David Rooney - October 2022
Everything you need to know about skin purging and why we get it.
Don't stress skin purging is a good sign.
Skin purging is the terrible two's of the skincare world. It's the troublesome phase we have to go through to reach the holy grail of skin glow – a healthy, fantastic feeling face.
With ambitious goals, you set out to try a new product, and suddenly you're stopped in your tracks by a reaction to one of the ingredients. Your skin changes, confidence shatters, and you're back to square one. Wrong!
Is this purging skin or breaking out? It's actually an easy one to answer.
Julia Rhodes is a Dermatologist and Founder of the platform Spotlight on Skin. She says, “purging is when pimples develop or worsen soon after starting to use certain active ingredients, such as retinoids or alpha hydroxy acids. It's temporary, and is often a sign that the ingredients are working.”
You see, before the new, healthy cells can make their way to the front of the stage, you first need to get rid of all the B-grade cast members like excess sebum, dead skin cells and other nasty build-ups.
Skin purging pushes all of this to the front at such a rapid pace and often presents as a mix of whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, cysts, dry skin, and even the tiny 'pre-pimples.'
Your purging face is most likely caused by acids that exfoliate the surface layer of the skin or retinol, which speeds up cell turnover.
What is skin purging?
Skin purging is the reaction that happens when your skin is exposed to a specific active ingredient. Increased speed of cell turnover means your skin sheds dead skin cells quicker and brings congestion to the surface faster than usual. Acids and retinoids often cause this.
Dermatologist Julia Rhodes says although it's a common side effect, "purging doesn't happen to everyone, and isn't a sign that a product will or won't be effective."
Is purging real?
Yes, skin purging is real and is often a common side effect of those treating acne or other skin conditions. And while it's annoying – it's also a good sign.
It feels like a betrayal, but it's just skin purging.
Purging vs breakout
When trying a new product, you might assume you're having an adverse reaction and your skin is breaking out.
Of course, a reaction resulting in breakouts is not what we want, but purging is sometimes necessary. Here's how to spot the difference.
The purging vs breakout debate is one that's been studied time and time again, with dermatologists coming to a pretty clear consensus.
Julia says, "No treatment is needed for purging, as it usually settles on its own with time. However, reducing how often you use the product that triggered the purge may help."
And if your new product doesn't contain any acids, retinol or exfoliants, and you have a reaction – you are likely allergic or sensitive to one or more of the ingredients.
If this happens, STOP using that thang ASAP and give your skin a break. A reaction is a clear sign that your skin is saying, "get this sh*t off me".
Skin purging appears in more defined areas where you frequently breakout, so if you usually get those jawline spots and dots, purging skin is probably the outcome.
The great thing about purging acne is that it disappears faster than a normal spot.
How long does skin purging last?
Skin purging usually lasts for a full skin cycle (28 days) or a couple of weeks beyond that. Patience is the mantra when it comes to skin purging, and your purging face will be through the worst of it at the end of the cycle.
If this sounds like too long to wait, remember that the product you're using is speeding up the natural pace of your skin and showcasing those healthy new skin cells on the surface.
Purge is lame but also cool at the same time.
What does skin *purge*? look like?
Common skin purging ingredients
There are specific ingredients that create skin purging by accelerating the turnover of new skin cells.
This vitamin A derivative is a massive culprit when it comes to purging skin. That includes Retinol, Tretinoin, Isotretinoin, Retinyl Palmitate, Adapalene, and Tazarotene.
That includes both AHAs and BHAs, such as Citric, Mandelic, Salicylic, Glycolic, Lactic, and Azelaic.
This also includes laser and microdermabrasion.
Exfoliant ingredients such as Bromelain from pineapple, papain, and physical scrubs can cause purging.
Purging after using the For Face Sake Multi-mask
The Boring Without You For Face Sake Multi-mask treats the different areas of your face at the same time.
The T Zone Whipped Butter contains 1% Salicylic Acid, and although this is a gentler concentration, it can cause skin purging.
The U Zone Jelly also contains acids with a 6% AHA complex. These acids gently exfoliate the skin and can contribute to skin purging.
Once again, this is a good thing. Skincare isn't a quick fix, and it's a long-term investment in a healthy, blissful, glowing face. Purging may be part of the process.