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. It could be that you need to adjust the dosage and/or frequency of application.
Skin purging typically looks like tiny red bumps on the skin that are painful to touch. They are often accompanied by whiteheads or blackheads. It can also cause your skin to become flaky. The flare ups caused by purging have a shorter lifespan than a breakout.
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.
A purge can last as long as two months, and you should start seeing an improvement by the six-week point, if not sooner. On the other side of a purge is cleaner, clearer skin!
“Purging is neither good nor bad. It can happen after using excellent products but, equally, it also frequently occurs when the skin barrier is compromised prior to starting with a product or treatment.
How long does it take for skin to purge? Unfortunately, purging can be a lengthy process and it can take up to three or so months before results start to show, especially if the treatment is an acne medicated treatment.
If you want to prevent skin purging or limit a purge's severity, make sure you introduce your new acne treatment products slowly into your routine. This is true of other skincare products for most skin conditions! Slow and steady usually wins the race.
Purging can last for anything from one or two weeks to one or two months. Breakouts can last a while; there is no time period that indicates when the breakouts will go away. The cell turnover speed is usual. The purging of the skin starts after a few days of using a new product.
Purging is a sign that the product is working and you should continue with the treatment as prescribed. After a few weeks of purging, your skin and acne will have noticeably improved. Breaking out is when your skin is reacting because it is sensitive to something in the new product.
Skin purging happens when new ingredients, like retinol, promote increased cell turnover, which causes clogging and worsening breakouts. This is particularly the case as oil and debris that is trapped deeper underneath the skin comes to the surface.
What does it look like? Distinct, acne-like bumps may be purging. However, if you're noticing welts, diffuse redness, or anything resembling a rash, stop what you're doing. Inflammation is a sign of reaction and generally appears as all-over redness rather than individual, blemish-like spots.
Additionally, if you experience any itchiness, redness, burning or pain immediately after applying a new product, these are clear signs you're experiencing an allergic reaction and it's best to wash it off carefully and stop using it altogether.
Though some people do report experiencing irritation and breakouts after using the ingredient, niacinamide is unlikely to cause purging. That's because it doesn't affect the skin in a way that usually triggers purging.
A cystic pimple on your chin? You're probably not purging. Though a skin purge can technically appear as any type of acne, it typically looks like “small, red, tender bumps on the skin, and often [can be accompanied] with the appearance of blackheads or whiteheads,” says Dr. Nazarian.
“A traditional pimple typically takes anywhere from eight to 10 days to appear, mature, and shrink,” she explains. “A breakout from a purge is likely to show up and then disappear in about five days.” The caveat: That's if you don't touch it and let your skin heal itself.
Skin purging is a process that happens when certain skincare ingredients increase skin cell turnover. This encourages shedding of old, dead cells and growth of new, healthy ones. Unfortunately, this process often makes the skin look worse before it looks better.
These unwanted effects — particularly skin dryness and acne breakouts — are widely referred to as the “tretinoin purge.” While they don't affect everyone, many tretinoin users experience some degree of purge effects during the first several weeks of treatment.
Peeling, redness, and irritation are common onset reactions for some people when they first start to use retinol. Some reactions get so bad that the common term used to describe the list of effects has been dubbed the “retinol uglies”. Note from a skincare expert: Many things in life get worse before they get better.
"Ideally the skin is smooth, supple, and uniform in color," Waldorf said. If your skin feels less bumpy, the size of your pores has been reduced, and you're noticing less marks, acne, and discoloration, your products are likely working.
Why do some people break out directly following a facial? During a facial, skin is well stimulated and much of what's below the surface is encouraged to come up and out. If extractions are not done well then pores and pimples may have left over debris that come to a head in the following days.
Most niacinamide products also contain a variety of other ingredients. If any of these ingredients increase skin cell turnover then they may be behind any 'purging'. Some ingredients can also be 'comedogenic' which means that they are more likely to clog pores and cause breakouts.
While some niacinamide-containing products start to show initial benefits in two weeks, most results will show in four weeks or more. "You have to remember that it doesn't take two days for spots to form so you can't expect them to be removed in two days either," explains Engelman.
4 tips for when niacinamide fails
Signs it's not working: You're not seeing results and you notice the product is pilling on your skin. Also, if you experience redness, itching, or burning, you might want to skip this ingredient.
Another common symptom when starting a new product is stinging or burning. If you're using a new oil and it is stinging, this could be an indication that your skin is either very dry or having a reaction.