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What is Skin Purging and is it Real?

by Beverly Hills MD

June 17 2019

You’ve finally gotten your hands on an exciting new skin care product. But after using it, you start experiencing breakouts. What’s going on? Don’t blame the product. The most probable answer is that you’re experiencing skin purging.

What Is Skin Purging?

Skin purging is exactly what it sounds like – your skin cells are purging the icky stuff. And this process might be triggered by a new skin care product.

You see, under the surface of your skin, dead skin cells and oil (sebum) can clog pores – and this is called a microcomedone. But you can’t see these microcomedones until they make their way to the surface and become an actual blemish.

But, once that initial round of icky stuff has been cleared from your pores, that kind of drastic, noticeable purge typically doesn’t happen again.

What Products Promote Purging?

Skin purging is most commonly seen with skin care products that encourage faster exfoliation, or turnover of skin cells. This brings these microcomedones to the surface quicker. You might experience purging with products like:

  • Retinoids
  • AHAs – alpha hydroxy acids, like lactic acid and glycolic acid
  • BHAs – beta hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid

skin purging | Beverly Hills MDSo, any clogged pores that have been hiding beneath the surface will be pushed out. You’ll wind up with a breakout that can now be visibly seen.1

But what if it’s not skin purging that’s causing your blemishes?

Skin Purging Vs. Breakouts: Know The Difference

Skin purging usually has a distinct pattern. And this pattern can help you tell the difference between the purging of skin cells and other skin irritation.

1. Have you added a new skincare and makeup routine that’s breaking you out? If the products don’t encourage cell turnover, your initial breakout is probably not purging. It’s more likely skin irritation or an allergy.

2. Purging more often appears on the skin as blackheads or small skin-colored bumps.

3. When your skin is purging, the turnover process of the spots should be much faster than a normal breakout.

4. If you’ve never experienced a breakout in that area before, it’s most probably your skin reacting and not a purge. Purges tend to stick to the usual breakout zones.2

How Long Should I Continue Using a Product

Skin purging is not necessarily a bad thing. So, it’s generally recommended that you stick with any product that contains ingredients for faster skin cell turnover, for at least 6-8 weeks. This gives the process a chance to work its magic.3

Are you still breaking out after 6-8 weeks? Look at the product’s ingredients closely. If they don’t encourage cell turnover, it’s highly unlikely the product is causing skin purging. If your skin isn’t improving, the product isn’t for you.

If you have any concerns about continuing with a product on your skin, talk to your dermatologist.

Are Some People More Prone To Skin Purging?

skin purging | Beverly Hills MDSome skin types may be more prone to skin purging, but the exact reason behind this is unclear. It does seem to occur more often in those who are more susceptible to clogged pores, oily skin, or blemishes in the first place.4

Can I Stop My Skin From Purging?

Short of stopping the skin care product altogether, no. But you may find that introducing the new product slowly into your skin care routine helps.

For example, you could start at a lower concentration or frequency. Or you could leave the product on your skin for just a few minutes at a time before removing with a gentle cleanser. Gradually increase the time you leave the product on your skin.

Purging Takes Patience

Skin purging is not about ridding your skin of toxins, but rather cleaning out debris from your pores. The increased turnover of skin cells from a skin care product is what triggers this process.

Purging definitely takes patience. No one likes dealing with breakouts, whatever the cause. If you’re willing to stick with it, make sure you also continue to follow a good cleansing routine for optimal skin care. Ultimately, a little patience can lead to a much-improved complexion.

Always talk to your dermatologist if you’re unsure about how a product is affecting your skin.

Learn More:
What Causes Large Pores (and how to make them look smaller)
6 Simple Ways to Banish Oily Skin Forever
10 Tips For A Beautiful Complexion


Beverly Hills MD Dermal Repair Complex