Skin Purging: How to Identify & Treat Skin Purging

If you start to notice a ton of pimples, zits, breakouts, or flakiness on your skin, it’s normal to think it’s a sign that your skincare routine isn’t working the way it should. After all, pimples are a sign that your skin isn’t doing what it’s supposed to. 


Believe it or not, these unsightly blemishes may be the result of a normal and important, natural process on your skin known as skin purging. And while it definitely doesn’t look, or sound, very attractive, you’ll be thankful for this process once it’s all over.

Let’s dive in and talk about everything you need to know about this phenomenon, including ways to prevent its effects from taking their toll on your face.

What Is Skin Purging?

Your skin cells are constantly shedding, allowing them to make room for healthy cells to come to the surface. This is almost exactly what’s happening during skin purging. It’s the process of shedding dead cells, oils, and bacteria that are underneath the surface.

Popping a pimple isn’t skin purging (and it’s not something you should ever do). Instead, it occurs when you start using a new facial product that contains certain chemical exfoliants, such as retinoids or alpha-hydroxy acids. 

These speed up your skin cell turnover rate, essentially speeding up the rate at which you shed skin cells. Skin purging is critical, as it brings all of the gunk and dirt to the surface to be expelled naturally.

This leaves for a more healthy, youthful, and blemish-free complexion underneath once the process is complete. But until then, the resulting pimples, blackheads, acne breakouts, and flaky skin can be super frustrating.

Skin Purging vs. Breaking Out

The signs of skin purging and just having a typical breakout are very similar. Bumps and lumps on the skin, zits, or rashes are all symptoms of both. However, skin purging responds to a new topical product, whereas breakouts are often the result of a lack of skincare routine.

Purging from a product usually happens where you frequently breakout, and it disappears faster than a standard pimple. A breakout happens in a new area and typically takes over a week to mature or shrink.

For example, if you’re prone to pimples on your forehead and your new skincare product makes a whole bunch appear in that area, it’s likely that your skin is just purging the bad stuff as a result. However, if you start to breakout on your nose, chin, or cheeks when you normally don’t, it might be an adverse reaction to the product. In that case, you’ll want to discontinue it.

How to Manage Skin Purging

You can think of skin purging as a necessary evil. While it will be frustrating for quite some time, the smooth and silky skin afterward will be worth the temporary inconvenience.

While you can’t necessarily prevent skin purging from taking place, there are some things you can do to make it more tolerable.

Patience Is Key

The main thing to remember is that skin purging is normal and part of the process of trying out a new product. The key is to remember that it is only a temporary phase.

It happens when an ingredient is trying to speed up the skin’s natural pace of shedding and renewal. So, it should only take about one complete skin cycle until you notice the effects subside. Everyone’s skin is different, but an average skin cycle is around five to six weeks.

And while it might be tempting to stop using your product during this period, push through. You need to give your skin the time it needs to become adjusted to the product so that you can continue using it after it’s all said and done.

If your purge lasts longer than this time period, you’ll want to consult with a dermatologist. It might be that your skin is just accepting the new product, so your dermatologist can help steer you in the right direction.

Don’t Pick and Prod

Many people love the satisfaction of squeezing a pimple or using a facial peel to lift out all of that nasty dirt. The thing is, these abrasive methods can do more harm than good.

Picking acne can not only lead to permanent scarring, but it can extend the purge period. This is because the dirt and oils on your fingers can absorb into your pores and cause actual breakouts in addition to your purge.

Avoid Drying Products

Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are two common ingredients in facial cleansers because they can help unplug clogged pores and shrink the size of blemishes. However, it accomplishes this by removing moisture from the top layer of the skin.

During a skin purge, your skin is already in the middle of a cell turnover. When you apply dry products, it increases the speed even more. This will only result in even more pimples and flakiness than before.

In fact, you’ll want to keep your skin hydrated during a purge so you can prevent excessive dryness from damaging your skin throughout the process. This Replenishing Deep Sea Moisturizer is a great tool, as the marine active Wakame extract can soothe irritation and reduce inflammation. This may help to minimize the breakouts you see on your skin.

Protect Your Pimples

During a skin purge, your skin is super vulnerable to the outside environment. Exposure to the sun or damage from blue light can lengthen the amount of time it takes for your symptoms to subside.

You’ll want to make sure that you’re using a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen to ensure that you don’t damage the cells throughout the process. 

Ocean peptides and marine actives are great ingredients to protect your natural skin biome from the sun and other urban pollutants.

How to Avoid Skin Purging

If you’re using certain skincare products, it might be impossible to prevent skin purging from occurring. However, there are some things you can try that might reduce its effects.

Ease In

Exposing your face to a brand new set of chemicals every single day can naturally become abrasive. For that reason, you can try the “ease in” method, in which you start off slow and work your way up to daily use.

For instance, the first week of using your new topical, maybe only use it twice. This will let your skin gradually adjust to the ingredients and might minimize the appearance of a skin purge.

Choose Natural Products

Skin purges because it starts to have a reaction to some of the chemicals within the product itself. You might be able to reduce the risk of skin purging if you go with something more natural.

There are many ingredients in cosmetic and beauty products that can be toxic and have a negative impact on your overall health. Some even contain nanoparticles that can cause irreversible damage to your cellular structure.

Clean beauty” products avoid these types of toxic ingredients, opting for largely plant-based alternatives. This makes them healthier and safer for you to use, and they may be less irritating to your skin than chemical-based brands.

Even if a clean beauty product causes skin purging, you can be confident that the overall benefits and effects will be much more noticeable than harsh chemical compounds.

In Conclusion

Skin purging occurs when you use a new skincare product that contains chemical exfoliants. While it causes breakouts and pimples, it’s proof that your face is bringing all of the bad stuff to the surface. It’s frustrating for a few weeks, but it will look better than ever once your skin has adjusted.

If your skin begins to purge, there are some things you can do to manage it. For one, stay patient and don’t stop using the product. Additionally, avoid drying products and make sure you’re keeping your skin protected from pollutants. Also, as tempting as it might be, don’t pick at your zits or pimples.

You can also try to prevent purging by easing into your new product or by choosing a natural alternative that doesn’t contain abrasive chemicals in the first place. 

At One Ocean Beauty, you’ll be able to find tons of skincare products that harness the natural powers of marine microorganisms to restore your complexion without intense skin purges.



Media What the Heck Is Skin Purging, Exactly? | Riverchase Dermatology

What is a Skin Cycle? | Medifine Skin Clinic.

Salicylic Acid Topical | Medline Plus