As you’ve experienced life’s challenges, you may have heard this phrase a lot: “it gets worse before it gets better,” But how often does that happen? Jogging and sleep training your first child come to mind.
Then there’s skin purging.
If anything in skin care embodies the phrase “it gets worse before it gets better” it’s skin purging. But once you arrive at that “better” stage, it is the absolute best. Although it may not feel like it now, skin purging is a sign of fantastic things to come—namely, stunning long-term skin health.
What Is Skin Purging?
Skin purging is your skin’s reaction to a high cell turnover rate caused by treatments for certain conditions.
Here’s how it works:
Everyday your skin discards old skin cells. In fact, the body sheds between 30,000-40,000 cells a day1 . Certain ingredients in anti-acne or anti-aging skin care formulas can cause your skin cell turnover rate to speed up... a lot. But that’s a good thing! The goal of these treatments is to cycle your skin out of its older, less desirable layers, so you’re left with fresh, younger-looking skin.
However, there’s more than just shiny new skin that rises to the surface. Excess sebum, or facial oil, dead skin, buildup, and grime all come up, too. As your skin purges layers of older and less attractive skin, it’s also forcing up a bunch of skin junk, all at once.
What Does Skin Purging Look Like?
While no two skin purge experiences are exactly alike, skin purging most often presents in two ways2 :
Blemishes – All of that sebum, dead skin cells, and gunk that your skin is purging turns into a mix of every kind of pimple. This includes whiteheads, blackheads, cysts, pustules, papules, and tiny pre-pimples—all over the face. It will seem like a very bad case of acne.
- Dryness and peeling – Exfoliants or retinoids encourage the skin to shed old cells faster than ever. This can result in dry, itchy, peeling, or red skin. That peeling reveals skin that might be too new to protect itself from irritants or infections from clogged pores. Because of this, dry and peeling skin can also lead to breakouts during skin purging.
Remember the adage; it gets worse before it gets better. To get you through this, always remember to focus on the positives and why you’ve decided to skin purge in the first place. The skin’s surface is rejuvenating itself. If you want to end up with clear skin, you have to wait for the new skin cells to surface.
Why is Skin Purging a Good Thing?
Skin purging may give you horrible high school flashbacks, but what you’re experiencing is actually beneficial. Here’s the good news:
Your treatment is working – The sudden increase of blemishes means that the product is successfully increasing the skin cell turnover rate.
Your breakouts will subside – These particular breakouts aren’t the ones you suffered through in high school. The accelerated cell turnover rate that’s happening from your new skincare product means the blemishes will heal quickly once the dead skin cells can be cleared away.
- Your new beautiful skin is coming – And sooner than you might think.
How Long Does Skin Purging Last?
Generally, skin purging lasts as long as a full cycle of skin turnover. It’s the length of time it takes for the new skin—the fresh shiny skin you’ve been suffering for—to get from the lowest layer of the epidermis to the surface as older layers naturally fall away. On average, a cycle takes between four to six weeks3.
That might seem like a long time, but try not to think of it as six weeks. Instead, think of the duration of your skin purging like this:
6 new weekly episodes of your favorite TV show
6 Taco Tuesdays
6 Sunday brunches
6 family movie nights
6 Thursday happy hours
Or even 3 bi-weekly manicures
The more you focus on the time passing, the longer this part of your treatment will seem. But the less time you spend counting down the days, the more time you will spend enjoying your life and letting time fly naturally.
Can You Speed Up Skin Purging?
Unfortunately, you can’t speed up skin purging when trying out a new skincare product. The only thing you can do is give your skin the best possible treatment so it can recover quickly.
How to Deal with Skin Purging
Whatever your skincare goal may be, how you deal with skin purging can determine the outcome of your treatment. Try not to dwell on what’s happening now, and instead put practices in place to ensure wonderful skin in the future when all of this is over.
Resist touching your face or poking at your blemishes. You’ll help to limit your skin’s exposure to external irritants or infections.
Healthy Skin Tip: Don’t use the same old bottle of sunscreen you’ve been lugging to the beach for the last year. Give your skin healthy protection and moisture with tinted sunscreen.
An Important Note on Skin Purging vs Breakouts: What’s the Difference?
You might be unsure if you’re experiencing skin purging or just a lot of breakouts. Luckily, there are a few ways to easily distinguish what’s happening with your skin4 .
It’s most likely skin purging if...
- You’ve recently introduced a skincare product into your routine that contains any of the following ingredients:
- Glycolic acid (AHA)
- Salicylic acid (BHA)
- Vitamin C
The breakouts aren’t limited to one area but are spread out all over your face, including areas you don’t usually experience blemishes.
- The acne clears up faster than normal.
The blemishes present as normal acne as well as skin-colored bumps.
It’s most likely acne if...
- You’ve recently introduced a new makeup or oil-based product into your skincare routine.
- The blemishes are only limited to certain areas of the face.
- You’ve had changes in your daily life such as:
- An increase in stress
- A change in diet
- Hormonal fluctuations based on cycle or maturation
The breakouts last more than eight weeks.
Take a good look at your skin, products, and routine to find out whether you’re experiencing skin purging or breakouts. But if you’re not sure, it’s always best to give your dermatologist a call. Also, when introducing new products into your skincare routine, be sure they are made with high-quality ingredients.
From Purging Skin to Glowing Skin
When you’re going through skin purging, it can seem like the end result won’t be worth it. But you are definitely tougher than skin purging. Use these tips, stick with a skin care routine, and keep your skin health goals in mind. You’ve got this.
After all, what are a few weeks of skin cell purging when the result is long-term stunning skin?
For Outstanding Results, Try ALASTIN
If you’re looking to start your journey to incredible skin health, ALASTIN’s got your back. We’ve formulated the ALASTIN Retinol to be hydrating as well as exfoliating to minimize irritation and redness. Our Restorative Skin Complex with TriHex Technology® is also one of our most powerful formulas yet, helping to restore the skin to reveal a brighter, more youthful glow. Reveal your true, naturally gorgeous skin with this award-winning skincare line and an unbeatable team of skincare experts at ALASTIN.
1. “What Kids Should Know about How Skin Grows.” American Academy of Dermatology, 2020, www.aad.org/public/parents-kids/healthy-habits/parents/kids/how-skin-grow
2. Yarbrough, Jessica L., and Cynthia Cobb. “The Secrets to Deciphering and Stopping Skin Purging.” Healthline, 25 June 2019, www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/skin-purging#what-to-do
3.“Did You Know?” American Skin Association, www.americanskin.org/resource/
4.Mackenzie, Macaela. “This Kind of Breakout Is Actually a GOOD Thing.” Allure, Allure, 25 May 2017, www.allure.com/story/how-to-tell-the-difference-between-breakouts-and-skin-purging