Skin purging: cleansing away the bad and bringing in the good

Plant Mother Editorial Team

Everything You Need To Know About SKIN PURGING

In this article about skin purging, we’ll cover the following topics:

  • What is Skin Purging?
  • What Does Skin Purge Look Like?
  • Purging vs Breakout
  • What Ingredients Can Cause Skin Purging?
  • Which Products Can Cause Skin Purging?
  • Purging vs Allergic Reaction
  • How Long Does It Last?
  • How Do We Prevent Skin Purge?
  • Ways To Recuperate From It
  • What To Expect After A Skin Purge?

What is skin purging?

Skin purging is the process the skin takes to clean itself out. In other words, shedding dead skin cells, sebum, bacteria and debris that is underneath the skin surface due to a reaction it may have towards certain products. Believe it or not, all the bad and ugly needs to leave the skin in order to expose the fresh new skin. Skin purging can occur through using new products on the skin or simply by using harsh products full of chemicals.

Skin purging is real and is even more important for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin. There are a few products that when introduced to the skin, can cause flareups and acne to pop out. When you introduce a new product into your skincare routine, you can experience some reactions like breakouts, dryness, or flaky skin. This seems like a sign to stop. However, it could be a sign that the product is actually working. This process is known as skin purging.

What does skin purge look like?

Skin purging may look like a regular breakout. However, it is far from just a breakout. The new ingredients being introduced to your skin move deep within the pores. This results in pushing the dirt out before the production of new cells beneath. A purge, therefore, speeds up that process and could result in inflammatory acne including whiteheads, blackheads, and cysts.

 This type of acne is created from excess sebum, debris, and bacteria inside a pore. Pimples basically work like a cut on your skin. Your body detects some sort of bacteria. Thus sending white blood cells into the area to attack, which causes inflammation, or the red swollen bump on your skin.


Skin purging vs breakout

How can you differentiate the two? In the beginning of the purge, it is nearly impossible to tell whether the product is doing its job or if it’s not. A purging phase can last for up to a few weeks. However, this is the time it takes before the skin can really start looking and feeling better. Visiting a dermatologist is also a great idea if you are unsure whether or not your products are bettering or worsening the skin. Remember, your skin should never be exposed to harsh or unhealthy ingredients that can damage your complexion in the long run.

 Even though a skin purge can seem very similar to a breakout, there are 4 things to look out for to differentiate the two: duration, location, ingredients, and symptoms.

  • Duration: Skin purging can last between two to six weeks when introducing a new product whereas traditional breakouts can last for much longer. Once the purging is done, your clear skin will be revealed! Any blemishes or pimples after that time period may indicate a regular breakout.
  • Location: Skin purging targets the areas you normally breakout in to get out all the old gunk out. This will bring in the new rejuvenated skin. Therefore, purging is usually located in the areas you usually breakout in, whereas breakouts can happen anywhere. For example, if you usually breakout around the T-zone, you’re most likely to see your skin purge around there. If you notice you’re breaking out around your forehead, an area you usually don’t break out around, it could be an allergic reaction to a new shampoo or hair product.


  • Ingredients: Some products that may cause a skin purge include retinoids, retinol, glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, BHA, AHA, enzyme. Your skin can also experience breakouts from fragrance or essential oils in products, drying alcohols, sulfates, or over-exfoliating products. Each skin is different. These are ingredients your skin may have issues with and therefore, cause a breakout. Other people may not react to the same irritants at all.
  • Symptoms: Even though both a skin purge and a breakout can show the same symptoms as whiteheads, blackheads and papules, skin purging will show more dryness, flaking or peeling of the skin.

Overall, if you are introducing in a new product into your skincare routine and experience more blemishes in the next few weeks after that, it is most likely skin purging occurring. However, if you haven’t added any new product or new step into your skincare routine, those pimples may just be a regular breakout. 


What ingredients can cause skin purging?

  • Skin purging can occur because of new products being used that contain chemical exfoliants like acids. Chemical peels are a type of skin treatment that dermatologists offer that peel away the dead skin. They help reduce facial scarring and signs of ageing to reveal younger skin and smooth texture. Some examples of those include alpha-hydroxy acids, beta-hydroxy acids (glycolic, malic, lactic and salicylic acid).
  • Retinoids are well known to cause purging and all kinds of skin irritation. Tretinoin purge is often long and tedious process that many people go through. However, you can avoid breakouts, itching, dryness, and peeling if you use natural retinol alternatives such as Plant Mother’s Retinol serum – a 100% organic and vegan serum with over 20 nutritious botanical ingredients. 
  • Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid that exfoliates the skin and fights off acne. Most acne products contain salicylic acid and it does dry out the skin. So, when you’re starting with it, a little goes a long way. Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that helps dissolve the bond between dead skin cells revealing healthy, glowing skin. Both acids can cause skin redness and irritation.
  • All of these chemical exfoliants speed up the rate of skin cell turnover, or how fast you shed your dead skin cells and replace them with new ones. Because new skin cells are being created, those new ones can cause the skin to cleanse from within. This can bring blockage to the surface, therefore causing breakouts and redness known as purging. Therefore, you should be cautious when using chemical peels or exfoliants. If possible, look for gentler plant-based products with natural ingredients.

What products can cause skin purging?

