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breaking out vs purging

Is Your Skin Purging or Just Breaking Out?

If you've ever incorporated a new skincare product into your routine, particularly a retinoid or an exfoliant, you may have experienced new breakouts or skin reactions. While initially alarming, this process, known as "purging," can be a sign that your skincare product is effectively working. Dr. Sam Ellis, a board-certified dermatologist, sheds light on this phenomenon.

What is Skin Purging?

The term "purging" is often thrown around on social media and in skin care clinics, creating confusion and concern among skincare users. As Dr. Ellis explains, purging occurs when a new skincare product leads to a temporary increase in breakouts.


However, purging doesn't occur with all skincare products. It's associated with products that speed up cell turnover. When a product like a retinoid or an exfoliant is used, it essentially expedites the process of microscopic acne bumps coming to the skin's surface.


These microscopic acne bumps, or microcomedones, are the unseen beginnings of acne. Over time, these microcomedones expand and become full-blown acne blemishes. Products that increase cell turnover fast-forward this process, causing all the acne bumps that would have emerged over several weeks or months to surface simultaneously, resulting in a purge.

Identifying Skin Purging

Skin purging can manifest as whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, and cysts. However, little red bumps that are itchy, scaly, or sting are usually not a sign of purging; rather, they indicate irritation.


It's important to note that a purge generally lasts about four to six weeks, aligning with the time it takes for the skin to undergo one full cycle and renew itself. During this time, all the microcomedones should surface. Breakouts that last longer than eight weeks are more suggestive of a true breakout and/or sensitivity to the new skincare product. In these cases, removing the product from your skincare regimen should improve the breakouts.

Minimizing Skin Purging

While purging can be frustrating, it's a good sign. It indicates that your skincare products are effectively working on the microcomedones. Over time, these products should decrease the number of microcomedones, leading to fewer breakouts.


Dr. Ellis reassures her patients and followers that most people do not purge. Just because you're using a product that speeds up cell turnover doesn't guarantee a purge. Understanding the process of skin purging is key to navigating changes in your skin when introducing new products. Stay informed, seek professional advice when necessary, and remember that skin health is a journey that takes patience and persistence.





DISCLAIMER: All skin care articles are intended to help educate on specific ingredients and skin care topics. Our articles are written to be informative and informational. Any reference to a specific patient experience is not a medical suggestion for treatment. Please note that any Prequel products with referenced ingredients are formulated for Cosmetic Use Only and NOT intended as replacements for physician advice and/or pharmaceutical product recommendations.

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