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Skin Purging: Fact or Myth? Here’s Why Your Skin Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better

Posted by Sarah Otto on
Skin Purging: Fact or Myth? Here’s Why Your Skin Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better

Since the advent of Instagram, skincare’s been having its moment in the spotlight—along with a few of its questionable health claims (sorry, but washing your face with hot water is never a good idea, no matter how small you want your pores to be).

That’s why we 100% don’t blame you for rolling your eyes at the mere mention of “skin purging.”

But hear us out.

When it comes to skincare folklore, we know one thing for sure: active ingredients are definitely NOT a myth. In fact, they’re a non-negotiable to incorporate into your daily routine, whether you’re suffering from dehydration, sun damage, acne or wrinkles.

Um, what do active ingredients have to do with skin purging?

Good question. While active ingredients are nothing short of life-changing, their results aren’t always, well, smooth sailing from the get-go (if you catch my drift). In other words, a lot of active ingredients can actually cause your skin to break out more initially, due to a process known as—yep, you guessed it—skin purging.

As frustrating as this might sound, if you can stick it out, the results are so worth it! Think: softer, clearer, brighter-looking skin.

So, why does your skin “purge”?

As we mentioned earlier, purging is an initial breakout or worsening breakout of your skin after starting a skincare product that contains certain active ingredients. The culprits? Actives that shed skin cells more rapidly, helping to loosen trapped oil and dirt in your pores. These include:

  • Alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, salicylic acid, fruit acids)
  • Retinoids
  • Vitamin C
  • Professional services including microdermabrasion, chemical peels and laser resurfacing

Fun fact: clogged pores can exist for months before causing a real breakout (I know, we’re grossed out, too). Active ingredients have a tendency to accelerate the rate at which clogged pores (comedones) rise to the surface and become blemishes, often causing many pimples to erupt all at once. #FreakingOut

But, believe it or not, skin purging is actually a good thing. That’s because it’s cleaning out your pores and preventing breakouts in the future. Say it with us, now: “a short-term loss for a long-term gain.”

Yeah, yeah, I hear you. So, how long will this last?

Well, it depends on how many underlying comedones you have in the first place. We hate to break it to you, but if you’re already acne-prone, this process will be more severe and could last for up to 4 weeks. But good news! By weeks 6-8, you should start to see a more clear and clean complexion.

Suffering from pimples? Try our Multitasker Night Serum, specially formulated with fruit acids. If you want to reduce your risk of a more severe breakout, start slow and increase use as tolerated. Plus, try these other helpful tips:

  • Use The Multitasker just twice a week initially and slowly increase to nightly use over 4-8 weeks.
  • Start one product at a time that contains active ingredients. As tempting as it may be to start using all the active goodness, sometimes a slower approach is the better approach. Start one new product at a time, and if your skin tolerates it, add another one every 7-10 days.
  • Use a mild cleanser so it doesn’t strip and irritate your skin further. Use something mild with very little foam, or try a cleansing oil!

How do I know if it’s really a “purge” versus an adverse reaction?

Ah, yes. Good lookin’ out. Here’s how to spot the difference between a healthy skin purge and an allergic reaction:

  • Purging tends to worsen areas where you’re already prone to breakouts
  • Purging clears on its own in 8 weeks or less
  • An allergic reaction usually causes redness, irritation and itching


What are your thoughts on skin purging? Have you experienced it before? Has a certain ingredient worked better for you than others? Leave a comment below, sharing your experience!

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