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How to Identify and Treat Skin Purging

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How to Identify and Treat Skin Purging

If you’re holding back on a great skincare product because you’re concerned about the possibility of skin purging, this one’s for you. 

In this article, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about skin purging—what it is exactly, why it happens, and what you can do about it. 

Let’s dive right in!

What Is Skin Purging and What Causes It?

Skin purging is your skin’s natural reaction to certain active ingredients that trigger rapid cell turnover. Typically, the skin’s renewal process takes place every 28 days, but potent acid-based ingredients can boost the skin’s exfoliation to achieve their benefits, congestion of tiny closed or open comedones that lead to breakouts and other minor acne symptoms.

Understandably, you may think that it’s the product that’s causing you to break out when skin purging happens, so you stop using it immediately. But the truth is, those skin problems were already forming on the surface; the purge just sped up the process.

While skin purging is an indication that your product is dutifully doing its work, it’s also a sign that your skin barrier is compromised. Using hydrating products with hyaluronic acid and ceramides can effectively address this issue by locking moisture into the skin.

Which Ingredients Cause Skin Purging?

The most notorious active ingredients that trigger skin purging are strong chemical exfoliants in acne and anti-aging products. These include:

  • Retinoids (tretinoin)
  • Vitamin C
  • AHAs (lactic and glycolic acid)
  • BHAs (betaine salicylate, salix alba, and salicylic acid)
  • Benzoyl peroxide

What Does Skin Purging Look Like?

Side view shot of woman experiencing skin purging

Skin purging can manifest as inflammatory acne or tiny, red bumps that are painful to the touch. In some cases, whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, and cysts can also appear in areas where you normally have breakouts. They also make the skin dry and flaky. 

When you add a new skincare product, not all reactions can be technically considered as skin purging. Sometimes, your skin can get irritated from clogged pores caused by makeup, sunscreen, or a hydrating oil serum with a comedogenic formulation.

Should I Stop Using a Skincare Product If My Skin Is Purging?

Depending on how congested your skin is, a typical skin purging can last around four to six weeks after starting a new skincare regimen. After that, you should already be seeing a difference and reaping the benefits of sticking to your everyday skincare habits

However, if your skin purging symptoms persist beyond this timeframe, we recommend consulting with your doctor. Chances are, the product may not be a good fit. Your doctor may adjust the dosage or frequency of use or recommend a different regimen altogether.

How to Minimize The Effects of Skin Purging

Closeup of hands holding skincare cream surrounded with other products

While there’s no way to prevent skin purging, there are some steps that you can do to minimize its symptoms. Here are some examples.

  • Slowly introduce new products into your skincare routine, giving your skin plenty of time to adapt and adjust as needed. For example, if you are using an anti-aging treatment with retinol, try using it once a week first, gradually increasing the frequency every week instead of using it every day immediately.
  • Wait it out. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Unfortunately, there’s no way to escape skin purging but to trust the process.
  • Change your pillowcases regularly to reduce the risks of skin irritation. Pillowcases are a hotbed for infection because they absorb all the grease, grime, sweat, and residual hair and beauty products, which can clog your pores and irritate the skin.
  • Do not pop or pick your pimples. It’s only going to make it worse and increase the risks of infection and acne scarring.
  • Your skin becomes extra sensitive during a purge. Limit sun exposure and wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen if you must. 

Get Expert Skincare Advice from APT

Whether you’re dealing with acne or skin purging, our beauty experts at APT Medical Aesthetics have got you covered. 

Shop our collection of medical-grade skincare products, or book a free consultation. We can develop a customized skincare treatment plan according to your skin type and unique beauty needs. 


Contact APT today!

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