To truly understand what to do in the case of skin purging, you must have a better understanding of what skin purging is in the first place.
Skin purging involves shedding dead skin cells more rapidly than usual due to an increase in cell turnover. This results in clearer, younger-looking skin by revealing the new skin underneath.
It sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, it's not.
Before you get your fresh, young, new, and healthy skin cells, other things must first come to the surface. This includes the things that clog pores, such as excess sebum, flakes, and buildup. Referred to as "skin purging", this can be a very unpleasant process that can cause breakouts and lead to the skin to dry out and peel afterwards.
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What Causes Purging?
The process of purging starts when an active ingredient that accelerates cellular turnover is introduced to the skin. Usually, these active ingredients are found in anti-aging products and exfoliants as these products were created to give you a more youthful, smooth complexion by bringing fresh, healthy skin cells to the surface. Keep in mind that each person's skin is unique, so incorporating active ingredients doesn't guarantee that purging will take place.
A new skincare routine can lead to skin purging, so it's important to note which products can trigger this reaction. Here are some of the most common ingredients that can lead to purging:
This substance is derived from vitamin A and stimulates the skin's cellular turnover rate, thus reducing fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and acne.
In addition to boosting cellular turnover, L-ascorbic acid has a mild exfoliating property that contributes to the brightening of the skin. When using vitamin C, you may experience a skin purging effect since the exfoliating property can cause skin irritation due to the acidic pH. When using products containing Vitamin C, make sure you protect your skin with a rich barrier cream like GIMME MORE.
There are two types of chemical exfoliants used in skincare: alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids. BHAs penetrate deep into the pores, while AHAs work on the surface. Brightening toners and facial peels typically contain AHAs (such as glycolic acid), while acne-fighting skincare typically contains BHAs. Both have the potential to cause cellular turnover, leading to purging.
Related: 5 Tips for Managing Dry, Flaky Skin
Preventing and Treating Skin Purging
There is no way to control how long the purging process will last. However, there are some measures that you can take in order to make the process easier.
Initially, you might want to throw away the product, but in reality, you should continue. Having breakouts is certainly unpleasant, but getting rid of all that debris now will eventually lead to the clearer, smoother skin you are looking for.
It can be tempting to continuously examine your breakouts, but picking at your skin is a bad habit. The more you pop your pimples, the greater chance you have of developing acne, hyperpigmentation, or scarring. Alternatively, use a spot treatment or choose a clarifying face mask as you would for a normal breakout to occupy your hands.
It's All About Hydration.
If you're purging, don't stop applying moisturizers and oils, as stopping can cause dehydration. Lack of hydration can cause your skin to release more oil to counteract, potentially worsening acne. However, if you have oily skin, you may want to avoid using something too heavy that will weigh it down.
Use Skincare Products that Protect Your Skin’s pH
You might be able to ease acne-related discomfort by changing some of your skincare products to those that addresses the flareup and restores your the pH of the sensitive skin on your face.
Related: Skin 101: The Basics
Purging or Pimples?
In the end, the outcome is the same: more breakouts. The main difference is that purging is specifically induced when a new skincare product is added, accelerating cellular turnover, and affecting the debris that was already deep under the surface of the skin, which was going to surface sooner or later. Meanwhile, traditional breakouts are caused by comedogenic ingredients, hormones, insufficient exfoliation, and genetic factors, among other causes.
If you're breaking out after starting to use a new product, check and see if your product contains active ingredients that are known to speed up the cellular turnover process. In so, you may be purging. If not, your breakout might be caused by stress or hormones, or it could indicate that your skin isn't compatible with that particular product. Therefore, we suggest slowly introducing new products to your daily regimen, one by one, so you can see what works and what doesn't.
How Long Does it Last?
Purging has the advantage of being temporary. Depending on the individual, the treatment duration may vary from one person to another. It usually lasts about a month, corresponding to the time it takes to complete the skin cell turnover cycle. After 6-8 weeks, if you don't see any improvement, you should stop using any new product and seek professional assistance.
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