When it comes to skin care, expecting immediate results is a disappointment just waiting to happen. You can’t snap your fingers and watch your acne disappear, and you can’t smooth on a new skin care product and see your complexion magically improve. (We wish!) In fact, when you introduce something new to your skin care routine, whether that’s an exciting new serum or an acne 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, what else you need to know about skin purging.
IS SKIN PURGING REAL?
You might be asking, exactly what is skin purging? Purging refers to a temporary acne flare-up that occurs when introducing a new product to your routine or experiencing some other 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 when using acne products, skin may look worse before it gets better. Certain skin care products and ingredients are actually 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 often referred to as whiteheads.
SKIN PURGING VS BREAKOUTS
So, how can you tell what you’re dealing with? Is there a way to know if you’re actually making your acne worse or if your skin is purging? Unfortunately, you likely won’t know immediately if a product simply isn’t working or if your skin is on its way to improvement. It takes time for skin care products and treatments to work, and sometimes you have to wait out that purging phase. 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 like the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Daily Brightening Scrub Cleanser. This pick provides a deep clean and exfoliation yet remains gentle on the skin.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR SKIN IS PURGING
Besides waiting it out or visiting your dermatologist, what can you do when your skin is purging? 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, 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 this pesky flare-up.
Photo Credit: Matthew Kelly, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Creative Producer: Becca Solovay
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