Is your new skincare product causing acne breakouts? Your skin may simply be detoxifying through a process called skin purging.
Purges benefit your skin by improving its condition and clearing it of deep embedded impurities. However, skin purging can be a lengthy process marked by constant acne lesions, which is why Ayurveda recommends the use of skin benefitting herbs during this period. These herbs calm your skin, improve its overall condition and help speed up the purging process.
Read on to know what ingredients cause your skin to purge, what to do about it and how to differentiate between a breakout and skin purging.
- What Is Skin Purging?
- What Causes Skin Purging?
- What Ingredients Cause Skin Purging?
- What Does Skin Purging Look Like?
- How Do You Treat Skin Purging?
- How Does Your Skin Look Before And After Skin Purging?
- How Long Does Skin Purging Last?
- What Is The Difference Between Skin Purging And Breaking Out?
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Is Skin Purging?
To purge means to purify or cleanse. Similarly, skin purging refers to your skin's reaction to certain active agents (retinoids/Vitamin C/ AHAs) which accelerate cell turnover rate in order to remove deep- set impurities from within your skin. As a result you may experience a sudden breakout of acne lesions - comedones, papules, pustules and cysts. These breakouts usually heal as the process of skin purging subsides.
Is Skin Purging Good?
The silver lining is that at the end of skin purging you get beautiful, healthy, young looking skin. So skin purging is a good thing according to many skin specialists.
Exfoliating creams and other skin products that trigger skin purging help your skin to clean itself of dead cells, excess sebum and trapped in product residues.Though it may cause an acne breakout, it is simply a passing phase. After the skin purging process is over you are left with a far healthier version of your skin.
Unlike popular belief, active agents don’t cause pimples. They keep exfoliating the upper layer of your skin allowing these blocked pores to surface more quickly than they would have during the normal cell turnover rate.
What Causes Skin Purging?
One of the basic mechanisms of your skin is renewal  of the uppermost layer by the process of epidermal homeostasis. Stem cells that lie in the basal layer constantly proliferate to replace the old keratinocytes which are then naturally shed off.
When exfoliating agents such as face acids, retinoid creams, vitamin c and peeling procedures exfoliate the upper layers of your skin, it automatically speeds up your cell turnover rate where healthy new cells are sent up to replace the old ones. However, in the process of replacing old cells with new ones, your skin begins to bring to surface all kinds of impurities such as excess dead cells, sebum, bacteria and product residues trapped inside the skin. These may end up clogging your pores causing an acne-like reaction known as skin purging.
According to the principles of Ayurveda, a Vata- Pitta Dosha aggravation along with the vitiation of the Rakta Dhatu (blood tissue) can lead to the excessive production of dead skin cells eventually triggering the formation of 'Yuvana Pidakas' or acne. An aggravation caused by external factors, exfoliating agents in this case, can affect the body’s equilibrium, thus putting it in a state of disease.
What Ingredients Cause Skin Purging?
Skin purging is usually triggered by active ingredients that are used to exfoliate your skin. The effect may last for a couple of weeks, the usual time taken by skin to execute a complete cell turnover.
Retinoids  are a type of Vitamin A that helps reduce fine lines, wrinkles, dead skin cells and acne. Due to their molecular structure, retinoids can easily penetrate the epidermis and reach deep within your skin. Here they help boost collagen and improve blood supply to your skin. As per research skin purging caused by retinoic acid usually lasts 3 to 4 weeks after which the skin is able to adjust to the product.
2. Alpha Hydroxy Acids
Alpha Hydroxy Acids  (AHAs) are derived from plants and animals and form an important ingredient in many skincare products for their skin rejuvenating properties. These include glycolic acid, citric acid, lactic acid and others. These are excellent exfoliating agents that are used to treat scars, spots, acne, and wrinkles. They can also promote the production of collagen making your skin look young. Though AHAs are usually mild, they may lead to skin purging. The purge effect may last around 4 to 6 months.
3. Beta Hydroxy Acids
Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) have a greater penetration capacity when compared to AHAs. Which is why they are considered more effective in exfoliation treatments. BHAs have a number of skin benefits. They can reduce scars, uneven skin tones, comedones and inflammation. However, first time users of BHA may find their skin purging after initial application. This can last a month till your skin adapts to the product.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C in the form of serums are amazing antioxidants that can reduce free radical cell damage. Its anti-inflammatory properties can reduce acne aid in wound healing. However, Vitamin C products and treatments may be slightly harsh for sensitive skin causing it to purge. Skin purging after a Vitamin C facial is a commonly observed side effect. The process usually does not last more than 4 to 6 weeks.
5. Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl Peroxide is an exfoliating agent that deep cleans your skin by peeling away the upper damaged layer of cells. Your skin may take an adjustment period to get used to benzoyl peroxide. This can be marked by the appearance of acne-like lesions on your skin known as the benzoyl peroxide purge.
Apart from the ingredients mentioned above, cosmetic procedures such as chemical peeling, dermabrasion, laser treatments can also stimulate skin purging.
What Does Skin Purging Look Like?
It is normal for different kinds of pimples to appear on your skin when your skin is purging. The usual symptoms of skin purging may include:
- A cluster of microcomedones or comedonal acne in areas of your skin where the product has been applied. Blackheads and whiteheads are common symptoms of skin purging
- Dry flaky skin
- Mild skin sensitivity
- Inflammatory acne such as pustules, papules and cysts may appear
- Tiny red bumps that may be painful to touch
- Blind pimples that lie under the skin
Vedix Tip: Facial steam is a great way to loosen trapped dirt and dead cells in your pores. The warmth of the steam also improves subcutaneous blood flow which speeds up the purging process. Put some green tea, neem and tulsi leaves in boiling hot water and let your skin soak up the goodness.
