Skin Purging and Everything You Have to Know About It

Skin purging results from using a new skincare product that contains alpha-hydroxy acids, beta-hydroxy acids, or retinoids as the active ingredient. It appears like a skin breakout, but there is a lot to know about it.
BY Chella Caguin
| Last updated Mar, 2023
Skin purging

It’s not uncommon for people to scroll their social media accounts and see advertised new skincare products. When we find positive reviews and testimonies regarding a particular item on the rise, we immediately add it to our shopping carts. Once it has arrived at our doorsteps, we hurriedly try these new products without even knowing their consequences to our skin. That’s where skin purging starts to occur.

After a few days, we may start to notice pimples or black and whiteheads bombarding our faces. Contrary to popular assumption, this is not a skin breakout. Although it is not a medical diagnosis, skin purging is the term used to describe the result of using skincare products we are not used to.

What Is Skin Purging?

Skin purge is likely to occur when you start using a new skincare product that increases your skin’s cell turnover rate. Congestion might result from an increase in the skin cell turnover rate. And due to the congestion present underneath, the gunk underneath the skin surface inevitably rises. This includes dead skin cells, along with sebum, debris, and even bacteria.

You may start to question the product you are using, and you may even think that it is not working for you. However, take note that skin purging is a necessary phenomenon that also brings advantages. It is also an essential step in adjusting to the skincare products you are starting to use.

What Does Skin Purging Look Like?

Since not everyone knows about the process of skin purging, they may not pay much attention to it because it just appears like a simple skin breakout.

In skin purging, the pores release all the gunk present underneath. Once released, it can manifest as acne flare-ups, which may be in the form of pustules, papules, or both. Papules are the solid, tiny, red bumps present in the face. If numerous papules are present on the skin surface, it gives off a sandpaper-like feeling. Pustules, on the other hand, are filled with pus that contains fluid inside.

The purging may also take the form of skin-colored bumps and tiny blackheads or whiteheads scattered on the skin surface of the face. These pimples and bumps also tend to appear on the areas of the face that are prone to breakouts. These specific areas already have clogged pores filled with excess sebum, dirt, and bacteria.

What Causes The Purging On Skin?

What Causes The Purging On Skin

Some people may have the notion that frequently touching the face is the cause of skin purging. People should debunk these hearsays because touching the face has nothing to do with this. It occurs because the skin reacts to the new product being used.

The use of skincare products that contain chemical exfoliants is the main culprit of the purging. Some chemical exfoliants include retinoids, alpha-hydroxy acids, and beta-hydroxy acids. All of these skincare and cosmetic ingredients influence and speed up the turnover of skin cells.

The skin cell turnover pertains to the speed at which your skin sheds the dead cells and gets replaced with new cells. As mentioned, some skincare products can influence turnover. However, it could also occur after aesthetic procedures like chemical peels that use the same chemical exfoliants.

From another perspective, skin purging has some advantages. It ultimately rids the gunk underneath. When the build-up of dead skin cells, dirt, and bacteria in the deeper layers of the skin is pushed out, the cells can finally be renewed and cleared up.

Skin Purging vs. Breakouts

Since these two almost have the same manifestations, people can easily brand skin purging as a simple skin breakout. Users of new skincare products also tend to stop using the product altogether. It is essential to know the differences between these two to decide whether to ditch the product or not.

This occurrence can be frustrating and concerning for us.

Skin Breakout

The majority of the population is more familiar with skin breakout than skin purging. But, exactly, what is a skin breakout, and what causes it?

Skin breakout is the reaction of the integumentary system when a new skincare product is used. It could also be a sign of an allergic reaction or irritation to the substance, or it could just be an indication of clogged pores. The bacteria underneath the skin feed on all the debris present, leading to skin inflammation.

New areas of the face where pimples do not usually occur are where skin breakout pops out. Red bumps start to form because the clogged pores and contents find their way to rise on the surface. On the other hand, purging occurs in places where breakouts typically happen.

Skin Purging

Skin Purging

Skin purging may appear similar to a skin breakout, but this process would benefit the skin in the long run. It is also a reaction to the new skincare product, but it only indicates that the product influenced the turnover of the skin cells. Hence, the clogged pores become congested, and with nowhere else to go, it rises on the surface and appears as clusters of pimples.

Another telltale sign that separates a skin breakout from skin purging is the duration. Pimples from skin purging length last around 28 days, and breakout, especially dry skin breakout, lasts longer. Pimples due to this issue also heal quicker than the typical skin breakout.

The use of skin cleansing products regularly increases cell turnover, leading to healthier and clearer skin.

Knowing the difference between skin breakouts and skin purging could help you understand your plan of action. In skin breakouts, stopping the use of the new product is more apt, while continuing its use in skin purging is advisable.

How Long Does Skin Purging Last?

