Breaking Out? You May Be Experiencing Skin Purging

Paris Hilton Skincare - Problem Skin and Purging

By Catie Ryan, Staff Writer 

Things in life typically get worse before they get better, and our bodies are no exception. Anyone who has gone on a cleanse, begun a new exercise regimen, or shifted to a generally healthier lifestyle has realized this. If you take a detox from processed and fast foods, you'll quickly notice that your body feels lethargic, unsettled, and depleted of energy once refined sugar and saturated fat and no longer pulse through your veins. However, after an adjustment period during which your body rids itself of toxins, your energy levels and general wellbeing stabilize, making you feel better than ever before.

Your skin is no different.

Unfortunately, skin wears its heart on its sleeve. When it endures change or unrest, your complexion can develop redness, dryness, bumps and - the worst of all - pimples. Trying new skincare products, typically a new cleanser or lotion can cause a phenomenon called “skin purging” in which the toxins that once laid dormant underneath your skin quickly rise to the surface to form blemishes. The most common reason for this is typically from an accelerated rate of exfoliation due to the active ingredients in your product.

But, there’s a catch. Not all irritation is a sign of skin purging. If your new face wash is causing you trouble, the formula may simply disagree with your complexion. A reaction that resembles skin purging may be your body’s way of signaling its distaste for the product’s ingredients (such as harsh chemicals or fragrances). Here’s how to tell if your skin is just “purging” or if you need to switch up your cleanser. 

  • Your products have certain active ingredients
      • Skin purging is not an equal-opportunity offender. It only really comes into effect if your product contains specific active ingredients that increase cell turnover. These include alpha-hydroxy acids, vitamin C, retinol, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid. If the formula excludes these ingredients, you’re probably experiencing a reactive breakout.

  • Your pimples surface and mature quickly
      • When the aforementioned ingredients spur quick cell turnover, the pimples buried underneath the skin are forced up, typically causing a white head, blackhead, or cyst. If you notice blemishes appearing at a much greater speed than usual, that's good news. Give your facewash time to work the dirt and bacteria out of your pores.

  • Pimples occur in typical areas
      • Blemishes that occur during skin purging mainly appear in the areas where you typically break out. Conversely, if zits are popping up in unusual places (what are you doing, cheek pimple?!), your skin is probably negatively reacting to your product.

  • Your skin is sensitive or acne-prone
      • If you have calm, complaisant skin that rarely breaks out, then you are you ridiculously blessed. Also, you probably won’t experience skin purging. If your new product is making you break out, stop using it immediately. Your skin is throwing a temper tantrum over the formula’s ingredients, and you need to listen to it. On the flip side, acne-prone and sensitive skin types are much more susceptible to purging because baby pimples already lay beneath the surface.

The process of skin purging should last anywhere from 1-3 weeks, so if your face still feels like it has not settled after a month, try switching up your products. You can count on your complexion to let you know if it’s unhappy, so as long as you nurture and nourish it with care, you can expect a future of clear skin.


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