Skin purging is when a new skincare product causes the skin to break out, flake, or peel. Skin purging is different from a regular breakout because it will resolve in about six weeks. To ease skin purging, moisturize, wear SPF, and gradually introduce new products.
“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.
“The term 'skin purging' refers to a reaction to an active ingredient that is increasing skin cell turnover rate,” Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, a board-certified dermatologist, tells Healthline. As skin cell turnover speeds up, the skin starts shedding dead skin cells faster than normal.
Skin purging occurs when you start using a new product that contains chemical exfoliants such as alpha-hydroxy acids, beta-hydroxy acids, and retinoids, all of which speed up the rate of skin cell turnover (the rate at which you shed dead skin cells and replace them with new cells), says Dr. Gonzalez.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You should absolutely moisturize your skin even if you have active acne. It's an absolute myth that moisturizing your face will worsen your acne. In fact, moisturizers are necessary to keep acne-prone skin as relaxed as possible.
Some signs you may be over-moisturizing are clogged pores, blackheads, bumpy skin and excess oil.
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.
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).
It's purely a hydrating skincare ingredient that helps to increase the amount of water within your skin. If you have experienced a breakout after using a hyaluronic acid product, it is highly unlikely to be due to 'purging' unless the product also contains an AHA, BHA, or retinoid (e.g. retinol, retinaldehyde).