What Causes Skin Purging and How Do You Know If You Have It?

It turns out that it's not the same as a regular breakout. Sometimes, things have to get worse before they can get better. This applies to life in general, but can also apply to situations involving your skin. Specifically, skin purging.

Skin purging occurs when you incorporate a new product or ingredient into your routine and your skin begins to break out. But this isn't just a stray pimple here and there; it's a whole bunch of them.  

A breakout can appear after eating junk food or as a result of stress. A purge is more of a group of pimples graduating at the same time and rising to the surface of the skin. Ingredients that promote cell turnover, such as retinoids, glycolic acid and salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, are what cause these pesky breakouts to appear. Usually, when you start using those products for the first time, you're causing cell turnover and pimples or clogged pores to come to the surface at the same time. It's similar to restarting the skin cycle.

Purges can last up to six weeks because the skin needs time to reset and, essentially, push the gunk out of your pores and adjust to the new products (it usually starts in the first couple of weeks of using a new product). However, it should not last more than two months. If it does, it is possible that your skin simply does not agree with the product, or that there is something else going on.

Over-exfoliation is frequently confused with purging, so reevaluate your routine and see if there are any products, such as a chemical exfoliant, that you can reduce your use of. 

Dermatologists understand that the skin is a window into your internal health. So, yes, you might just have a regular pimple from trying some new products, but we like to ask, ‘OK, is this issue happening because of something other than skin? How are you feeling on the inside? ‘Do you have an iron deficiency?' Your skin requires nutrition in order to function and heal. So, if you notice the purge coincides with hair loss, weight gain, or feeling more dry than usual, there is always something internally that we can work on. In that case, it is best to seek advice and guidance from your dermatologist.  

In some cases, a person may prefer not to deal with the purging process and instead avoid using the product entirely. You certainly can, but it advisable that you let the purge run its course. If you stop using the product that started the purging, it should slow down, but sometimes once you start the fire, it will continue to burn no matter what. For some people, if you stop using the product, it can last for a month or so.

You can use an anti-inflammatory products to reduce the severity of some of the breakouts. In the midst of a purge, the worst thing you can do is attack it with other products. Some people go crazy when they notice they're purging and throw everything at their face to calm things down, which sometimes makes it even more irritated, and dried out. If anything, simplifying your routine will avoid intervening with the purge and help it along. Initially it may look horrible, but over time it will get better.

Just remember: Patience is a virtue and good skin doesn’t happen overnight.

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