What is Skin Purging: Everything You Need to Know

Finding a skincare that shows the results right away is hard. Sometimes you use a chemical peel just to notice that your skin isn't looking better. Also, you can try out a new moisturizer or acne treatment, but notice your skin isn’t smoother. What exactly is going on? Is your skin breaking out or just purging? 

Before you toss your skincare products in the bin, it is important to know the difference between skin purging and breakout. Then you can figure out which one you have and adjust your skincare routine according to it. 

What is Skin Purging?

Simply put, skin purging occurs when the skin reacts to an active ingredient in (new) skincare products. These active ingredients trigger cell turnover causing the skin to exfoliate and bring congestion to the skin's surface. It is a temporary reaction, and it actually means something positive. It means that the product you have applied is working. 

Skin purge occurs when the skin reacts to retinoids, mostly retinol, and acids. These two ingredients are known as chemical exfoliants. What they do is make the skin cell turnover happen faster than nature, which can lead to blockages to the skin surface, causing breakouts and acne to appear. 

Symptoms of Skin Purging

As those blemishes find their way out from the skin cells they can appear in a variety of shapes and forms. Even though this process can be different from person to person, these are the most common symptoms of purging:

  • Blackheads
  • Whiteheads
  • Papules
  • Pustules
  • Flaky, dry skin 

Can You Prevent Purging?

In short - no, you can’t actually prevent skin purging. However, there is a way you can give your skin time to adjust to the new product. Dermatologists always say this when they talk about acids or retinol. So, trying the product once a week, then twice, and then three times per week is key to try to avoid purging or simply to make it last shorter. 

Also, it is a smart idea to check the ingredient list when you buy a new product. There are certain ingredients that can cause breakouts or skin purging no matter which formulation you choose. Those can be chemical sunscreens, benzoyl peroxide, or salicylic acid. 

Skin Purging vs. Breakout

Not all skin reactions can be called purging. Sometimes, a certain product can irritate the skin, or clog the pores, causing acne to appear. A breakout can occur even while you try a new product, but it doesn’t mean it is skin purging. These are the thing to keep in mind so you can spot the difference. 

How Long They Last

The first thing to look for is the duration of the breakout. The lifecycle of acne is usually faster than a regular breakout. Meaning, it will heal much quicker than a regular breakout. However, if you are starting to use a product that is known for having active ingredients, and the breakout are lasting more than 4-6 weeks, then something might not be working right for you. 

Which Ingredients Does Skin Reacts With

Skin purging is known for appearing after the skin reacts with active ingredients. It typically results from the chemicals that exfoliate the skin like alpha and beta hydroxy acids, salicylic acids, and benzoyl peroxide. 

So, if you experience breaking out after using some other ingredients like oils, sunscreens, or something else that clog the pores, you are likely experiencing a standard breakout. 

How To Treat Skin Purging

The best thing you can do during a skin purge is to wait. Depending on the skin, the purge can last 2-3 weeks. While it last, don’t forget to keep your skin hydrated and limit sun exposure while you are outside. In the end, skin purging is a good sign. It shows that your skincare is effective and doing the right thing for your skin. 

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