Skin Purging from Salicylic Acid: How to Spot & Treat

Skin Purging from Salicylic Acid: How to Spot & Treat
Skin Purging from Salicylic Acid: How to Spot & Treat

Skin purging is basically getting through the bad to get to the good but not everyone has to go through this to get the benefits of salicylic acid. 

Can Salicylic Acid Cause Skin Purging

Salicylic acid is one of the most common skincare ingredients associated with skin purging. 

But is this bad or good?

This is a good thing.

Skin purging happens when an active ingredient pushes dead cells, debris, oil, and other gunk from your pores up towards the surface of your skin to get rid of it at a faster rate. 

Many people mistake this for a breakout, especially those who are acne-prone. 

How Does Salicylic Acid Cause Purging

Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid that penetrates deep into the pores to break up clumps of skin cells, oil, and other debris from inside the pores, and it increases skin cell turnover.

When the plug in the pores are broken up, the size of the pores is reduced, causing all the material that had clogged them to come to the surface of the skin, resembling blackheads or whiteheads. 

Salicylic acid also increases the rate of skin cell turnover, making all the plugs in the skin rise to the surface all at once rather than gradually. 

7 Reasons Salicylic Acid can make Acne Worse & What to Do

What Does A Skin Purge By Salicylic Acid Look Like

When you use a product that is known to improve acne, like salicylic acid, regular breakouts caused by acne should not get worse. 

Skin purging by salicylic acid looks like a breakout, but they are different. The easiest way to tell the difference is by the timing, appearance, and location of the “pimples”.

Breakout/
Acne
Skin Purging from Salicylic Acid
Typical Breakouts and acne tends to occur randomlyIf you use salicylic acid and you notice that your skin breaks out a bit more just after, then this is more than likely purging. The “breakouts” usually happen just as your start using the product and go away much faster than acne. 
Breakouts or acne are usually red, angry-looking, and inflamed.Purging occurs in the form of blackheads, whiteheads, or skin-colored pimples on the surface of the skin. 
Breakouts as an adverse reaction to a new product usually occur in new areas of the skinPurging usually occurs in areas where you usually get acne. Purging does not usually affect new areas. 

How Long Does Skin Purging Last With Salicylic Acid

The time frame for skin purging with salicylic acid will vary for each person, but the worse of it is usually over within one skin cycle. 

Generally. Most dermatologists agree that skin purging from a new skincare product like salicylic acid should be over within 4-6 weeks of starting it, which is the usual time it takes for the skin to completely turn over its skin cells. 

At the end of the 6-week mark, and by 8 weeks, you should see visible improvements in your skin and your “pimples” should be well on their way to disappearing. 

However, if your purging lasts longer than 6 weeks or if it keeps getting worse, you should consult your dermatologist for advice. It could be that you need to adjust your dosage or frequency of salicylic acid, or it could be that you need to change something else in your routine or diet. 

Should You Stop Using Salicylic Acid When Purging?

It’s best to stick to your skincare routine and salicylic treatment – give your skin time to adjust to the new salicylic acid product and let it do its job. 

Salicylic Acid For Oily Skin – What You Need To Know

Can You Prevent or Stop Skin Purging

There is no definitive way to prevent purging and once it has started you should not try to stop the process, but there are things you can do to help. 

Most dermatologists recommend that you slowly start introducing new products into your skincare routine. This would depend on what formulation you are using. 

For example, if you are starting a new salicylic acid face wash, toner, or serum, you can start using it once in the first week, twice in the second week, three times in the third week, and so on until you are using it daily. 

This will give your skin more time to adjust to the new ingredient. There is no guarantee doing this will prevent purging, but it may lessen the intensity when it does occur. 

However, when skin purging does begin, you should not stop using salicylic acid or try to stop the purging. Alternatively, there are a few things you can do to help the process. 

Learn how to Moisturize After Salicylic Acid: What To Do & Use

Tips To Follow During A Skin Purge

  • Do not use more than one exfoliant (like salicylic acid) at a time – this will be too much for your skin. 
  • Avoid using any additional products with harsh ingredients or fragrances – these can irritate the skin. 
  • Do not pick at your “pimples” or blemishes – this can make the “breakouts” spread or cause an infection. 
  • Keep your skin clean – cleanse your skin daily to make sure any debris and bacteria buildup is avoided in the areas that are purging. 
  • Do not manually over-exfoliate the area – avoid scrubbing or exfoliating the area that is purging too much to prevent damaging the skin. 
  • Keep your skin hydrated and well moisturized – this will help with any flaking and peeling and will help your skin to heal. 
  • Always use sunscreen – exfoliants like salicylic acid make your skin more sensitive and vulnerable to sun damage. 

Salicylic Acid For Dark Underarms: What You Need to Know

What Concentrations Of Salicylic Acid Cause Skin Purging

Any concentration of salicylic acid cause skin purging when newly introduced to the skin. 

Skin purging happens as a result of freshly introduced skincare products speeding up your skin’s cell turnover, which makes you exfoliate more dead skin cells than normal.

Because salicylic acid is an active ingredient, this is more likely to happen. Therefore, there is no telling whether your skin will purge or not, or after using what concentration or formulation. 

Some people purge even at the lowest concentrations. 

Video: Is Your Skin Purging or Just Breaking Out

Sources:

Skin purging means a new skincare product is working — here’s how to tell if its purging or a breakout, according to dermatologists

The Secrets to Deciphering — and Stopping — Skin Purging

Skin Purging vs. Breakout – What Does Skin Purging Look Like? | Paula’s Choice

Ask a Derm: Is My Skin Purging or Just Breaking Out? 

Skin Purging: Getting Through The Bad Before The Good – Dear Brightly    

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