Breaking Down Breakouts: Skin Purging

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Have you ever tried a new product you were excited about only for it to send your skin into a full-on freakout? You may have been in the midst of a process called skin purging which occurs due to reasons beyond your usual breakout.

How do pimples form?

It’s first important to cover how exactly this process starts by diving into how pimples form in the first place. When a pore becomes clogged — usually by lingering dirt, oil or dead skin cells that don’t detach properly — a microcomedone is formed.

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Microcomedones form deep below the surface of your skin and aren’t visible from the surface. Sometimes these clogged pores heal on their own, and sometimes they will rise to the surface slowly to form the usual whitehead, blackheads or cyst. It can usually take a microcomedone up to eight weeks to surface and become visible, as the skin has to go through its usual cell-turnover process that ranges anywhere from six to eight weeks.

What is skin purging?

Skin purging is a process your skin can go through while adjusting to a new product in your routine. If a product helps speed up the skin’s turnover rate (the rate at which skin cells are shed and replaced), then this entire six-to-eight-week cycle will be accelerated. This means those microcomedomes will surface at a much quicker rate than usual, leading to a sudden rush in breakouts that seemingly come out of nowhere.

Purging “breakouts” tend to be smaller blemishes that normally arise in places your face that you typically break out in. These blemishes are also not itchy, swollen or painful in nature.

Though it may seem that the breakouts may never end, your skin will adapt to the product with time. As the product starts to work and clear out your pores, fewer microcomedones should form over time, leading to clearer skin.

Which products are the culprits?

Products or ingredients that tend to be the culprits of purging are one’s that are known for aiding in the cell turnover process. These ingredients are also ironically the most important when it comes to clearing up acne. These include retinoids, vitamin C, exfoliants such as AHAs, BHAs, or scrubs and chemical peels.

Though it may seem like these ingredients are doing more harm than good, the purging process allows the skin to release all the gunk lingering deep within your pores at a much quicker rate.

How long does the purging process typically last?

The purging process can take anywhere from a couple of days to up to four to six weeks, depending upon the amount of time the skin needs to complete a full renewal cycle. The turnover process tends to be a lot faster with purging practices, as the product you’re using is allowing the skin to complete cell turnover cycles at a much faster rate than normal.

Skin purging takes a great deal of perseverance and patience — remember, it has to get worse before it can get better!


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