What Is Skin Purging? How to Tell if It’s Acne or Purging

Have you ever been excited about trying a new skincare product, only to find out that you break out from using it? Or maybe you went to the spa to get a facial, only to find acne on your face a day or two later. This can be pretty disappointing, especially if you’re waiting for your skincare to work its magic! This temporary flare-up is known as “skin purging” or “acne purging.” Yes, it might sound like something out of a horror movie, but skin purging is a common skin reaction to using some treatments. Read on to tell the difference between purging and regular acne.

What is skin purging?

Skin purging refers to the way the skin reacts to a specific active ingredient. It commonly occurs when the skin reacts to chemical exfoliants and retinoids or procedures like microneedling. In particular, retinoids are well-known for promoting cell turnover. Skin cells typically turn over every 28 days, and retinoids speed up this process.

As retinoids and other treatments bring healthy cells to the surface of the skin, they also uncover what’s underneath. When debris, oil, or impurities rise to the surface of the skin, it can lead to clogged pores and breakouts. As an example, The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology cites that while adding prescription tretinoin (a topical retinoid) to their routine, some patients experienced breakouts. Unfortunately, if you already have acne-prone skin, you may also be more susceptible to skin purging.

woman checking out acne from skin purging

Is it purging or a bad reaction?

Wondering how to tell the difference between purging and actual acne? It can be hard to tell, but there are some clues to look for. One sign that your skin is purging is that the acne from purging will heal faster. However, it can take up to a month to see if your skin shows signs of improvement (or one skin cycle). If your skin shows no signs of improvement, it is essential to speak to your dermatologist to make sure the active ingredients aren’t harming your skin.

Another clue is the location of your acne. If acne is in a new location, it might be a reaction to using different skincare or makeup products. If this is the case, it needs to be treated differently than purging.

Can skin purging be avoided?

Minimizing purging can be done by working with your dermatologist. They will likely ease you into using an active ingredient and may recommend using it once or twice per week. This is a highly individual process that depends on many factors, including the current health of your skin. Working with a dermatologist will help you avoid products that are too harsh.

What does skin purging look like?

Skin purging looks like other acne breakouts. It can look like small, red, and hard bumps (papules). It may also look like pus-filled pimples (pustules) or whiteheads. Blackheads and cysts may also appear.

woman with skin purging

What should I do when my skin is purging?

As your skin goes through the purging process, you can do what you would do during any other breakout.

Be gentle with your skin. Wash your face with a cleanser that doesn’t contain harsh ingredients, like the Teami Gentle Superfood Liquid Cleanser. This cleanser purifies skin with organic ingredients including matcha, apple, turmeric, and sea kelp. Wash your face twice daily (and a third time if you need to wash it after a workout).

Avoid touching your face and do not pop pimples. This will lead to dark spots, redness, and more irritation. Worst of all, it could lead to permanent scarring!

Avoid harsh exfoliating and chemicals. This could actually make your skin’s recovery from the purge last even longer and cause more damage.

Do not scrub your face. Rub cleanser and moisturizer into your skin gently using circular motions.

Avoid extended sun exposure. Too much time in the sun can make sensitive, purging skin more uncomfortable. If you are spending a lot of time in the sun, wear sunscreen and a hat.

Avoid foods that cause acne. Foods that cause acne will vary for everyone. However, knowing foods that cause flare-ups for you can make it easier to deal with purging. It may also help you figure out if it’s purging or an actual breakout.

Use a clay mask. Clay masks are a great way to calm skin purging. A gentle mask like the Teami Green Tea Detox Mask is suitable for all skin types and replenishes skin with bentonite clay, lemongrass, and matcha.

Be patient! There’s no doubt about it: skin purging can be frustrating, just like acne. If you need to soothe irritated skin, there are many natural ways to reduce redness and discomfort. Just make sure that you don’t try to do too much at once! Less is more when it comes to making skin feel comfortable.

woman using cream to handle skin purging

When it comes to getting gorgeous skin, there is no quick fix. Getting the skin you desire comes from understanding your body, eating well, staying hydrated, knowing what ingredients your skin responds well to, and much more!

Read our lifestyle posts for more information about natural skincare tips for getting your most radiant and glowing skin from the inside out!

Adi Arezzini

Love,
Adi Arezzini | @adiarezzini
Co-Founder + CEO, Teami Blends
Certified Holistic Nutrition Coach


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