Skin Purging: Does It or Doesn’t It?

Ever hear of the term “skin purging”?  Although we may use the word “purge” to mean getting rid of toxins or impurities, the skin doesn’t actually do that.  In fact, the theory of skin purging may be a bit of a misnomer.  No topical treatment can force the skin to purge toxins out, the way that the liver detoxes the body of unwanted or harmful material.  What is commonly known as skin purging has more to do with a theory that involves acne breakouts that occur after starting a new skin care treatment containing an exfoliant. 

This “purging” process is really an accelerated rate of exfoliation brought on by an active ingredient doing its job.  Although the skin doesn’t rid itself of toxins, the ramped-up exfoliation helps to unclog pores of dirt, oil and bacteria already lurking under the surface, and which may result in an acne breakout. 

Treatments that contain ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids and retinoids remove dead skin cells on the surface of the epidermis. Retinoids can also increase the rate of cell turnover.  What looks like a new breakout is in fact just a swifter and more dramatic appearance of a blemish that would have surfaced sooner or later. Skin normally renews itself approximately every 28 days.  The use of exfoliants merely hastens the process.

It may be tempting at this time to abandon the new treatment but by persevering, clear skin is just around the corner. By continuing with your new routine, blemishes should improve after a few weeks, depending on the severity of acne.  At this point, your treatment can concentrate on preventing future breakouts and continuing to give you smooth, glowing skin.

Keep in mind that skin purging should not happen when using products that do not contain an active ingredient that increases exfoliation.  If you experience acne where you previously did not have breakouts, if your skin becomes red and irritated, or if you develop a rash or itchy bumps, you may be having a negative or allergic reaction. At this point it is wise to discontinue treatment. If the irritation persists, you may want to seek medical attention.

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