Select Page

What Is Skin Purging and How to Tell If It’s Happening to You

What Is Skin Purging?

As bad as it might sound, skin purging isn’t necessarily bad, but rather helpful to your skin. In skin purging, acne will most often appear in response to using a new facial product. This can include a new foundation, new anti-aging cream, or new cleanser.

Example one of a skin purge

This is considered skin purging because the whiteheads and blackheads that appear are actually from deep within your skin and are coming to the skin’s surface. At first, it may seem as if your skin is having a negative reaction, but this isn’t the case!

What happens is that dead skin cells are being shed faster during this process, which are then replaced with new skin cells. This is known as skin cell turnover. However, this process is known to create acne breakouts.

Example of acne breakout

What Does Skin Purging Look Like?

Skin purging appears very similar to an acne breakout. Skin purging leaves your skin with whiteheads and blackheads appearing on the surface, as well as other types of acne. Skin purging is almost undistinguishable from regular acne, but the causes are what set them apart.

Example two of purging skin

Common Forms of Acne During a Skin Purge


As the name suggests, pustules are bumps that may appear during a skin purge that is filled with pus. Pustules are a natural response when the body is trying to combat infection, as the pus that fills these bumps are comprised of white blood cells.

They are yellowish-white bumps that may be tender to the touch.


Whiteheads begin to form when oil and dirt get trapped in hair follicles and pores, typically on the face. Similar to pustules, whiteheads are white in color but aren’t as sensitive to the touch. This is an extremely common type of acne vulgaris as well that can appear almost anywhere on the body.


This form of acne forms bumps on the body, typically the face and neck, but are not pimples. Blackheads look like there is dirt smudged into the skin pores, and do not cause discomfort.


Cystic acne is a more severe type of acne. This form can be painful, as nodules will grow to be quite large on the skin. Cystic acne creates these lesions due to oil, dead skin, and dirt. However, this form of acne is less common in cases of skin purging, but it is one to be aware of.

Example of cystic acne

Symptoms of Skin Purging

Because of their similarities, here are a few key symptoms that help to identify skin purging and set it apart from breakouts.

Acne-like Breakouts After Using a New Facial Product

A skin purge will consist of multiple types of blemishes and bumps that resemble acne, but they should not hurt or become painful at any time.

Fast Healing Breakouts

Your skin should clear up relatively quickly, within two weeks or so, and should not happen again unless you introduce a new product to your skin.

Skin purges heal faster than acne breakouts

Dry Skin

Skin purging does sometimes involve your skin drying out a little just because your skin is pushing out dirt, oils, and dead skin cells.

Peeling Skin

It is common for skin to peel as well during a skin purge. This is sometimes the body’s way of fully ridding itself of skin afflicted by dirt and contaminants.

Skin Purging vs. Breakout


Skin purging is a temporary process that takes between two and three weeks to go through and heal. Acne comes and goes in waves, often lasting between three and four weeks at a time.


Acne can be located almost anywhere, whereas skin purging is limited to certain locations. Skin purging also happens all at once, unlike acne,where it takes time for all of the breakouts to take place.

Purges are focused on the face

Active Ingredients

Skin purging is triggered by active ingredients, whereas acne typically isn’t. Normal acne is actually treated with active ingredients to keep the breakouts at bay.


Most of us are familiar with the struggle of diminishing the marks left behind from acne. However, skin purging does not leave marks as it heals, unlike a normal acne breakout.

Skin purges do not mark like acne breakouts

What Causes Skin Purging?

Skin purging will often happen when using anti-aging products and anti-acne treatments. This is because of the ingredients most commonly found within these products. At first glance, this seems like an allergic reaction and inflammatory acne, especially to those with acne-prone skin.

However, skin purging is a natural process that filters out dirt and oils. It often is triggered with the use of certain ingredients, including alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids. Alpha hydroxy acid includes glycolic acid and lactic acid. Beta hydroxy acid includes salicylic acid and retinoids including retinol.

There are multiple treatment options for skin purges

If your skincare routine includes any of these types of ingredients, then you most likely will or have experienced skin purging at some point and not have known it. However, skin purging may also happen after skin exfoliation.

Exfoliating acids and exfoliating your skin can scrub away those dead skin cells as well, which can be especially abrasive on sensitive skin. This also includes chemical peels and other exfoliating treatments.

