What is Purging, Anyway?

In Spring 2016, I suffered through a 3-month battle with acne. As someone who has always had clear skin, I was horrified and confused. So I did what anyone would do. I spent over $300 on skincare products and rummaged through skin blogs looking for answers to my predicament until my eyes bled over.


photo pulled from Creative Commons

One word that continued to come up was purging. For weeks, I pretty much latched onto this word in hopes that my skin was merely “going through it,” and the storm would eventually pass. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

What is purging?

The purging process is basically the breakouts associated with a new skincare regimen. In other words, the active exfoliant in the new product you’re using is doing what it’s supposed to be doing and unclogging your pores.

Here are a few signs that you’re not purging, and you should probably go back to the drawing board.

  1. The new product you’re using doesn’t contain an active exfoliant.

Active exfoliants increase cell turnover and include, AHAs, BHAs and retinoids. If the product doesn’t contain any active exfoliants, you’re probably just having an allergic reaction to it. One of my go-to exfoliating products is First Aid Beauty’s Facial Radiance Polish.

If you have sensitive skin, this is an excellent option for you.

      2. You’re getting pimples in places you don’t normally get pimples.

The purging process should only take place in areas that are prone to breakouts. One product in particular that made me start breaking out in unusual places was L’Occitane’s Immortelle Intense Cleansing Foam. When I first starting using it I was very pleased with how smooth and supple it left my skin, but shortly thereafter I started breaking out in strange places. Usually I give products about a month, but I gave this product a week because me skin had such a visceral reaction to it .

   3. Your breakout lasts more than 6 weeks.

I generally give a new product about month before I decide to give it the boot, but most skincare sites say the purging process takes anywhere from 2-6 weeks. I strongly recommend keeping a skin diary during your trial-and-error period. Documenting your skin treatment every morning and night, along with how your skin reacts, will help you weed out products faster.

The term purging can be a bit misleading and there really is no clear-cut way to know if your skin is “purging” or not. But if you keep these tips in mind and remember to be patient with your skin, then you should be in good shape.


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