Along with loud neighbors and trips to the DMV, breaking out after trying a new skincare product tops our list of annoying occurrences. The difference when it comes to breaking out, though, is that the effects can last a long time: Hyperpigmentation! Scarring! Ugh, the worst. Also not the greatest? Your dashed hopes after being so excited to get your hands on that buzzy new product that you were certain would change your skin for the better.
But wait! Your complexion might not be mortal enemies with this new product after all. Your skin may just be purging. And no, it's not like that weird horror film The Purge, though dealing with these skin issues may feel pretty scary.
WTF IS PURGING?
The bad news: When your skin is exposed to ingredients that speed up cell turnover, the process can bring congestion to the skin's surface that may otherwise have stayed below the surface—A.K.A. not visible—longer. As a result, you may experience breakouts and clogged pores. The good news: Purging means the product is doing its job, and the effects are totally temporary.
WHAT INGREDIENTS CAN CAUSE PURGING?
"Your skin can purge after the use of any new product or ingredient," says King Imani, CLOVE + HALLOW General Manager and licensed master cosmetologist. These ingredients are especially known for kick-starting the purging process:
Alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, citric acid and tartaric acid
Beta hydroxy acids, such as salicylic acid and willow bark extract
Retinol and other retinoids
Other ingredients known for their skin-regenerating properties (A.K.A. faster cell turnover), including many natural ingredients like rosehip oil and black cumin seed oil
Many of C+H's skincare products include these ingredients, and therefore can cause a brief purging period: Liquid Light (which features lactic acid and fruit AHAs), H2Glow Serum (which has willow bark extract), and Balancing Oil (which is loaded with rosehip oil and black cumin seed oil).
HOW CAN I TELL IF I'M BREAKING OUT, OR JUST PURGING?
So, yeah, your skin could be purging. Or an ingredient could be breaking you out. Or worse, an ingredient could be causing an allergic reaction. So how do you know for sure if you're purging?
Derms say a typical purging cycle happens and heals more quickly than your average breakout cycle, and it tends to occur in the same areas of your face that you usually get acne. If you're seeing a breakout in your usual spots, but on fast-forward, it's likely purging. Otherwise it may be a breakout or irritation.
Also keep in mind that the aforementioned ingredients are the most common perpetrators of purging, so if your new product is a traditional moisturizer or SPF, or a comedogenic makeup formula, it's likely a breakout or an allergic reaction.
HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO PUT UP WITH IT?
"The time frame varies depending on the product's strength and your skin's typical reaction to products," says Imani. "In general, the purge should last between four and six weeks." If the reaction lasts longer than six weeks, discontinue use of the product and consult a dermatologist if things don't seem to clear up.
ANYTHING I CAN DO TO MINIMIZE IT?
We know this answer sucks, but it's true: You've just got to wait it out. In the meantime, simple is better. Don't change up anything else in your routine, try to change your pillowcase more frequently, wear SPF to protect your healing skin, and refrain from popping or picking. You got this!