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Have you ever started a new acne treatment only to have your skin get worse? If so, you’re not alone. This unwelcome but unavoidable phenomenon is known as skin purging. Not everyone will experience skin purging, though, and it’s unknown why some people experience purging while others don’t.

Why does skin purge?

Acne treatments work by exfoliating the skin and increasing cell turnover, which encourages all the gunk that’s clogging your pores to migrate towards the surface. This rush of excess sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells out of your pores can cause breakouts. Pimples also take about a week to form under the skin before they make their grand appearance, and starting a new acne treatment will accelerate their rise to the surface. That’s why for some people, it seems like your skin is getting worse rather than better when starting a new acne treatment.

How do you know if it’s purging?

If you start using a new acne treatment that’s causing you to break out, it isn’t always due to purging. Some products just won’t mesh well with your skin. During a purge, breakouts will appear in locations where you commonly have acne, but if you start to break out in new areas, then it’s likely that you’re having an adverse reaction to the product.

Also, breakouts that appear during a purge generally heal faster. If your breakouts are continually getting worse and taking over a week to heal, then it's probably a bad reaction to the product.

What should you do if your skin is purging?

If your skin is purging, it’s essential to keep your skin calm and hydrated. Reduce the number of products you use when starting an acne treatment to prevent skin irritation. Stick to using a gentle, hydrating cleanser, your acne treatment, a non-comedogenic, soothing moisturizer, and a sunscreen. Also, place a pimple patch over any tempting pimples to prevent picking.

As frustrating as it might be to deal with a purge, you want to continue using the acne treatment. Over time, you will notice that your breakouts are getting smaller, healing faster, and are becoming fewer and farther apart. For most people, skin purging will be over in about a month. If your skin continues to break out after six weeks of use, then consider increasing the dosage of your acne treatment.

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