Skin Purging or Bad Reaction?
This has come up as a point of confusion for a lot of people, so we thought it would help if we break things down a bit.....
by Kate Grant
A year ago
What is skin purging?
Skin purging is something that can occur when you introduce a new product that increases your cell turnover rate, in turn speeding up the formation of pimples that were lurking under the skin’s surface. Basically, that breakout that would have happened in a few weeks, gets pushed to the surface faster.
This is the phase people talk about when they say that your skin will get worse before it gets better.
The most common culprits of skin purging are products that contain active ingredients like retinols, alpha hydroxy acids (like the Lactic Acid in our FLASH FORWARD Exfoliation Treatment), beta hydroxy acids (glycolic, salicylic), and some anti-acne ingredients like benzoyl peroxide. These active ingredients accelerate the process of shedding dead skin cells, bringing the newer skin cells to the surface faster revealing brighter, clearer, younger-looking skin. Before that fresh new skin can be revealed, your preexisting comedones (clogged pores) will rise to the surface faster turning into pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, pustules and even cysts. In some people, the purging process can show up as excessive dryness and flaking.
Is this skin purging, or a bad reaction?
There is a difference between skin purging and having a bad reaction to a product. The first is annoying and will go away within 4 to 6 weeks, and the latter is something that you do not need to suffer through.
Purging typically happens in areas where you normally experience pimples, breakouts or dryness. For example, if you are prone to breakouts on your chin or jawline, then you will see an increase in these breakouts for a period of 28 – 42 days. The good news is that pimples caused by purging will disappear faster than normal pimples!
A reaction to a product can occur for a number of reasons. An allergic reaction to a specific ingredient can cause inflammation and redness that doesn’t subside quickly. Products can be too comedogenic for your skin type and ultimately result in clogged pores (this often occurs with rich moisturizing creams). Sometimes, active ingredients (like Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Enzymes, Vitamin C, and Retinol) can be too strong for your skin type and may cause your skin to start over-producing oil that will eventually bind with bacteria to form pimples.
If you are experiencing breakouts or excessive dryness in areas that you don’t normally struggle with, then it’s likely a reaction to a new product you are using, and it is best to discontinue use.
We know how frustrating it is to be excited about a new product, only to find that it doesn’t work for your skin. Everyone’s skin responds differently to new products, which is why we have a 30 day return policy.
What to do if your skin is purging?
It’s unclear why some people experience skin purging, while others don’t. Sadly, there isn’t much you can do to speed up the purging process. However, your patience will be rewarded with clearer, healthier looking skin.
If you are going through the dreaded skin purging process, there are a few things that you can do to help minimize further irritation.
- First off, don't pick! This will only make things worse.
- Stick to your basics and lean on an uncomplicated routine with soothing products to help balance the effects of the retinol or exfoliator that’s putting you through the purge.
- While it may be tempting to stop using the offending product, it’s best to stick with it for at least one full skin cycle (28 – 42 days).
How to avoid skin purging?
If you are someone that has reactive skin that’s prone to purging, you might want to consider easing into products with active ingredients like retinol, AHA, BHA, and even enzymes.
For example, the first two weeks you would only use retinol products two times a week, the third and fourth weeks you would use it three times each week, working your way up to daily use when applicable.
Use this same pattern with exfoliating acids like FLASH FORWARD, but start with a once a week application, and don’t exceed two to three times per week maximum. Be sure to thoroughly read the instructions before applying any new product to your skin.
Ultimately, no one wants to see a breakout after starting a new skincare product. However, if you are indeed experiencing skin purging, the results will be worth the frustration. When it comes to skin purging, it helps to remember that those pesky pimples would have come up eventually, and as soon as you get through it you will have clearer, smoother, and younger looking skin.