Skin Purge vs. Breaking Out and How to Deal

Is it a Breakout or Skincare Breakthrough? 

As a makeup artist in Hollywood, California, I have both male and female clients sit in my chair, and many would be considered the ideal standard of beauty (whatever that is). I can tell you that even those we hold up on a beauty pedestal are complex, insecure, and struggle with the same issues as mere mortals – ACNE!  They open up to me about their acne with confusion, wondering if it's hormonal, stress, diet, or a purge from a new product they started. "Why am I suddenly breaking out?", they ask. Is this new little mound an acne breakout or a pore-purge before a product creates beauty and glow? Is this their body rebelling or healing?  Can you relate?!

So, how do we tell if we are breaking out or breaking through? Is it true acne or a short-term purge of clogged pores, which will later become a skincare win? While it can be difficult to tell one from the other, it is the knowledge that can change your views on products.

What is Purging?

Purging of the skin is the process of unclogging deep congestion in the skin, which comes to the surface in a pimple form. While none of us are a fan of this process, it does serve the purpose of getting the gunk out and smoothing those under-the-skin bumps. Many of us are walking around with clogged pores filled with dirt, debris, and oil, and releasing them is positive, even if it means temporary pimples.  Releasing this deep congestion is how we get to clear, glowing, smooth skin.

Purging happens when Desquamation occurs, which means the products create increased cell turnover, exfoliation, and skin shedding. This is an expected symptom of your skin doing something healthy for itself, and it requires patience to get to the glowy side. Typically, this process takes 6-8 weeks, so mark your calendar, and if your acne goes beyond this period, you are probably dealing with some other form of aggravation, and it is perhaps a good idea to try something else.

Purge-causing Ingredients

Various items are known to create a skin purge, including AHA's and BHAs, Retinol, Retin A, Azelaic Acid, Niacinamide, as well as simply changing from a conventional product to clean skincare.  If you recently started using products with any of these ingredients, you very well may be purging.  Don’t worry, it’s temporary.

The Good News

The purging process doesn’t need to be that horrible; there are healthy steps to help you embrace your skincare journey from a place of understanding.  Here’s how to heal your purge:

NOTE: Continue to use the product(s) that caused the purge. If you stop, it only prolongs the process. Let it do its work of unclogging those pores.

Step 1: Use a gentle cleanser that will not strip your skin of its natural healing sebum.  We love enzyme cleansers because they “eat” dead surface skin and do not cause skin irritation.   Now is not the time to be using harsh, drying ingredients to heal those pimples.  Say no to benzoyl peroxide! It will make things worse.

Step 2: Pat a natural-based hydrating toner on cleansed skin 1-2 x a day.  This will help to soothe and calm your breakouts.  Don’t drag cotton on the face, gently tap with your fingers, pressing the toner into the skin gently.

Step 3: Hydrate and seal in the moisture.  Choose a lightweight, plant-based serum or moisturizer for day and a heavier moisturizer for evening.  TIP: be careful with occlusives in your heavy moisturizers.

What's an occlusive, you ask? Great question, and this is the simple answer; an occlusive in skincare is an ingredient that holds moisture in the skin. Stick with plant-based occlusives and stay away from toxins like petroleum, dimethicone, and mineral oil; healthy choices to keep your eye out for would be mango, shea, and cocoa butter.

TIP: Steer clear of exfoliating your face while you are purging, as this can cause more inflammation and irritation.  Once your purge acne is mostly cleared up, try a very gentle facial scrub.  We recommend our Gentle Exfoliating Scrub.

So, now that we’ve covered purge-acne what’s “regular” acne?

If you’re breaking out and you haven’t switched to clean beauty, new skincare items or any of the “purging” ingredients mentioned above, your acne could be due to many other issues including: hormonal changes, stress, lack of rest, or a dietary sensitivity, among other things.  It takes time and lots of exploration to get to your acne root cause.  Check out our blog, What is Acne? for more information and tips to deal with acne.



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