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The Spot

Is Your Skin Purging or Just Breaking Out?

By Tyler Guitroz


Consider this scenario: You have an event tomorrow, so you head to your closest, favorite beauty retailer with one mission: Get the best mask to give the perfect skin! Prior to the store visit, you notice that your skin is ehhh… okay. It is a little blotchy, kinda dehydrated, and slightly textured. So, you head to the skincare section and settle upon a “detoxifying” mask that promises spotless skin and optimum hydration. Flash forward to the next morning...after hours of waiting for your perfect regimen of cleanse, exfoliate, mask, hydrate, replenish, the verdict is in! Welcome to your newly-masked skin, featuring red little pimples throughout your t-zone, with a big honker on your chin, and even some peeling?! WHAT. IS. GOING. ON?


Skin Purging! 

Skin purging is the process by which the active ingredients in a skincare product renders and surfaces the dead skin, dirt, bacteria, and oil deep within the pores. This is generally led by—but not exclusively due to!—an increase in cell turnover leading to greater dead skin, which in turn can cause some peeling and/or clogs the pores. 

This process differs from regular breakouts, which are more simply (but equally annoyingly) caused by inflammation as a result of skin clogged things like dead skin, dirt, bacteria and oil. 

Skin purging generally takes the identity of blackheads or small, skin shaded bumps just under the surface, though they can manifest similarly to regular breakouts on occasion. Breakouts consist of blackheads, whiteheads, pre-pimples, pimples, and deeper dermal lumps. 

Generally, you will know if your skin is purging if you recently introduced a new product into your skin care routine, which then causes a mild reaction like the one explained above. This reaction should settle over time, though the time frame is not quite known for skin purging. If this process continues too long or is increasingly irritating/inflaming, then it may just be a reaction to the new product, and use should be discontinued.

This process is natural and even expected given the different functions of certain ingredients, but it’s not always expected and not always welcomed. 

Here’s why you should want a little skin purging in your life:

Retinoids as the active ingredient

Retinoid is the number one ingredient that induces skin cell turnover. Cell turnover is the process by which skin renews itself. The initial use of retinoids can cause some dryness, flaking, redness, sensitivity, irritation, and inflammation. However, think about this: if the purpose of this product is to create renewed skin then your skin has to (1) get rid of old skin (hence the dry, dead, and possibly red skin) (2) make new skin (hence the irritation ) and (3) maintain that new skin (hence the sensitivity). While a seemingly tall task, the result should outweigh the sacrifice. Retinoids have been shown to produce a brighter skin appearance! They are often used for their abilities to minimize fine lines and wrinkles. 

AHAs as the active ingredient

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) are exfoliants and by virtue of this process, induce some cell turnover though not as much as its sister BHA or retinoids. In terms of skin purging, beginning use can produce some peeling as well as some smaller pimpling. The trade off, however, is a reduction in pore size, softening of texture including relieving the skin of dead skin. Dead skin removal and cell turnover can help with decrease in the appearance of hyperpigmentation and possibly some scarring. 

BHAs as the active ingredient

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA) tackle the stuff deep within the pores of the skin. Think dead skin, dirt, oil and bacteria. When BHAs rid of this, it generally by bringing it to the surface! As a result, initial use can create some smaller breakouts where you may witness blackheads, whiteheads, and maybe even some deeper more painful pimples. The skin purging stage is over, however, you look forward to clearer skin and softer skin, possible reductions of pore size, and maybe even fewer breakouts (with continued and regular use). 

Vitamin C as the active ingredient

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant! Even more, it acts as a mild exfoliant and induces cell turnover. As such, initial users can experience some sensitivity as well as some peeling. The upside is that in addition to its added protection against free radical damage, it evens skin tone and promotes collagen production! It also functions to inhibit melanin production, thus assisting with hyperpigmentation. The result? Brighter skin, protected skin, healthier skin, younger appearing skin, and softer skin!

However inconvenient, this process is actually natural - though sped up by the use of products and the wonders of science ;). When you experience skin purging, you should know not to pick at the blemishes that form, as it can create scarring that otherwise would not have occurred. Remember to protect your skin with good hydrators and utilize products like KILLA KIT or GOO GETTER if you have larger concerns. Be sure to regularly treat your skin with hydration, moisture and replenishment as this will only serve to amplify the final result. And in due time, say hello to your beautiful new skin! 

Be patient. Stay the course. You got this!


Thinking about adding retinoids into your routine? You're going to want to read this before you start.