Acne purging or “ skin purging ” is when a person's acne condition seems to get worse when they begin an effective topical treatment. This can mean more pimples popping, sometimes even in new areas . These breakouts can also be more intense than normal, often larger and more inflamed.
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.
“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.
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.
Simply put, “skin purging describes the process of shedding dead cells, oil, bacteria, and debris that's underneath the surface of the skin,” explains Annie Gonzalez, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami.
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 pimples do not leave marks or blemishes on your skin. It actually heals the skin to form fresher skin cells. Breakouts don't benefit the skin; they leave marks and blemishes when they go. The cell turnover is faster to remove dead cells.
Many have questioned whether skin purging is real. It may seem contradictory that continuing to use a product through breakouts and holding on through some serious bad skin days can result in your complexion eventually clearing. But purging is absolutely real—especially if you have acne-prone skin to begin with.
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 occurs because newly introduced skincare ingredients increase the rate at which your skin cells turnover, causing you to shed more dead skin cells than usual. This, in turn, pushes layers of dead skin off and also brings clogged pores to the surface, Chang says, resulting in more breakouts.
Acne breakouts cause red, irritated pimples to form. These clogged pores will eventually find their way to the surface. On the other hand, purging allows that skin cell turnover to occur faster. Unlike breakouts, purging is the first sign of a product that will benefit your skin long-term.
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.
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 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!
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.
When it comes to treating your skin during a purge, the best thing that you can do is actually the least satisfying answer anyone really wants to hear—you just have to wait it out. “Depending on how congested your skin is, a purge can last from two to three weeks,” Dr. Linkner states.
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.
Vitamin C contains anti-inflammatory properties and helps reduce the redness and swelling that comes with acne. The results are more pronounced when you use the vitamin topically. It, therefore, helps improve the appearance of acne wounds.
“Purging” is another term for breakouts, though there are some differences. 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.
You Breakout A Lot
This is also a common sign and goes in junction with clogged pores. If you find yourself breaking out a lot, that typically is a good sign that you're using too much moisturizer for your own good.
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.
Salicylic acid also improves the shape of the pore lining, and once the pore is normalized, the backed-up, smaller clog can more easily come to the surface, appearing as new clogged pores (blackheads or white bumps).