We’ve all been there – you start a new skincare product excited about the promising results surely coming your way, and the next day you wake up with a breakout. Cue the panic, right? Maybe not. While it isn’t exactly thrilling when your skin decides to be highly reactive to your new skin care product, it’s not necessarily a bad sign. In fact, a skin purge might be your ticket to skin perfection.
Skin Purging vs Acne
In the days before the internet made it possible to understand how your skin works in response to skincare ingredients (without help from a friendly dermatologist), we didn’t take a lot of time to tell the difference between acne breakouts. Acne is acne, right? It turns out, acne isn’t quite that simple, and neither is the way your skin responds to certain ingredients.
As a point of fact, not all acne breakouts are created equally. Occasional pimples, stress blemishes, cystic acne, and hormonal acne all have different causes – and it’s the same for skin purge related acne. Acne that crops up as a result of your skin reacting to new skincare products is called skin purging, and it’s quite different from other types of acne you may have had before.
What Causes Acne?
The scientific cause of acne is a combination of oil and natural skin bacteria causing inflammation in a pore that has been blocked by dead skin cells. Secondary causes for acne include hormones, hydration, sleep, and stress. Common acne usually crops up during puberty, but for many people can stick around well into their 20s and 30s, depending on genetic predisposition.
Acne involves more than simple pimples. For example, acne-prone skin is more likely to be dry with enlarged pores and typically has blackheads, whiteheads, or both. Redness, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and shallow or rolling acne scars are also common.
What Causes Skin Purge?
While this may look like acne on the surface, the truth is that it’s fundamentally different. A skin purge is usually an eruption of your skin responding to skincare ingredients that have caused heightened skin cell turnover, oil balance, and bacteria cleansing. The cause of skin purging is typically the start of a new skincare product, particularly one that has strong active ingredients.
Skin purging does exactly what it sounds like – it purges your skin of all the root causes of problematic skin, particularly acne, aging, sun damage. Skin purging helps clear your pores and the superficial layers of your skin of all the tough-to-handle issues. And given enough time, skin purging can restore and refresh your skin tone and texture.
Can Skin Purging Clear Acne?
Absolutely. Skin purging caused by active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are specifically designed to root out all of the acne-causing bacteria lurking on the surface of your skin. Many people find that these active ingredients are “harsh” on the skin and are discouraged from continued use due to how extreme the breakouts out – but with continued use, acne can be controlled and eliminated after the purging is complete.
What Does Skin Purging Do for Skin Aging?
Age-related skin concerns, particularly dark spots, sun damage, fine lines, skin dryness, and uneven skin tone, are also subject to skin purging when active ingredients such as Retinol are first used. Retinol, in particular, can feel like it does more harm than good at the beginning, as the first results of increased skin cell turnover can leave skin dry, red or irritated, and even broken out. However, consistent use of Retinol usually nets anti-ageing improvements.
How Long Does Skin Purging Last?
Skin purging should typically last for about four to six weeks after starting a new product. One reason for this is that it will take time for the skincare products to reach new layers of skin, depending on where your skin cells are in the turnover cycle. Another reason for the length of the purge is the simple fact that your skin will need time to acclimate to the active ingredients.
However, if your skin purging lasts more than six weeks, it might be time to turn to professional help. If your breakouts, redness, and irritation continue for more than six weeks, it could be a sign that the active ingredient is incompatible with your skin, the ingredient is too strong, or you are allergic to the ingredient.
Can You Minimize Skin Purging?
While some amount of skin purging is inevitable after starting a new product, there are some things you can do to minimize a purge – and in turn, minimize any acne breakouts. There are three keys to minimizing the symptoms of your skin purging, including:
Tip 1: Start With Gentler Products
Most skin actives have different “strengths”, so starting with a lower strength or diluting a skin active may be a gentler way to introduce the active ingredient and make your skin purge easier to deal with. For example, if you’re dead-set on using Retinol, you may want to start with natural alternatives like Bukchiol or rosehip oil before stepping up to full-strength Retinol.
Tip 2: Slowly Introduce Products
It’s also important that you slowly introduce your skin to these products. Not only do you want to avoid introducing a bunch of new skincare products to your skin at one time, but you want to make sure that your skin is learning these skin actives in baby steps. This usually means using a skin active 1 to 3 times a week, and slowly stepping up use over several weeks.
Tip 3: Stay Consistent
You need to stay consistent in your use, too, because going too long without using your skin active will usually put you right back to square one. This is especially important for products that require daily use, such as those for acne, where consistent use is the key to correcting problematic skin. Don’t wait for your bottle to run dry before picking up a new one.
While acne and skin purging might look the same on the surface, the key difference between the two is this: acne is chronic and skin purging is temporary. Whether your skin active is for acne-prone skin or ageing skin, skin purging is both inevitable and easy to manage if you know how to minimize the effects.
What Products We Recommend For Getting You Through The Purge
Skin purging is not fun, and you need to be gentle with your skin while it’s purging. Keeping your skin hydrated and protected from the sun is key.
You can learn more about the products we recommend for moisturizing and sunscreen.
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