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Skincare Ingredients That Can Cause Purging

What is skin purging? Is it good or bad for your skin? Which skincare ingredients can cause it? So many questions! Read on for answers.
Updated: November 9, 2022
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Picture this, you’ve just bought a brand new skincare product, maybe it has cost you a pretty penny but you’ve been told it’s worth it, but when you tried it you had a negative reaction. Bummer, right? We’ve all been there.

However, in this scenario, we need to figure out whether your skin is not suited to the product at all, or if it’s just purging. Figuring this out can put you in a better position going forward.

Everything you need to know about purging

Purging is when your skin suffers a massive reaction to an active ingredient inside a product. It may sound scary, but it’s actually a really good thing. Essentially, your skin begins the process of removing dead skin cells so new cells can grow. Your pores become unclogged and push out the gunk. The pimples you were growing all flare up at once, which isn’t a pleasant sight or feeling, let’s be honest, but will help you in the long run.

In other words, a purge allows your face to push out and release all the nasty stuff and leaves only fresh and youthful skin behind. The whole purging process can take up to 4-6 weeks, but once you survive it your skin will look as good as new.

Here’s what purging looks like

Want to know whether your skin is purging or just experiencing breakouts? It’s easy to differentiate the two different states. When your skin goes through purging, you will see tiny red bumps forming on the surface, followed by the emergence of blackheads and whiteheads. These bumps can be sensitive or even painful to touch and could also cause flaking. Thankfully the healing process is pretty quick and you shouldn’t have to deal with them for too long.

Which ingredients can cause skin purging?

There’s no real way of predicting how your skin will react to certain ingredients. Everyone is different and our skin acts in its own unique way. However, as a general rule, there are a few ingredients that are more likely to cause your skin to begin purging.

The most common ingredients that can induce purging are highly acidic. Vitamin C, which is an amazing ingredient that can restore health and balance to many areas of your skin, is one of the culprits. Similarly, salicylic acid, which is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) used to treat symptoms of acne, can also create conditions for your skin to purge. Finally, one of the most popular skincare ingredients, retinol, has been reported as being a frequent instigator of purging. All of these are common ingredients that can be found in a huge range of products, so be aware of the potential effects before you buy and use them.

It gets worse before it gets better

Purging is hardly a pleasant experience to go through, but like how the darkness comes before the dawn, the worst comes before it gets better. All you have to do is persevere and mentally tell yourself your skin will be much improved afterward.

Purging is natural, and can totally renew your skin to reveal a shinier, glowing, youthful look. Don’t be scared of the process, but always be aware that purging can happen as a result of your skin reacting to common ingredients.

Stay calm and focused, and your skin will thank you for it.

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This article has been reviewed by the in-field experts on our Medical Content Advisory Board to ensure everything is up-to-date and accurate.