What is Skin Purging?

what is skin purging?

The term ‘skin purging’ may sound like something out of a horror movie, but it’s not quite as scary and gruesome as it seems!

Whether you’re here to learn the difference between skin purging vs breakouts, or to discover what skin purging actually is, the team at Revolution Skincare are here to reveal all!

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What is Skin Purging?

Let’s start with the basics.

Skin purging refers to the reaction some skin may have to certain products, usually chemical exfoliants such as Retinol and Salicylic Acid to name a few.

This temporary reaction involves bringing congestion within the pores up to the skin’s surface, which can cause spots and pimples to form.

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What Causes Skin Purging?

Chemical exfoliants work to slough away dead skill cells and promote a faster skin turnover rate. Without the aid of exfoliating skincare, skin cells naturally renew around every 28 days.

Products such as Retinoids and AHA/BHAs are used to help speed up this process, bringing the sebum, dirt and bacteria out of the pores and up to the skin’s surface at a faster rate, causing acne-like blemishes.

Once the skin has pushed out all of the congestion, it can start producing new cells to promote clearer, younger looking skin. That’s the science behind skin purging!

Expert Tip: Shop some of our favorite chemical exfoliants which work wonders for decongesting pores. Introduce these powerful ingredients into your routine slowly to limit irritation:

What Does Purging Skin Look Like?

Purging skin can have the following symptoms:

  • Microcysts (whiteheads)
  • Open comedones (blackheads)
  • Pustules (yellow spots)

In many cases, these acne symptoms often sit under the skin for weeks before emerging to the surface. A skin purge caused by chemical exfoliants encourages them to pop up sooner than they naturally would have, putting that natural process in fast-forward to clear out the blockages from pores.

How Long Does Skin Purging Last?

Skin purging is a temporary process. It usually takes one full skin cycle (four to six weeks) to get through the worst of it.

How to Tell the Difference Between Skin Purging vs. a Breakout

While introducing a new product into your skincare routine could cause skin purging, it may also cause a normal breakout. Here are a few factors to keep in mind when trying to spot the difference:

  • Blemish Lifespan – How long is the skin purge or breakout lasting? The life cycle of blemishes caused by skin purging is shorter and they typically clear quicker than regular breakouts. If you’re using a product known to cause skin purging but the breakout is lasting longer than four to six weeks, it might be making your skin worse.
  • Blemish Location – Skin purging often triggers blemishes in the areas you usually struggle with acne. If you’ve started to use a new product and it’s causing irritation elsewhere, it’s unlikely that this is a result of skin purging.
  • Other Active Ingredients – If you’ve introduced a new product that isn’t typically known for its acne-busting properties, you might be dealing with a regular breakout. As mentioned, skin purging often occurs when using products such as Retinol, Salicylic Acid and other chemical exfoliants. If your skin is left blemished as a result of something else, it’s likely a normal breakout.

Is Skin Purging Good or Bad?

While the side effects of skin purging are temporarily inconvenient, it’s not necessarily a bad thing!

If your skin is purging after using a chemical exfoliant, it’s a good sign that your product is working its magic by helping to regenerate skin cells to reveal a bright, clearer complexion on the other side.

How to Deal with Skin Purging

Annoyingly, the best way to deal with purging skin is to ride it out. Remember, skin purging is a temporary process that lasts usually no longer than a month.

However, there are a few tips and tricks to help manage it:

  1. Introduce new products into your routine slowly. If you’re using a chemical exfoliant for the first time, start by using once a week in your first week, two times a week in the second, and so on (depending on how sensitive your skin is).
  2. Resist the urge to pop and pick! Like normal acne, popping isn’t going to make it any better. It may only extend the skin purging process and could lead to acne scarring.
  3. Treat purging skin as you would normal acne. This includes cleansing every day, using calming products to soothe inflammation and keeping skin hydrated. Check out some of our favorite products for managing acne breakouts, caused by skin purging and otherwise:
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Revolution Beauty

Revolution Beauty

Writer and expert