Is My Skin Purging? How You Can Tell

a woman wearing fuchsia pink lipstick

You may have heard of skin purging before but are unsure what that actually means. You may know certain products cause your skin to purge, and that can sound scary. However, skin purging can be a good thing in the long run. It is a sign that your products are working!

Skin purging may not be as bad as you think. While skin purging does bring blockages to the surface, it doesn't mean every pore on your face is oozing toxins. Your skin also won't stay in this state forever. 

We are going to go over what skin purging is and what causes it to occur. We will also explore how to treat your skin when it's going through a purge. 

Why Your Skin Is Purging

Skin purging is often the result of using specific skin care products. The most common products that cause skin purging are retinoids and exfoliating acids. 

Retinoids work by encouraging rapid skin cell turnover to allow new cells to generate. They can slow down collagen breakdown and thicken the deeper layers of skin, which prevents wrinkles. Retinoids can also help to clear acne. 

Exfoliating acids work in a similar way to retinoids. They remove the top layer of skin and bring impurities to the surface. When you first start using this product, your skin may have a lot of blockages that will come out. On its own, your skin will renew itself approximately every 28 days, but these products accelerate that process, resulting in breakouts.

You may notice redness, peeling, and more blemishes popping up. Your skin is adjusting to the treatment and strengthening, which you want to happen. This phase usually takes a few weeks. There isn't a way to avoid skin purging when you begin using one of these new products (although it’s important to note it might not happen for everyone). 

You can slowly introduce retinol or exfoliating acid by only using it once or twice a week. The second week you add another day of treatment. For retinol, you can use it every day once you've built up your skin's tolerance. However, it would be best if you stuck to only using an exfoliating acid two to three times per week. 

People with sensitive skin may never develop the same skin tolerance as someone with normal skin. You may only be able to use a retinol every other day instead of every day. A dermatologist can prescribe you a retinoid and give you tips and tricks to introducing it into your skincare routine. Plus, you can end up finding out how to manage other skin issues you may be experiencing. 

How To Tell if Your Skin Is Purging

You may be wondering how you can tell if your skin is purging or if you're just breaking out. You may start using a new skincare product and develop more pimples, but this doesn't necessarily mean you are experiencing a purge. 

The new product may have active ingredients in it that are irritating your skin and causing a breakout. The new product could also be clogging your pores if there is oil in the ingredients. Clogged pores are what cause blemishes. 

These are a few signs you are experiencing a purge and not just breaking out from new skincare. 

How Long the Breakout Lasts

You will want to pay attention to how long your breakout lasts. The duration of acne is shorter during a purge than a normal breakout. If you begin using a new product and your breakouts last well over a month, it may be a sign it isn't working. 

The Area of the Breakouts

When your skin is purging, you will see acne in the normal areas you have breakouts. However, if you experience acne or irritation in a place you haven't had it before, it may be a sign your skin isn't happy with the product. 

Analyzing the Active Ingredients

As we went over, certain products are known for causing the skin to purge. Take a look at the active ingredients in your skincare and see if there is a retinoid or retinol. 

Exfoliating chemicals can also be in the formulation under beta hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide. If you are using products for the first time with these ingredients, you may be experiencing a purge. 

However, if you see hydrating oil in the ingredients, it may be clogging your pores. Some formulations may just be causing a breakout. Comedogenic makeup formulas can also clog your pores. Look for oil-free makeup, like HIDE premium products. This type of makeup won't lead to a breakout. 

What Acne Looks Like During Skin Purging

When your skin is purging due to a new skincare product, it may seem overwhelming. The rapid cell turnover brings blemishes to the surface that were already developing, but it won't last forever. 

There are different kinds of acne, but it's all considered inflammatory acne

  • Pustules
  • Whiteheads
  • Blackheads
  • Cysts

Acne is your body's inflammatory response to contaminants in your pores. When your body detects excess oil or bacteria, it attacks it since it is a foreign substance. Your body pushes out the contaminants through the puss, which causes a blemish. 

Your skincare products are not actually pulling all of this gunk out of your pores when you're purging. The rapid cell turnover, though, leads to an accelerated healing process. It eventually removes all the inflammation so you can have clearer skin. 

The type of acne, severity, and length of the purge is going to vary from person to person. Not everyone's skin is the same. Some people have more to purge than others. Unfortunately, you can't speed up the process, but you just have to grin and bear it and know you'll have better skin in the near future. 

How To Treat Your Skin When It’s Purging 

While you can't accelerate the skin purging process, you can still do things to help your skin through it. When using retinol or exfoliating acid for the first time, stop using other products with active ingredients in them. 

You don't want to overwhelm your skin, and the different ingredients can be too harsh for your face leading to irritation on top of purging. Switch to a gentle cleanser and remember to keep your skin hydrated. Try to drink enough water every day and apply moisturizer. 

You should try to keep your face out of the sun when using retinoids since it increases your skin's sensitivity. Apply sunscreen daily and try wearing a hat when you're going to be in the sun for an extended period of time. The last thing you need is a sunburn on top of purging skin!

You also want to try to avoid picking at your skin. It may be tempting to pick at a blemish or dry skin, but this can cause more harm than good. Not only can you spread germs from your hands to your face, but you could also cause scarring. 

HIDE banner for concealers

In Summary

Once you’re through the purging phase, you can expect to have clearer, brighter, smoother-looking skin. It may feel overwhelming when your skin first begins to purge, but it just means your skincare is doing its job!

A purge typically lasts for several weeks, but you'll be through it before you know it. Try not to pick at your new blemishes and protect your skin by moisturizing and wearing sunblock. 

You can also cover your acne with oil-free makeup in the meantime. HIDE products won't make your acne worse and offer great coverage. 



Ask a Dermatologist: How to Identify & Treat Skin Purging | Byrdie

Retinoids for Wrinkles, Anti-Aging, Brown Spots | Web MD

Skin Purging: Getting Through The Bad Before The Good | Dear Brightly