The Key to Understanding (and Controlling!) Skin Purging

The Key to Understanding (and Controlling!) Skin Purging


"The purge" is a phrase that may have the best of us breaking out in a cold sweat. Not a horror film title (even though it is!) the term 'skin purging' refers to a reaction to an active substance that increases skin cell turnover rate. As this grows, the skin begins to shed dead skin cells speedily. The ultimate goal? To show clearer, younger-looking skin by exposing the new skin cells beneath.

If only it—or anything!—were that simple.

Because before these new, healthy cells can cycle to the surface, other things must first rise to the surface. Think excess sebum, flakes, and debris that clog pores (all the ingredients for pimples). These may vary in appearance from person to person, but you can often expect a gorgeous cocktail of whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, cysts, and even microcomedones, which are invisible to the naked eye. Dry and peeling is also a possibility.

If you’re dipping your toes in a new skin or bodycare routine that includes Retinoids and facial acids, an unwanted hot, flushed reaction may start knocking on your skin. And, while the purge is undesirable at best and painful at worst, it is kinda to be expected while using some skin care chemicals.

So, what exactly should you do if your skin begins to purge? Well, to avoid additional inflammation, dermatologists often recommend following a light and gentle skin care program. That means only the basics: a sulphate-free cleanser, a soothing moisturiser, and sunscreen during the day. And, of course, the retinoid or exfoliant that caused the purge in the first place.

Yes, you read correctly—although it may be more tempting than an open bag of crinkle cut chips to discontinue use, try try try and resist. Instead, persist through the 'it gets worse before it gets better' stage. That’s (1) resist and (2) persist.

Next slide—how do you detect if you're purging, having a breakout, perhaps just having an existential crisis, or maybe just need a snack. The first two, we can help with. An adverse reaction to a product occurs where you usually break out. In contrast, a purge occurs in a new location and tends to vanish faster than a regular pimple generally forms. Breaking out is most often the result of an allergic reaction or sensitivity, whereas purging is your products doing their job.

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To best test the waters, allow one skin cycle or around 28 days of use with a new product before letting it hit the trash. Because purging happens when an ingredient seeks to accelerate the skin's average rate of shedding and renewal, the worst of it should be over in one complete skin cycle.

When in doubt, here is our best purge practice to keep your skin safe and healthy:

  • When your skin is detoxing, avoid prolonged sun exposure.
  • Avoid picking at your face excessively or popping pimples.
  • Try to stay away from harsh chemicals and exfoliants.
  • Introduce new cosmetics to your skin gradually, especially ones with active components.


Kinda-happy purging, but a very happy Sundae X

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