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Your Guide To Skin PURGING

Dermal Diagnosis by Dermal Health Science


Purging is an accelerated rate of exfoliation brought on by an active ingredient that is doing its job. This means that if you have clogged pores, they may seem worse and/or turn into pimples and active acne. If you have small pimples, they may turn into larger ones. This initial break out generally goes away anywhere from 2 weeks (with AHAs and BHAs) to 6 weeks (with retinoids) and your skin gets better from then on.

The accelerated exfoliation helps to unclog pores of dirt, oil, and bacteria already under the surface of your skin, which may result in acne break out. Treatments that contain ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, and retinoids remove dead skin cells on the surface of the epidermis. Retinoids can also increase the rate of cell turnover. What looks like a new break out is just the appearance of a pimple that would have surfaced sooner or later. Skin renews itself normally every 28 days. It may be tempting to stop using your new skincare products or regimen completely before this time period but by sticking with it, clear skin is just around the corner.


A pimple doesn’t begin when you actually see it. It starts as a clogged pore under the surface of your skin that you can’t see, which can eventually become a full-blown pimple before it goes away. This process can take up to 8 weeks. If a skincare product increases the skin cell turnover rate, it speeds up this entire cycle, so you’ll see many pimples appear. However, these pimples would eventually come up to your skin's surface.

Salicylic acid penetrates the pores, loosening the cellular debris and contents of congested pores. This may cause the blackheads to protrude until it extracts completely.

Purging vs. Allergic Reaction

If you start getting tiny red bumps and/or itchiness, then those are probably signs of allergy or irritation. Allergic reactions to skincare products will usually go away with hydrocortisone cream, so if you use a mild topical hydrocortisone cream in addition to your new products and you still have bumps in places you normally don't break out after a few days, then it's probably the product that is breaking you out.

Stinging from active ingredients

Purging vs. Irritation

Irritation usually makes your skin feel hot and sensitive. For example, if your skin burns or stings when you wash your face with a regular cleanser or use your normal products, your skin is probably irritated. Stop using the product for a few days and if your skin feels calmer after taking a break, then it was probably irritated. If your skin is the same after not using the product for a while (several weeks), you either really are purging or breaking out.

Be cautious about irritating your skin by exfoliating too much. Over-exfoliation can cause your natural skin barrier to be disrupted and grow vulnerable to bacteria and acne. Treatments can be very effective even if you aren't being aggressive with your skin. A little can go a long way.

Click here to read more about managing reactions in medical-grade skin care products.

When TO Stop Using THIS New Product?

When it comes to using new skincare products or a brand new regimen, you should try to give it about 3 months, but expect to see some slight improvement after 3-4 weeks of usage. If you are still breaking out after 3 months or don't see any improvement at all in your skin after 1 month, switch to something else. 3 Months is enough time for your skin to renew itself and push the would-be pimples out of your clogged pores.

If you want to limit the severity of a purge, introduce the new product slowly to your skin, which can help. Start at a lower concentration, at a smaller amount or use less frequently before gradually increasing to the recommended amount. Or you can always patch test.

So what do you do when your skin is freaking out, and you don't know which product is causing the issue? Quit everything cold turkey. Makeup, moisturizer, sunscreen…stop everything you're using. Try using mild topical hydrocortisone cream on your skin until your reaction goes down. Start adding products back in slowly. Eventually, you'll find out what's offending your skin. If your skin continues to react, see a dermatologist or skincare specialist as it may be a more serious medical condition that needs special treatment.

Other than that, give your new skincare products a chance. Some pimples and breaking out may be your skin’s initial reaction to a new product. After a while, your skin builds up some immunity to the products and the breakouts subside.

Click here for more advice on starting a skincare regimen that includes active ingredients.