When it comes to trying a new skin care product, we all want to see immediate results. But you can’t snap your fingers and watch your blemishes disappear, and it’s impossible to smooth on a new moisturizer and see your complexion magically improve. In fact, when you introduce something new to your skin care routine, whether that’s a face serum or a pimple spot treatment, your skin may look worse before it gets better.
This unfortunate truth is referred to as skin purging, a topic we’re digging into below. Keep reading to find out what skin purging looks like, how it differs from your standard breakout and what else you need to know about skin purging.
What Is Skin Purging?
Even if you have experienced purging, you might not know exactly what it is. Purging refers to a temporary acne flare-up that occurs when introducing a new product to your routine or after experiencing some other skin change — like getting a facial.
Many have questioned whether skin purging is real. It may seem contradictory that continuing to use a product through breakouts and holding on through some serious bad skin days can result in your complexion eventually clearing. But purging is absolutely real — especially if you have acne-prone skin to begin with.
Per the Mayo Clinic, treating acne takes time and your skin may look worse before it gets better when using new acne products. Certain skin care products and ingredients are actually well-known for causing these acne flare-ups. According to The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, when some patients add tretinoin — a prescribed topical retinoid— to their routine, it causes new acne breakouts during the first few weeks of use.
What Does Skin Purging Look Like?
You may not immediately recognize when your skin is purging, as it’s likely to look just like breakouts you’ve experienced before. Acne flare-ups can consist of both papules and pustules — two common types of acne. Papules are small, red bumps that feel hard, and are also known as early pimples.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), when you have a lot of papules, your skin can feel like sandpaper. Pustules, which are pus-filled pimples, are similar to papules, but the AAD notes that they contain a yellowish fluid and typically have a yellow or white center — they’re more commonly known as whiteheads.
Skin Purging Vs. Breakouts
Because of the similarities between purging and a regular breakout, it can be tricky to determine if a new product is making your acne worse or if your skin is just going through a purging phase. Unfortunately, you likely won’t know immediately if a product simply isn’t working or if you’re on the way to improvement. It takes time for skin care products and treatments to work, and sometimes you have to wait out the purging stage. As the AAD states, at-home treatment requires four to six weeks to see improvement.
If you aren’t convinced you’re dealing with skin purging and think you may be having a negative reaction to a new product or treatment, you may want to visit your dermatologist. While it’s possible they’ll advise you to continue treatment for a full four to eight weeks, they’ll also be able to suggest alternatives if your new regimen really doesn’t cut it.
If you’re simply experiencing a breakout, it’s important to cleanse your skin twice daily with a gentle cleanser. We love the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Radiant Smoothing Cream Cleanser. This pick provides a deep clean and exfoliation while remaining gentle on the skin.
How Do You Treat Skin Purging
Besides waiting it out or visiting your dermatologist, there are many things you can do in the meantime to help heal the purge. You can heed the same advice you would for any other type of breakout. This includes (per the AAD) being gentle with your complexion, washing your face twice a day, not scrubbing your skin, and keeping your hands off your face.
As for makeup, if you want to conceal the fact that your skin is purging, a color corrector is a good bet. Reach for a green color-correcting concealer, like the L’Oréal Paris True Match Color Correcting Crayon in Green, to hide any blemishes. You can also follow up with a full-coverage concealer — we love the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Full Wear Concealer Waterproof — to completely cover the pesky flare-up.
Edited by: Shannon Stubbs, Photo Credit: Matthew Kelly, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Creative Producer: Becca Solovay
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