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Skin Purging is a Thing: Why your skin might get worse before it gets better


Have you ever started using a new skincare product, only to start breaking out and having other issues?  Before you begin thinking you’ve wasted your money, here is the science behind why this may be happening.

What is Skin Purging?

If your skin is reacting to a new product, it is likely undergoing the process of skin purging.  This is usually caused by an active ingredient.  And for the most part, it’s a really good thing because it means that the product is working.

Your skin undergoes a cellular turnover cycle.  It makes new cells which eventually move to the surface of your skin, where they die and slough off.  Those dead surface skin cells can cause a lot of problems.  

These include:

  • Breakouts

  • Full on acne

  • Dry or oily skin  (depending on what you are prone to)

  • Dull skin tone

  • Uneven skin tone

  • Large pores

  • Enhancement of wrinkles

If you want to know more about cellular turnover, here is a detailed article.  

One way to have your best skin is by encouraging the cellular turnover cycle by using chemical exfoliants.  These products force new, healthy skin cells to rise to the top layer, but before that happens, the other stuff has to get out of the way.  The unhealthy stuff that has built up makes its way to the top and can cause problems along the way.

The new products move things along rather quickly, because the goal is to speed up the cellular turnover cycle.  The dead surface cells are shed faster and the skin is rushing its recovery.  Unfortunately because it’s all being pushed to the surface, everything happens all at once.  Common reactions include pimples, blackheads, even more extreme things like pustules and cysts.

There are people on the other end of the spectrum who don’t have breakouts, but get dry, flaky, red skin.  Again, this is due to the acceleration of the cellular turnover cycle.

Ingredients that Cause Skin Purging

Skin purging is caused by chemical exfoliants.  They are common after you have a peel, or even after you start using a new product that contains certain ingredients.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Alpha hydroxy acids or AHAs are powerful exfoliants found in everything from drugstore brands to high end skincare lines.  It’s a natural ingredient, found in milk, fruits, and sugar cane.  It’s usually included in products intended for dryer skin because it not only exfoliates by breaking bonds between dead skin cells and fresh skin, but it hydrates.  Glycolic acid and lactic acid are two of the most common AHAs available.  

Beta Hydroxy Acids

Beta Hydroxy Acids, or BHAs are a common ingredient in products formulated for oily skin.  Salicylic acid is often found in acne fighting cleansers and serums.  It works to exfoliate the skin and break down oils.  It can cause dry patches as well.  

Vitamin C

Products formulated with vitamin C  have been popular for a few years now.  The strongest form comes in a serum, but it is also in face masks, cleansers, and creams.   Vitamin C will brighten the skin and encourage the growth of collagen.  It’s especially good for people experiencing hyperpigmentation, but the purge period temporarily can make the condition worse. 


Retinoids are very popular ingredients in both anti-aging and acne fighting skincare products.  There are several different retinoids, ranging from the common over the counter retinol to prescription only retinoic acid.  Retinoids work by exfoliating and by boosting collagen production, which contributes to proliferation of new cells.  Ultimately it can plump the skin and even up skin tone, but in order to get to that point, most people have to go through a purge.  

An important note on these ingredients: 

Because these are all accelerating the cellular turnover cycle, they can make your skin more sensitive.  It’s best to apply them at night so that you can sleep through the healing process.  And always wear sunscreen and stay out of the sun as much as possible.  

Skin Purge vs. Breakouts

How do you know if you are having a skin purge or a legitimate breakout?

The obvious sign it’s a purge is if you are using new products with ingredients that exfoliate and encourage cellular turnover.  Purges also tend to happen in areas of your face where you common have breakouts.  If you are prone to pimples on your forehead, a purge will cause pimples there as well.  That’s because it brings what would’ve been future pimples to the surface much faster.  And because it’s an accelerated process, you’ll likely get more pimples than usual.

Could this be an allergic reaction?

A lot of people who experience a skin purge are concerned that they could be having a reaction to the product.  And rightfully so, allergies are nothing to mess with.  One indication there is an allergy is if the breakout or irritation happens in an area of the face that you normally don’t get pimples.  A reaction will generally get worse and spread.  Issues that pop up from a skin purge appear and disappear quickly, but an allergic reaction sticks around.  

If you experience this, stop using the product and consult your doctor.

What can I do if I’m dealing with a skin purge?

The good news about a skin purge is that it is temporary and when it’s over, your skin will emerge looking better than it did before.  A purge can start a week or two after starting a new product and can last up to six weeks.  Some people cycle through faster.  It’s hard to predict.

Don’t pick at any pimples that appear.  This can cause scarring and slow the turnover cycle.

Wear sunscreen.  You should be doing this even when your skin is not purging.  It’s important to avoid the sun as much as possible so you don’t irritate the skin.

Don’t use products that can dry out your skin.  Stick with the regimen that you are using.  Adding something that can dry you out will irritate you even more.

If the purging is too much, cut back on the amount of product you are using and eventually build up until your skin tolerates it.  For example, instead of using an AHA product nightly, apply it every other night.  Or you can apply it, leave it on for a few minutes to absorb, and then splash water on your face to dilute it.

Qyral’s Products and Skin Purging

The cornerstone of our entire product line is cellular turnover.  We have based all of our products on this process, so purging is likely to happen, especially with our Accelerate nighttime serum.

It can be confusing trying to figure out which product is right for your skin.  Everything we make is formulated just for you.  You can take our skin assessment to help us determine whether we should include AHAs or BHAs or something else based on your profile.  You can also change your profile by logging into your account and changing your profile.  Or just email us at

Sloughing off layers of skin is a process that can take several weeks, if not months, and we can't judge how a person will respond until at least 8-10 weeks have passed.  The good news is that most people see results much faster (3 or 4 weeks).  Cellular turnover is an ongoing process with gradual improvement and occasional setbacks. Your skin is unique to you, so your body will go through the purge at its own speed.

Also, not everyone experiences a purge (the writer of this article didn’t), but improvement will happen (it did).  Give it time and keep using the products.  If at any time you have questions or concerns, email us at

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