What is skin purging?

And how do we know it’s happening?

I’ve never had clear skin. My acne has gone through periods of being far worse than others, but it’s never completely gone. Like the majority of the UK population I was consumed by TikTok during the first lockdown, and SkinTok became my new obsession. Hyram Yarbro gave my skin care collection a complete revamp! 

I joined the cult of The Ordinary fans and purchased the Niacinamide serum and the Glycolic Toner to begin my journey. Quite quickly my skin began to break out like I had never seen it before. 

The genius’s on TikTok informed me that the reaction was, in fact, my skin purging, so I decided to persist with the products and the results have been insane. It wasn’t a particularly easy journey. It took several months of sore acne – that seemed to function on its own rule book – but eventually my skin was clear.  

What is skin purging?

Skin purging is when your skin sheds dead cells quicker than normal. This usually occurs after using a new product with active ingredients that increases cell turnover rate. When this happens, all the dirt in between the layers of your skin – such as excess sebum and clogged pores – must come to the surface. Yes, that means spots, and in some cases, lots of them. 

There is light at the end of the tunnel however, once the skin has finished clearing the dirt from your skin, you’ll be left with a healthy, fresh glow. 

What are active ingredients? 

Active ingredients are the ingredients in skincare which target specific concerns such as acne. Chemicals put in to exfoliate your skin, such as retinols and beta hydroxy acids, can commonly cause your skin to purge. Also, acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are known to do the same. 

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How to tell if your skin is purging?

Purging skin doesn’t look a specific way, the spots can appear in every possible form; black heads, whiteheads, cysts you name it. Dry skin is also a common symptom of a purge. 

The tell-tale sign that you’re experiencing a purge rather than a breakout is if it’s happening in an area you regularly get spots (because your skin is trying to clear the area), and if it’s healing quicker than normal (because the cells are shedding at a faster rate).

If you’ve got spots in a new area of your face, it’s probably just a reaction to a new product. In that case, it’s best to stop using the product.

Should you stop using the product making you purge?

Experts would recommend that you keep using them – at least for a little while. Once the skin has finished cleaning itself, you’ll be able to see the benefits of the products. But how long will that take? 

It should take one skin cycle for your skin to purge, whilst this time frame differs from person to person, six weeks is usually a good rule of thumb. 

Try taking pictures of your skin through its purge so you can see its progress. This is one great tip I used during my purge and it really helped me to remain positive whilst my skin radiated pure negativity. 

I could see each of my clogged pores, de-clog day-by-day which was evidence to me that the product was doing what it was supposed to. 

If your purge is taking a lot longer than six weeks, and you can’t see much improvement through your pictures – consult your dermatologist. 

How can you help your skin through a purge?

We mentioned before that you can get any kind of spot during a purge, which can be really uncomfortable. A huge spot, paired with extra dry skin isn’t exactly a nice feeling, especially not for a potential six weeks. 

Unfortunately, you can’t speed the purge up – so don’t even think about using extra product in an attempt to do this, it may only aggravate the skin more. 

There are some things you can do to help the skin through this process:

  1. Only use one active ingredient product at one time. Too much may make your purge more intense.
  2. Don’t pick your skin! You’re probably sick of hearing this your whole life, and we all know that picking is sometimes so satisfying. But you really have to stop. It will only slow the healing process, and if you’re purging, you’ll have quite a few spots to contend with. So, the quicker they go away the better. 
  3. Don’t use drying products. Try to stay away from exfoliating acids, nourish the skin through the purge to help soothe the skin. 

Is a purge worth it?

From my experience, a purge was totally worth it. My textured bumpy skin is now smooth, my pores are smaller, and my acne is far less frequent. 

Whilst you’re treating your skin, treat your hair too! The latest trend is the bubble braid, we’ve found all the influencers advocating the trend!

Tags: skin care

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Co-founder and Editor. Sweet Chilli Sensations enthusiast, lover of all things skin care, professional snack stealer.
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