slathering chemicals over your face that may or may not burn off your skin? I get it. But let’s allow science to do the work. Chemical exfoliants are acids that remove built-up layers of dead cells and excess oil, which is basically the most important thing in getting rid of your seborrheic dermatitis. LISTEN: YOU NEED THIS. SERIOUSLY.

Also, a lot of skincare you’ve used probably has chemical exfoliants, such as salicylic acid. It’s a very popular ingredient for products geared for oily or acne-prone skin. It literally gets into each pore and removes dirt and oil. So you can see why that’s so perfect for seborrheic dermatitis of the face! Get alllll that gunk out of there. But to really succeed, you need several types of chemical exfoliants.

I recommend using that magical salicylic acid in the form of your cleanser. Right now my absolute favorite is Clearogen Foaming Cleanser, which features 2% salicylic acid. I’ve tried others and keep going back to it because my skin clean feels clean without feeling dry after.

Then I suggest you add a toner with glycolic acid. A holy grail favorite is Mario Badescu’s version, which not only prevents seborrheic dermatitis, it just gives you a major glow.

And, the ultimate, all-time, best-ever leave on topical exfoliant, Sunday Riley’s Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment. Yes, it’s a bit of a splurge, but with 1,000 five-star reviews on Sephora, you know its good. Lactic Acid pushes out the dead skin and speeds up the cell renewal process. Used consistently, you’ll see smoother, brighter skin and more balanced oil production. It’s also beloved because it is one of the more gentle chemical exfoliants. For something more affordable, and widely available, add a retinol or retinoid into your regimen, like Differin Gel. You may think of retinol as an anti-aging classic, but it also works great for acne and seborrheic dermatitis.

For an extra boost, use a mask once or twice a month. The incredible Paula’s Choice Exfoliant Peel. They promise better skin in 10 minutes and they are not lying. With 25% AHA and 2% BHA, this mask packs a punch. You’ll feel all glowy and smooth! Don’t be scared by the word “peel,” your skin won’t actually peel unless you overuse it.

A few important things about chemical exfoliants for seborrheic dermatitis.

You may feel some burning or tingling, especially if you have an active SD breakout. Some burning sensation is normal and means its working. But if it is too much then rinse off with cool water. Some redness may occur but over time your skin will adjust.

Also, I know you’re already using your SPF (right? RIIIIIGHT???) every day, but it is even more important when you have chemical exfoliants in your routine. I recommend CeraVe 30 SPF for sensitive skin to everyone! I encourage having at least one CeraVe product in your routine, because it helps build your moisture barrier, which is super important to having good skin. And this SPF has mineral sunblock in it, which gives great protection without irritation.

Start with just one chemical exfoliant in your routine and slowly build on. I still keep adding more or swapping out when I discover a new exfoliating powerhouse. My skin looks its best ever! Not only do these miracle-workers help with your oily issues, they help prevent signs of aging. So give it a try! All you’ve got to lose is dead skin cells.

5 thoughts on “Let’s Get Chemical, Chemical . . .

  1. I read your previous post about niacinamide and I have to agree. I am using The Ordinary’s 10% niacinamide 1% zinc serum and I’m floored by how immediate the results are. My seb derm presents on my eyes too, been diagnosed with ocular rosacea and blepharitis but I think it’s just obviously my greasy Italian-ness doing its thing everywhere I have oil glands. Anyway…do you have any knowledge of whether or not it’s safe to apply niacinamide to the eye area?

    I’ve been slowly adding in Paula’s Choice 2% BHA leave- on exfoliants and much to my surprise my skin is not mad! In fact my skin is very happy! I have a travel size of her 8% AHA to try and I am so nervous. I’ve just added actives back in after a few years of using literally nothing besides Eucerin Redness Relief cream because my skin barrier was SO damaged and everything made my face upset. The idea of glycolic acid seems so out of bounds…but then so did salicylic acid and I’m doing great?

    Any tips? The Paula’s Choice product is a leave- on. I’m wondering if doing it for the first go- round as a rinse- off might be prudent?


  2. Hello, I just wondered whether you had found anything that works on your scalp?? I have curly hair and often the medicated shampoos don’t work, strip my scalp and ruin my hair 😦

    Thank you so much for all your advice it’s been a game changer for my face!


  3. Hi Emily i have diagnosed with sd for the last year and started searching for daily products that might reduce and help the situation.
    Since your make up product post its old can you give me any make up tips any concealers that help ?


    1. I really love Bare Minerals brand for my skin. For nearly 20 years (UGH I’m old) I just keep coming back to it. The tinted CC cream for a dewy (VERY dewy) look or just the classic mineral powder makeup/mineral veil look great. But you need a good moisturizer and/or primer underneath. Most primers do not work well on my skin, which may or may not be true for others with SebDerm. The only primer I love is the from e.l.f. and its the Luminous Matte Makeup Primer. That underneath my mineral powder and I look glowy but not shiny.


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