Is Skin Purging A Thing?

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Suffering with pesky breakouts at the moment and can’t put your finger on why? There are a whole host of reasons why your skin could be freaking out… from hormonal and dietary changes, to increased stress levels, the weather and even switching up your routine. Your skin could, in fact, be purging due to a new product you’ve introduced. But wait, what is purging? We asked skincare experts and brand founders Kate Somerville and Paula Begoun of Paula’s Choice to help us understand more about skin purging and the difference between that and breakouts…

What Is Skin Purging?

“Skin purging doesn’t have an agreed-upon definition as such but it’s often used to describe what can happen to some when they use certain skincare products with bio-active ingredients such as leave-on exfoliants (including AHAs like glycolic and BHAS like salicylic acid) and other ingredients such as retinol or benzoyl peroxide,” explains Paula. Kate goes on to explain that these ingredients can often cause cells to turn over at a faster rate, which means that sometimes your skin can get worse before it gets better.

That’s not to say you should avoid using them altogether. “While these potent ingredients have many amazing benefits, they can also cause reactions which can lead to a temporary increase of clogged pores or breakouts,” adds Paula. For example, if you’ve never used a retinol based product before and use it every other night for a week your skin could purge because your cell turnover has been turbocharged. Instead, use the formula once a week and allow your skin to settle into it.

What’s The Difference Between Purging And Breakouts?

“Purging is often used to describe clogged pores or breakouts from using a new product,” says Paula. While it is possible for clusters of whiteheads to develop, the majority of people see an increase in blackheads or tiny bumps under the skin during a purge. “Breakouts, on the other hand, occur when there is an excess of oil build up, bacteria and dead skin cells trapped in the pores and typically occur in areas you’d normally breakout,” adds Kate. If you’re not using anything new or something with an active ingredient, it’s less likely to be purging.

How Long Will A Skin Purge Last?

Unfortunately neither a breakout or a purge is going to disappear overnight. “Your skin cycle lasts for around 28 days and a typical skin purge can last anywhere between four and six weeks,” says Kate. “If the problem lasts longer than six weeks you may want to tweak your skincare routine as this is likely to indicate an irritation than hasn’t settled down throughout a skin cycle.

How Can You Tackle Skin Purging?

“When your skin is purging, it’s best to use gentle skincare products that won’t dry out your skin and instead look for those which will help to nourish and soothe your skin,” advises Kate. “Using sunscreen and limiting sun exposure is also important during this time.” Kate also recommends laying off exfoliators and keeping your skin clean and bacteria-free.

Instead of ditching the product that has made your skin purge, Paula suggests experimenting with how often you use it, and active ingredients in general. “Try using them less frequently and see how your skin does,” says Paula. “You should also look at what else you are doing in your routine. In many instances, one product alone isn’t causing the problem, it’s the combination of bio-active products that are responsible,” she says. Many ingredients such as retinol require you to build up a tolerance. Start with low doses and use twice a week before gradually increasing. This will mean you’re less likely to experience purging.

Can Certain Ingredients Help?

If you’ve overdone it with harsh or advanced ingredients, there are several products which can really help. Kate suggests looking for products with soothing peptides and calming ceramides to help repair the skin’s barrier. Hyaluronic acid is also a good ingredient to introduce as it helps to restore moisture. “It’s also important to stay away from or limit the use of physical exfoliants during a purge to help prevent the skin from getting over-sensitised,” she adds. “Avoid harsh scrubs and acids until your skin is fully restored.”

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