How to Tell If Your Skin is Purging or Breaking Out | Advice from the Derm

July 15, 2021
How to Tell If Your Skin is Purging or Breaking Out | Advice from the Derm

Skin purging refers to the natural reaction some skin may experiencusing certain chemical exfoliants such as retinol or glycolic acid. By sloughing off the top layer of dead skin cells and regenerating new cells sooner than they would naturally, chemical exfoliants can bring blockages to the surface in the form of breakouts. Purging however is temporary, shorter than a standard breakout, and a sign that your products are working! Below, Dr. Zenovia dives into how to identify a skin purge from a breakout and how to treat it.  

Causes of a Skin Purge  

The skin naturally renews itself every 28 days, but by using chemical exfoliants, that process is sped up which can bring congestion to the surface and result in breakouts. While it's impossible to completely avoid a skin purge when using acids and retinols, slowly incorporating new products into your routine and giving the skin time to adjust can help.  

Your skincare products are not “making” your skin breakout. Rather, the exfoliating ingredients are leading to the production of new cells, and pimples that were already forming under the skin’s surface are popping up sooner than they would have on their own. A skin purge, therefore, speeds up the skin’s natural process which may result in inflammatory acne including cysts, blackheads, whiteheads, and pustules.  

When the skin purges, bacteria aren’t simply being pushed out of the pores, but the skin cells are being turned over which can irritate skin that is already inflamed.  

Skin Purge vs. Acne Breakouts  

If you recently incorporated new products into your skincare routine and are experiencing breakouts, it's important to note that not all skin reactions are a purge. The products you are using may be triggering an allergic reaction which is causing irritation. To differentiate between a purge and an acne breakout lookout for the active ingredients you are applying. Purges are the result of chemicals exfoliating your skin including retinols, acids, and benzoyl peroxide. If you experience acne breakouts from using sunscreen or comedogenic makeup, you are experiencing an acne breakout and not a skin purge.  

How to Treat a Skin Purge  

Although unsatisfying to hear, the best way to treat a skin purge is to wait it out. However, in the meantime, it's important to resist the urge to pick any pimples which can worsen inflammation! Instead, apply Dr. Zenovia’s 5% Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Spot Treatment, a clinical-grade hormonal acne solution that effectively targets flare-ups. The aloe vera and bakuchiol help soothe the skin while our proprietary REG-ulate360 Complex™ provides the skin with hormonal support.  


Shop Dr. Zenovia Skincare at Sephora