Symptoms That Are Not Skin Purging

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed below, then you are most likely not experiencing a skin purge, but rather a type of breakout or infection. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Rash or hives appearing
  • Puffy areas on the skin
  • Irritated, red patches on the skin
  • Small red spots
  • Itchy, stinging, or burning sensations
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Blisters begin to form
An example of what skin purges are not

Skin purging can create flaky skin, but should not create any discomfort or irritation. Even with high skin sensitivity, skin purging is a natural occurrence and a gentle skin care routine should allow the skin to heal quickly without pain.

Skin Purging Treatment

There are multiple ways to treat skin purging and help the process along without disrupting your skin. When your skin is purging, try any of the following treatment options:


Peptides are natural amino acids that our bodies produce. They are known as the building blocks for the proteins in the body, but medicated skin care products can also contain lab-made peptides.

Peptides are good for anti-aging and improving the skin barrier to their relation with creatine, collagen, and other vitamins and minerals. They also help to repair the skin as they act as antioxidants, helping to revive and create glowing skin.


Ceramides are also commonly found in skin care products as they help to relieve the dryness of the skin. Ceramides are most common in products targeted toward skin conditions, including eczema and dermatitis. They are also used in cases of skin irritation and inflammation in acne conditions.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a popular ingredient in anti-aging skin care products because it can restore the structure of the skin. Hyaluronic acid will help maintain moisture when the skin is purging.

Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil is often used as a carrier oil with essential oils but can be used on its own in any skincare routine. It’s gentle on the skin, so you can avoid an allergic reaction to harsh chemicals while being moisturizing and antibacterial.

Jojoba oil is also useful in promoting collagen synthesis, which is linked to skin structure and anti-aging.

Example of what jojoba oil looks like

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is useful in calming the skin in times of irritation. If you’re experiencing peeling and skin dryness, aloe vera is a safe option to ease symptoms.

Oat Oil

Oat oil, similar to other remedies, is a common treatment for skin conditions like eczema because it is soothing and offers barrier repair. The oil is high in ceramides as well, so it is one source to keep in mind.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a common treatment in all acne cases, but can also help clear skin during skin purging. It reduces blackheads and can exfoliate the skin, while also unclogging the pores.

No matter how you decide to treat purging skin, remember not to stop the use of the new product. The products are causing the purging because they are doing their work properly. However, you will want to use gentle cleansers to avoid aggravating the skin further during this time.

Gentle cleaners are best for purges

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Prevent My Skin From Purging?

You shouldn’t attempt to block what is a necessary part of skin adapting and attempting to heal itself. It’s a good process for the skin and is a thorough cleansing that lasts for a few weeks.

However, you can actually induce purging if your skin is due. Vitamin C can induce the purging process because it’s a retinoid. Other retinoids include vitamin A and hydroxy acids.

Patience is your best friend during this process and you should allow the body and skin to do what it does best for themselves. The process should only take one skin cycle to purge all of the dead cells and inflamed skin it needs. Chemical exfoliants should be avoided to prevent creating discomfort and additional problems.

What Should I Do If My Skin Is Purging?

Similar to when you treat skin purging, you want to develop a sensitive skin care regimen. This involves simple, basic cleansers and no harsh ingredients. However, if you are using a retinoid exfoliator or a similar product prescribed by a dermatologist, continue using it.

This may seem counter-productive, but skin purging is occurring because of these products and so it will adjust with use. Think of the skin purge as an “it gets worse before improvement” time.

Some prefer to pop bumps and acne marks as well, in which case you shouldn’t, but you can with purging skin. Since it won’t scar as normal acne would, there is less to worry about, but you should always be careful when doing so. The skin is in a sensitive state and should be cared for properly, so avoid picking too much.

Picking too frequently will only lengthen the process and can create an acne breakout as your fingers will transfer more oils and dirt into the open pores.

When Should I See a Dermatologist for Skin Purging?

If the skin purge lasts longer than it should, then you should schedule an appointment with your dermatologist as soon as possible. If the supposed skin purge is painful, then you should also meet with a dermatologist.

In the meantime, it is recommended to stop using any products on your face until your dermatologist gives the go-ahead. This is to prevent any allergic reaction from worsening.

A dermatologist can give you the best advice for what to do for your skin

Key Takeaways

Skincare can be a tricky process as everyone’s skin is different, so the purging process may not look the same to everyone. The key points in treating purging skin are to be patient, avoid drying products, and protect your skin carefully during the process.

The less additional work your skin has to do, the better, so gently cleanse and moisturize when necessary.

New Articles

How to Get Rid of Freckles?

Freckles are the little brown spots that appear on the skin, typically on the face, shoulders, and arms. Here’s how to get rid of freckles.