  • Retinol is a product that can cause skin purging. It is mostly found in anti-aging products to boost the amount of collagen in the skin. It helps reduce the signs of aging by helping with fine lines and wrinkles. This is one of the ingredients that can be full of high-percentage chemicals that cause dryness, redness, and flaking of the skin. That’s usually what happens during a tretinoin purge
  • It is better to choose gentler, plant-based retinol formulations that can produce the same long-term anti-aging benefits. Therefore, make sure to do some research before adding it into your routine. Plant Mother’s Vegan Retinol Serum is made without any harsh synthetic ingredients. Therefore, this vegan retinol is good for even the most sensitive skin and would not cause any redness, peeling, or irritation typically related to retinol purge. Also it won’t cause sun sensitivity unlike synthetic retinols.
  • Vitamin C products have become popular because they work on almost every skin type. Vitamin C helps brighten the skin and evens out its tone. Similar to other potentially triggering actives, there are synthetic Vitamin C products that can cause purge and skin dryness. On the other hand, there are natural, plant-based Vitamin C alternatives that work as good as synthetic ones – minus the purging. One of them is Plant Mother’s Vitamin C serum, a natural botanical serum containing over 20 botanical ingredients. Some including Goji Berries, Maracuja, Kakadu Plum and Hibiscus. Because it’s made with no synthetics or harsh chemicals, the serum is acting as an anti-inflammatory and will not cause your skin to purge or break out.

Purging vs. Allergic reaction

If you start getting tiny red bumps or itchiness, those could be signs of allergy or irritation. Allergic reactions to products will usually go away with hydrocortisone cream. So if you use hydrocortisone and you still have bumps in places you normally don’t break out after a few days, then it’s probably the product that is breaking you out.

Skin Purging vs. Irritation

How can you distinguish between initial purging and irritation? After all, even when you are purging, your skin is probably red because pimples that form are red, right? Irritation usually makes your skin feel hot, prickly, and very sensitive. For example, when you wash your face with your regular cleanser or use your normal products, your skin is probably irritated and stings.

How long does purging last?

Not more than a week or two. So it’s a short-term nuisance. A skin purge lasts much shorter than a breakout and ultimately, shows that the products you began using on your face are doing its job. You can’t speed up purging. However, you can reduce its severity on the skin. Using less product or using the product less frequently can help you slowly ease the product in your skin without hurting it. This is true for tretinoin purge as well. 

If the skin purge lasts longer than a few weeks, it is recommended you stop using the product that caused it and consult your dermatologist. It is important to opt for gentle products when going through a skin purge to help minimize irritation while soothing the skin. Be gentle and patient with your skin and simply let the products work their magic!

skin purging

How do we prevent skin purging?

  • Slowly introducing a new product into your routine is the best advice to take, therefore, allowing the skin some time to slowly adjust to the new product. This could be done by using it once a week, then twice a week, and so on, until you are finally used to using the product almost every day.
  • Before starting a new product that could affect the skin for worse or for better, it is important to do plenty of research. That’s because some chemicals could be too strong and not compatible with your skin type or skin concerns. Always choose natural, organic, and clean products over harsh chemical ingredients. Like any other organ, your skin shouldn’t be exposed to aggressive treatments. These synthetic, chemical products not only are aggressive, they also are typically full of fragrance, preservatives, and other irritating toxins. Therefore, always opt in for clean skincare, rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Plant Mother’s Retinol and Vitamin C are perfect vegan skin serums packed with rich botanical nutrients. These serums are safe to use for even the most sensitive skin and won’t cause any irritation or skin purging.

ways to recuperate Your Skin from purging

  • Other than the new product being incorporated in your routine, you can use calming cleansers and moisturizers that go hand in hand when your skin is purging. Oat oil or extract is an amazing ingredient for sensitive or inflamed skin. It is recommended for those with dry skin conditions. Aloe vera is a very popular soothing botanical ingredients that contains anti-inflammatory properties. It can hydrate the skin without clogging the pores. Jojoba oil is a lightweight oil that contains ingredients like vitamin E, B and zinc which all aid with breakouts. Finally, St. John’s Worth is a very potent anti-inflammatory plant and it’s raw unrefined oil is used topically to calm and soothe the skin.
  • All in all, be gentle with your skin and make sure it stays well moisturized and hydrated. It is also important to use sunscreen every day. Even more when going through a skin purge since the skin is very sensitive.

Conclusion: What to expect after a skin purgE?

Hopefully, you can expect clear and brighter looking skin! Therefore, purging is a good sign even though it may not be the best in the moment. However, it is one big step in the right directions towards smoother and clearer skin.

Know your skin. Each skin is different and gets triggered by a different set of ingredients. By the time you reach your early twenties, you should already know what can potentially irritate your skin. Avoid those ingredients. Continue using clean and natural products on the skin. Remember that the bad needs to be removed before the good can be introduced. Preventing a skin purge even though you have incorporated a new product into your routine, unfortunately, is not always possible. Since there is no instant remedy, patience is key when it comes to skin purging.


This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. The publisher of this content does not take responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, skincare product, or lifestyle program.

Plant Mother Editorial Team
Plant Mother's editorial team consists of skincare experts, dermatologists, and enthusiasts who love all things natural, vegan, and organic. They contribute to the Plant Mother blog, a comprehensive resource on skincare products, ingredients, and beauty how to’s.