System Akvile Guide - August, 2020

Skin Purging - How to Tell if Your Skin is Purging?

Have you ever bought a new product and your skin got worse? And did you immediately stop using this product because you thought your skin didn't like it? If your answer is yes this article will help you to understand why you’re breaking out...OR if you’re experiencing something called skin purging (the chances are good that this is the case).

If you want to know what the heck purging means and how to tell the difference between purging and a breakout as a bad reaction to a product this article will bring some light into the darkness, so keep on reading!

Skin Purging - what's that?

Skin Purging is a term that refers to your skin’s reaction to specific active skincare ingredients, e.g. chemical exfoliants like acids or retinoids. Products with these active ingredients cause the skin to increase its skin cell turnover.

How does that work? As skin cell turnover speeds up, the skin starts shedding dead skin cells faster than normal. Skin cells start to regenerate faster. This rapid pace of cell turnover may cause congestion (excess sebum, flakes, and a buildup of dead skin cells) on the surface.

“New pimples?!” - you may ask sceptically. It gets worse before it gets better? Right? But, the simple truth is this - these buildups were already waiting underneath the skin. What would have turned up on the surface of your skin within a few days or weeks is carried up to the surface all at once. The good news is, after going through this uncomfortable process new skin cells are able to cycle to the surface and your skin will look glowy and healthy again.

What causes Skin Purging?

Purging can easily be mistaken with a common breakout, but it’s actually a reaction to using a new product. It can look like a colourful bouquet of pimples like whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, and cysts.

You might also get dry, flaky skin. To be sure that it is purging that you’re experiencing, you should know what the causes are. The easiest way to tell is if one of your product contains one of the following ingredients in your product. If so, your skin is probably purging.

1. Retinoids (retinol, tretinoin, isotretinoin): While isotretinoin and tretinoin are only available with prescription retinol is a common ingredient for acne-prone and aging skin.
2. Hydroxy Acids: chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid (AHA) and salicylic acid (BHA)
3. Fruit acids / enzyme peels
4. Vitamin C
5. Benzoyl peroxide

Also using exfoliating scrubs (better not!) and peels, as well as enzyme treatments and cleansing brushes, can lead to purging.

What causes breakouts?

If you’re still in doubt, here are some things which can cause breakouts:

1. Your skin doesn't like a new product (which does NOT contain retinoids, acids. Have a look at the ingredients list: Is there something from the list above?)
2. Clogged pores
3. Irritation or allergic reaction
4. Some ingredients can be problematic like oils, silicones, thickeners, fragrances, sunscreen filters. Always keep it simple!

Purging vs. breakouts

Besides (active) ingredients there are two more signs to help you to spot the difference between purging and breakouts:

Location: While purging from a product happens where you commonly break out, a breakout as a reaction from a product happens in a new area where you usually don't break out.

Duration: A breakout typically appears and disappears within 8 and 10 days. Purging on the other hand disappears faster.

To summarize: If there are pimples let's say on your cheek although you usually break out on your jawline and/or if your products do not contain any active ingredients mentioned above, you should stop using the new product as soon as possible! If there happen to be more pimples on your jawline for a short time period and if your new product contains one of the active ingredients above, you’re good and you can stick to the product until your skin gets better.

What to do?

So, now you know what purging is and why it occurs. But hand on heart, isn't there any way to avoid purging in the first place, or if it's already blooming, is there a supportive way to speed up the healing process?

1.  Ease into it

If you haven't started to add retinoids or exfoliation acids to your skincare routine yet but you’re considering doing so, there is a way to minimize purging. It is recommended that you ease into it and to introduce the new product to your skin slowly.

For instance, if you start with a retinoid, use it once in the first week, twice in the second week, and keep increasing the frequency of application until you are using the product every day. The same method can be adopted for exfoliation acids too. Make sure to make small steps and to keep an eye on your skin's sensitivity to avoid over-exfoliation. This ease-in-method allows the skin to adjust to the new product gradually.

2. Patience for one skin cycle

Sadly, you can't speed up the purging process. Everyone's skin reacts differently to a new product and the only way to get through it is ... to get through it. Be patient for about one skin cycle which takes approximately 28 days. The best thing you can do now is to look forward to the glowy skin you are going to have in a few weeks. If it's still not getting better after six weeks you should ask your dermatologist to adjust the dosage and frequency of application. 

3. Gentle skincare routine 

A gentle skincare routine is essential for healthy and glowy skin. It's the best you can do to support your skin from the outside and to avoid further inflammation. Less is more - limit your products to the basics like a sulfate-free cleanser, a moisturizer (your skin needs a lot of moisture, every drying product can make things worse), and sunscreen (because during purging your skin is even more sensitive than usual). And don't forget to apply the retinoid or exfoliating acid as tempting as it seems to stop using it.

Further tips during purging

Everything which is true for acne prone skin can also be advantageous for skin purging:

Number one rule always and forever is to resist the urge to squeeze active breakouts.

It's not only that you feed bacteria with your hands, but you also don't want to have scars either, right? Also, change your pillowcase and towel more often to keep bacteria out of your face as these can cause further inflammation.

Skin Purging is a necessary evil if you want to add active ingredients into your daily skincare routine. But after a slightly uncomfortable duration of 4 to 6 weeks, your skin will be in mint condition and free of congestion. 

System Akvile Skincare Routine

Try to maintain your regular skincare routines

All the essentials in one routine

This set is designed to manage the main concerns associated with acne prone skin. The products work together to help treat and prevent breakouts and balance your skin.




Our skin care system helps to control the state of acne prone skin, clearing existing breakouts and improving your skin’s texture over time.

Learn more about your skin

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If you have oily and/or acne prone skin, this is one of the active ingredients you should look for in your skincare products. Let us explain...

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