How Do You Treat Skin Purging?
When your skin is going through the purge, allowing it to do so is often the best treatment. However, you can speed up skin purging by following the below mentioned skincare tips.
1. Use gentle cleansing products that aid the removal of dead skin cells. Herbal face washes are a good option.
2. The active ingredients that cause skin purging often increase skin sensitivity. Hence, protect your skin from sun damage. Use a light non-comedogenic sunscreen and wear protective clothing.
3. Certain fabrics may irritate your skin during the purge. Wear soft fabrics like cotton, bamboo and silk that cause less friction.
4. Skin purging often leads to acne. Don’t try to touch or pop your pimples to reduce chances of scarring.
5. Your skin is usually vulnerable during the purging process. Keep your pillow covers, face towels and mobile phone screens clean to reduce chances of infection.
6. Keep yourself hydrated and consume a wholesome meal that includes lots of vitamins and minerals like magnesium and zinc. This can help your skin heal faster and speed up the purging process.
7. If your skin keeps purging, reduce the frequency of application or lower the concentration of the product that is causing it to purge.
A. Ayurvedic Remedies To Treat Skin Purging
The ancient texts of Ayurveda recommend a list of powerful herbs that can soothe your skin and help it to quickly restore its balance.
Aloe Vera  or Kumari is one of the best skin soothing herbs used extensively in Ayurvedic skin treatments. Kumari also has amazing anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent inflammations and reduce acne caused by skin purging. You can apply aloe vera gel that is directly extracted from the plant onto your skin. Aloe vera is safe to be used as an overnight skin calming treatment and can also act as a mild sunscreen for irritated skin.
Chandanam or sandalwood is an excellent Pitta pacifying herb. Chandanam has a cooling effect on your skin and can effectively reduce inflammation and skin irritations. Application of sandalwood paste has also shown a reduction in the formation of comedones.
Antiseptic, antibacterial neem helps to keep your skin free from infections. Washing your face regularly with neem water prevents bacterial infestations in your pores during the skin purging process. You can also apply neem leaf paste on your pimples to accelerate skin healing.
Tulsi being anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory in nature can keep pimples at bay during the skin purging process. It can be used in combination with neem to further enhance its effects in keeping your skin clean and healthy.
An exceptional blood purifier, Manjistha, can pacify the vitiated Pitta Dosha. Manjistha helps remove harmful Ama toxins from your body that cause acne. Packed with antioxidants, manjistha is also a well known cure for acne conditions.
How Does Your Skin Look Before And After Skin Purging?
The purging period can seem like a lengthy, troublesome one. It is usually marked by clusters of comedonal and inflammatory acne arising out of blocked pores.The more congested your skin is with dead cells, sebum, chemicals and product residues, the longer the reaction is likely to last. However, after skin purging your skin has a more healthy, clear, even- toned appearance.
How Long Does Skin Purging Last?
There is a fine balance between skin cell renewal and the shedding of dead skin cells (apoptosis). This balance of your skin is thrown off during the process of skin purging. Once your skin adapts to the new product the balance is restored and purging dies down. Though there is no fixed time period, skin purging may last anywhere between 2 to 6 weeks. However, this may vary from person to person and according to the severity of the reaction and the product used.
It is advisable to consult a dermatologist in case the purging effect worsens or lasts longer than a few weeks.
What Is The Difference Between Skin Purging And Breaking Out?
Localised acne-like lesions at the site of product application.
May appear anywhere in the body.
Caused by a reaction to exfoliating products like retinoids, vitamin C, face acids or cosmetic treatments that increase cell turnover rate.
Breakouts can be caused by a number of external factors and underlying skin and medical conditions such as hormonal imbalances, contact dermatitis, folliculitis, eczema etc.
Skin purging looks like mild skin sensitivity, acne, skin flaking and peeling.
Severe itchy rash, acne lesions, inflammation and infection.
Skin purging lasts for 2 to 6 weeks till the turnover is completed.
May keep recurring till the underlying cause is treated.
After skin purging a clear, healthy skin is revealed.
As there is no cleansing process involved, breakouts need to be treated. If proper precautions are not taken the skin condition is likely to deteriorate further leaving behind scars and blemishes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Is Skin Purging A Myth?
Though skin purging is not clinically recognised it is a dermatological reality. With an increase in cell turnover rate caused by active ingredients, your skin quickens its recovery rate, in the process pushing up embedded impurities. This leads to the initial clogging of your pores and the formation of acne lesions known as skin purging. Purging naturally stops once your skin adjusts to the product and cell renewal is completed.
2. How To Tell If It Is Purging Or Breaking Out?
Skin purging is a limited time reaction your skin has to an active ingredient. Once the purging is over, healthy skin cells come to the surface making your skin look younger. As for a skin suffering from a breakout, the condition is most likely to worsen (infection, scarring) without treatment. There are no fixed time periods for a breakout to heal and it may keep coming back unless the cause is diagnosed. The easiest way to differentiate is by checking the severity of the reaction. Breakouts are often more severe compared to purging and are not due to the application of an active ingredient.
3. Can Purging Cause Cystic Acne?
There are no clinical records regarding the symptoms of skin purging. According to skin specialists, you may experience different types of acne during the purging including cystic acne. However, if you experience severe cystic acne without the use of a product that contains an active ingredient, you may be facing a different skin condition. Consult your doctor immediately if such a case arises.
The Last Word
Skin purging is a natural reaction of your skin to certain active exfoliating agents and not a cause for worry. Moreover, purging is considered to be beneficial for your skin as it purifies it of all impurities. So allow your skin time to purge itself and regain its balance. In the meantime follow a mild herbal skincare and recommended Ayurvedic remedies to help your skin easily overcome the purging process.
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