Skin Purging, What is it?

Sadie Young
July 17, 2024
Begin the Purge!

Have you ever started a new skin care routine with killer products that you know are supposed to be skin life changing, but then your skin starts freaking out and you wonder why in the hell you just spent an entire paycheck on skincare products? Okay, that’s probably oddly specific, but I know at least some of you know what I’m talking about! Unfortunately, with a new skincare routine, that old adage “it’s going to get worse before it gets better” might be applicable. It’s called skin purging! Not like the creepy movie franchise with scary masks and chaos, but just gross flaky, acne skin, and anxiety.. So yeah they’re both basically the same thing.

What is skin purging?

When you change up your skincare routine and add certain products like retinols and acids (namely exfoliants), your skin could go through an adjustment period where the top layer of dead skin cells sloughs off (great mental picture, I know). Because of this forced purging of the dead skin cells, the new skin cells regenerate sooner than they would naturally which can cause irritation and breakouts. Yeah, not only are you purging a layer of dead skin, but you’re also more likely to have acne breakouts. Lovely. Now, the goal of all of this unpleasantness is to reveal the clear, youthful skin underneath, it’ll just take some Frankenstein's monster looking skin first to achieve that goal. Luckily, the shelf life of skin purging is only about 4-6 weeks so just hang in there.Is it skin purging or is it just acne?There are a few things to look out for if you’re wondering if you’re just experiencing a break out or if your skin is going through a purge.

  • How long does it last?  Skin purging breakouts clear up faster than a normal breakout. If the breakout lasts more than 4-6 weeks, it’s probably not due to skin purging.
  • Where is the breakout happening?  If you’re getting breakouts in new areas, it’s probably a typical breakout. Skin purging breakouts occur in areas you typically have breakouts.
  • What are the ingredients of the product I’m using?  Skin purging usually happens when you are using active, exfoliating ingredients such as retinols, acids, and other acne fighting ingredients. If you’re not using these types of products, check ingredients of the products you are using to see what could possibly be causing a typical breakout.

Can I treat skin purging symptoms?

This probably isn’t the answer you want to hear, but the best thing to do is, well, nothing. Seriously? That’s all I have for you? I know, I know, but unfortunately, the best thing to do is just let your skin do what it’s doing. Treat your skin like you would a normal breakout (keep hydrated and avoid messing with the acne spots). Once your sentence has been served, your flaky, acne ridden purge skin mask will reveal fresh and new and young looking skin underneath. It’ll totally be worth it!

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