What is skin purging?

What is skin purging?

Nothing sends a chill down your spine like the word ‘purging’ does, especially if you’ve battled with acne for a considerable part of your teenage years. During a purge, your skin is graced with all sorts of ugly, and scary looking pimples, papules, cysts and pustules. Throw in dry and peeling skin, and it’s nothing short of a nightmare.

However, the end of skin purging is clearer and youthful skin. Confused? Let us explain.

According to board certified dermatologist, Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, ‘skin purging’ refers to a reaction to an active ingredient that is increasing skin cell turnover rate. 

The dead skin cells are shed faster than normal in order to give clearer-looking skin. However, before that happens, the skin undergoes a process much similar to detoxification, causing the excess sebum buildup, trapped dirt and bacteria to rise to the surface. Once that clears up, your skin’s condition improves significantly, resulting in a clearer and smoother appearance. 

What causes purging?

Before we get into the details of what brings about a purge, we need to understand how a pimple is formed. When small openings in the skin, normally known as pores, get clogged by dead skin cells, sebum, dirt and oil, they form what are called micorcomedones.

They are not visible on the surface of the skin, as they lie underneath it. They sometimes develop into whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, cysts, and sometimes go away on their own. It takes up to eight weeks for a micorcomedone to come up to the surface of the skin.

When a product, usually containing active ingredients ( ore on that later) , increases the cell turnover, this process is expedited. What this means is that while it takes up to eight weeks for a microcomedone to surface, the product will speed up the cycle, causing you to see a bout of pimples forming and go away quickly. This also means that lesser micorcomedones will form as a result of the product doing its job, and hence, your skin will become clearer with continued use. 

Purging usually happens when one uses products containing active ingredients that increase the cell turnover. These include hydroxy acids such as lactic acid and salicylic acid, retenoids, benzoyl peroxide and others.

Is a breakout the same thing as a purge?

It’s very easy to confuse a purge with a breakout, hence a distinction needs to be made to determine the best course of action going forward. 

Purging takes place when your skin is still adjusting to a new product, mostly prescribed for the treatment of acne itself, and is a sign that the product is working. This means that you should continue using the product. 

Breakout on the other hand takes place when your skin is reacting and flare up due to its sensitivity to an ingredient or two in the product. It could cause the pores to get clogged, resulting in pimples. Continuing the use of the product would mean that the skin’s condition will only worsen. 

How to tell the difference?

A key way to determine whether your skin is undergoing a purge or is breaking out is to make note of where the skin is acting up. 

If it’s mostly in the area where you usually already have flare ups and breakouts, then it’s most likely a purge. If  you’re getting breakouts in newer places that are usually clear, it’s most likely due to a sensitive reaction and hence a breakout. A purge usually clears up much faster, usually before a month ends, while a reaction based breakout can last from up to six weeks to eight weeks. 

What to do when the skin is purging?

Now that you know the difference between breakouts and purging and can confidently distinguish between the two, your mind will be at more ease. 

In case your skin is actually purging, it’s important to stay optimistic and positive that the end result will be better skin. It’s easy to feel depressed, but stay put. This too shall pass. 

In the meanwhile, try to ensure that your skin does not get aggravated too much. Use a clean cleanser, like the Leovard Multicleanser and keep it moisturized using a nourishing and hydrating moisturizer, like the Leovard Multicream. It’s also important to soothe any excessive inflammation and redness, for which the Leovard Tonic and Elixir work wonderfully. 


The quest for flawless, clear and radiant skin is a long one. There are many bumps along the way and one may have to experience several setbacks. However, a properly formulated skin care routine, using natural and organic skin care products will help you in the long run, allowing you to feel beautiful and confident in your skin.

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