Purging skin refers to a flare-up or breakout that happens when you apply a new product to your skin, especially if it contains lots of active ingredients. The reason why these ingredients trigger an initial breakout or ‘purge’ is that they usually increase cell turnover, meaning the ingredients are working with your skin to nourish, renew and repair it. In the process, toxins and impurities are pushed to the surfce of the skin, triggering it to react and breakout.
The good news is, a purge is much more short-lived than a regular breakout lasting around 2-3 weeks. How can you tell if your skin is purging? With a purge, you’ll notice acne appearing in places they typically already do; if it’s a breakout, you’ll notice acne appearing in places they don’t normally appear; if its a bad reaction, you’ll notice redness, rashes or inflammation.
So long story short – purging skin is a good thing and it just means the ingredients are working! Once your skin gets used to the new ingredients, your flare-ups will diminish and your skin WILL start to clear up. During this process, be patient and gentle with your skin as it will be very vulnerable and sensitive. Here are 6 easy tips to get you through and minimise the intensity of the purge:
1. Avoid Popping Your Acne or Excessively Touching Your Face
It’s important to be mindful about minimising contact with your face! Your skin needs time to heal and ride out the purging process; touching your face increases your chances of breeding bacteria, and interfering with the purging process can worsen or prolong the flare-up.
2. Go Minimal With Your Routine
Less is definitely more during a skin purge, so it’s best to keep your skincare routine minimal. Apart from the new product you’re trying out, stick to products that you’ve used before and you’re sure won’t irritate your skin. Focus on your essentials like cleanser, toner, moisturiser and SPF – you’ll want to give your skin time to adapt to this new product and adding any other new products or ingredients could irritate your skin.
3. Cleanse Right
It’s important to cleanse morning and night to eliminate any dirt, impurities and leftover makeup and skincare residue from your skin that can clog your pores (you’ll want to minimise anything that can lead to more acne!). Opt for a gentle, hydrating cleanser and be consistent with it. Additionally, only use lukewarm water to cleanse – hot water will strip your skin of moisture and dry it out (not ideal for purging skin).
4. Avoid Harsh Exfoliants
Avoid harsh physical exfoliation; especially those with natural granules like nutshells and fruit pits, as they tend to cause harmful micro-tears on the surface of the skin and can irritate your acne. However, you shouldn’t avoid exfoliation all together – it’s best to exfoliate at least once or twice a week with a gentle chemical exfoliant. This will help to deeply cleanse and unclog your pores and buff away dead skin cells, keeping acne and blackheads at bay.
5. Don’t Skip Toner
Your skin’s natural pH level ranges from 4.5 to 5.5 and, ideally, it should stay this way. When you cleanse or when you apply new products, this can offset the balance of your natural pH levels. This means the health of your skin becomes compromised and lurking bacteria can turn into infections.
Using a toner before applying other skincare will rebalance your skin’s pH levels and ensure your skin barrier stays strong and healthy to fight off bacteria. This will also help prime your skin so the ingredients from the rest of your routine can absorb better.
6. SPF Up
Avoid extended sun exposure as this can exacerbate a purge. That said, SPF is always important, and even more so when your skin is purging! Opt for a lightweight sunscreen with at least SPF30 – apply it daily and reapply every two hours. This will help protect your natural skin barrier against free radicals and UV damage. Additionally, it will offer protection from environmental stressors that might aggravate your purging skin.
Above All Else: Monitor Your Skin Closely
As mentioned before, a skin purge is a good sign, so be patient with it and it should clear up within 2-3 weeks. However, during this period you should watch your skin closely and if the breakouts persist, become painful, or worsen progressively, it’s best to stop using the new products and seek advice from a dermatologist.