Acne treatments — especially those that contain active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid — are drying and a bit harsh on your skin. If you use too many treatments at the same time, your skin may become irritated, and you may actually suffer more breakouts as a result.
Skin purging occurs because of some ingredients that accelerate your body's natural process of getting rid of dead skin cells. Products that contain certain components—including lactic acid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and retinoids—are likely the culprits of your acne breakout.
Generally speaking, dermatologists say purging should be over within four to six weeks of starting a new skin care regimen. If your purge lasts longer than six weeks, consult your dermatologist.
There are times when using products that contain salicylic acid can make the skin appear worse before it gets better. This is down to a process called 'skin purging' that can occur after treatment with salicylic acid.
Although salicylic acid is considered safe overall, it may cause skin irritation when first starting. It may also remove too much oil, resulting in dryness and potential irritation. Other potential side effects include : skin tingling or stinging.
Signs that treatment is effective
Wart medications, such as salicylic acid, gradually peel away layers of a wart until it reaches the same level as the skin. People may notice the wart becoming flatter over time.
You'll find it takes on average, about 6-8 weeks to start noticing a marked improvement of the look and feel of the skin. If you are using salicylic acid as a spot treatment or method of clearing up acne and breakouts, you may find your skin will look a little worse before it gets better.
Salicylic acid may produce mild side effects, such as skin irritation or peeling. If people experience more severe side effects, they should stop using the product and contact their doctor.
For warts—Repeat one or two times a day as needed for up to 12 weeks, or as directed by your doctor, until wart is removed. For corns and calluses—Repeat one or two times a day as needed for up to 14 days, or as directed by your doctor, until the corn or callus is removed.
Why it might not be working: There are multiple types and causes of acne — and if your acne is severe, salicylic acid might not be strong enough for you. “Cystic acne will need something stronger than salicylic acid,” says Dr. Debra Jaliman, a dermatologist based in New York City.
Some of these ingredients are retinoids, vitamin C, AHAs and BHAs (glycolic, malic, lactic, and salicylic acid). What does skin purging look like? Skin purging typically looks like tiny red bumps on the skin that are painful to touch. They are often accompanied by whiteheads or blackheads.
Salicylic acid is a key ingredient in many acne treatments.
This is because it helps to unclog pores, remove dead skin cells, and reduce inflammation. It is also gentle enough to use on sensitive skin.
"If salicylic acid is an ingredient in your cleanser, it is fine to use it every day." However, if you are using an exfoliant that has salicylic acid in the formula, Dr. Hu advises only using the product three times per week, to avoid over-exfoliating the skin and drying it out.
If you have skin purging, you may experience whiteheads, blackheads, dryness, or even flaking. While skin purging and breakouts have similar symptoms, skin purging is temporary and lasts for a maximum of six weeks, while breakouts can last longer.
What Does Skin Purging Look Like? Purging breakouts look like tiny, red bumps on the skin that are painful when touched. Often, there may be whiteheads and blackheads that appear along with the bumps.
Retinoids such as Tretinoin, acids such as salicylic, and benzoyl peroxide are just a few of the products that cause purging. These products contain active ingredients that increase the skin cell turnover rate, therefore causing your skin to purge.
Salicylic acid starts working by 2-3 weeks, and takes around 2-3 months to show full effect. This potent antioxidant reduces pigmentation and builds up skin collagen. You will start noticing a brighter complexion in 4-6 weeks but actual improvements, in terms of dark spots reduction, will take around 3-4 months.
While it is okay to use salicylic acid every day, it could cause irritation. Many dermatologists, therefore, recommend using the acid in moderation, beginning by applying it three times a week and working up from there. Can salicylic acid dry the skin out?
AHAs and BHAs, such as glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids should never be used with Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an acid, too, and is unstable, so the pH balance will be thrown off by layering these ingredients together and might as well be useless.
Salicylic acid (also known as BHA) is the chemical exfoliant most associated with this phenomenon because it penetrates into pores, breaking apart clumps of skin cells. It also thins the thick, sticky oil (sebum) buildup inside to reduce the size of clogs residing deeper in skin.
Can you leave salicylic acid on your face overnight? Yes, you really can! You can use salicylic acid twice a day if required, those with a skin type that is oily and prone to breakouts will benefit from using the BHA most.
Purging is when your skin is adjusting to the new product. Persevering with the product will eventually make your skin better – in fact, the sudden crop of pimples means that it's working as intended. A regular breakout is when your skin is reacting because it's sensitive to something in the product.
Like I mentioned earlier, salicylic acid and sulfur won't help cystic acne. It can make it even worse if it dries out or irritates your skin.