How Long Does Skin Purging Last

Thankfully, skin purging does not last for a lifetime. Its manifestations in the skin surface are just temporary, but its duration may vary. The length of the purging significantly depends on an individual’s skin, but it lasts approximately 28 days or one month. This is also the duration required for the skin to end its turnover cycle.

If you do not see any skin improvements after 6 to 8 weeks, there may be a cause behind it. An individual with this problem should stop using a particular skincare product because their skin may not be reacting well to it.

It is also essential to seek professional consult as soon as possible if there are no improvements or if the purging worsens to determine if there are any causes behind it.

My Skin Is Purging. What Should I Do?

When skin purging occurs, there is nothing you can do but wait and watch the process unfold. And when it starts to happen, the best thing that you can do is have patience.

Things To Follow

Here are the tips you can follow when you are experiencing skin purging:

  • Since the face is sensitive and vulnerable at this point, touching the skin should be avoided until the manifestations of the purging heal.
  • Avoid popping the bumps, pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads present at the time. This will cause more inflammation and irritation.
  • It is also best to keep your environment clean during this time. Ensure that your linens, sheets, and pillowcases are dirt-free to avoid further irritation from the bacteria in the surroundings.
  • Keep using the product that is causing the skin purging until the process ends. However, avoid adding skincare products with the same active ingredient and products specified for acne or breakout.
  • Do not use exfoliants or products that contain harsh chemicals (like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide). You may extend the purging process if you do this.
  • Stick to a gentle routine to prevent new skincare routine breakout. Ensure that your cleanser, toner, moisturizer, and sunblock are gentle and do not include any harmful ingredients.
  • Do not forget to apply sunblock that can protect you from sun exposure during the purging process. Avoid staying out under the sun for prolonged periods.
  • Wait for the process out until it completely heals. It may last up to 28 days.

Things To Avoid

During the purging process, keep an eye out for red flags. You may need to discontinue use of the new skincare product entirely if the following symptoms occur:

  • Irritation
  • Burning
  • Redness
  • Stinging
  • Numbness
  • Rashes

The above-mentioned symptoms may not indicate skin purging but an allergic reaction. These symptoms should be watched, especially if they are widespread. In case this occurs, ditch the product and consult your dermatologist as soon as possible.

Another sign to go to the dermatologist is when the pimples and bumps do not heal after 6 to 8 weeks. The product may not react well to your skin or clog up the pores, causing a skin breakout instead of a temporary skin purging.

Keeping in contact with your dermatologist during the whole process is perhaps one of the best tips that one should follow. If anything out of the usual happens, reach out to them and seek advice.

How Can I Reduce the Severity of The Purging Of My Skin?

As long as there are no indicators of increasing inflammation or irritation in the face, being gentle with the skin is the best way to lessen the severity.

Continuing with the current product you are using for the rest of the month is the best thing to do so your skin gets used to the ingredients. This lets the skin become accustomed to the elements that cause the skin purging. The incremental increase in the frequency and strength of the product may also help reduce the severity of skin purging.

Some clinics also offer tailor-fit formulas for each client that provides a starter dose of retinoids. This helps the skin adjust and tolerate the ingredients once the products are continued over time. However, as mentioned, if there are no improvements within 6 to 8 weeks, it is best to ditch the product and seek consultation.

Skin Purging Before and After

After a month of enduring the struggle of skin purging, smoother skin awaits you! The impurities beneath the skin surface rose on the pores and subsided, leaving the skin clearer and brighter. Skin purging is a good step toward healthy skin; thus, it is advisable to stick with skincare products.

How Can I Prevent Purging and Breakouts?

The finest way to prevent the occurrence of skin purging and breakouts is to stick with your regular skincare routine. In case you want some change, the rule is to stick to the basics. Pick skincare products that take care of the skin in a gentle manner. A gentle skincare routine could never go wrong and tends to cause fewer breakouts and purging.

It is equally crucial to keep your skin moisturized and hydrated when using skincare products that cause skin purging. 

Another vital tip to prevent purging and skin breakout is being mindful of all the products you put on your face. Aside from picking a gentle skincare product, ensure that your chosen product is free from the ingredients that lead to purging skin.

In addition, individuals who are experiencing this condition should be cautious in using another skincare product because it may further irritate the skin. Introducing the skincare products slowly, both in frequency and quantity, could help prevent intense purging because it allows the skin to adjust slowly.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts about skin purging

Frustrating as it may seem, skin purging is not necessarily your new skincare product fault. Take note that the manifestations of this are not new. They were already bound to appear on your face, but the skincare products just sped up the process. The procedure may be time-consuming and upsetting, but it is only temporary and promises smoother skin.

In conclusion, purging is real, and there is no need to fear the experience. It is a normal phenomenon that occurs when using new products and even during post-aesthetic treatment. People need patience and perseverance towards reaching clearer, brighter, and better skin! Have you experienced skin purging? Let us know in the comments below!

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