Is My Skin Purging or Breaking Out?

Is My Skin Purging or Breaking Out?

Purging skin is something many people worry about when they begin using a leave-on beta hydroxy acid (BHA) exfoliant. We understand the concern: It can be alarming to see a fresh crop of blemishes and clogged pores pop up right after you begin using the exfoliant—breaking out more than usual isn’t what you expected!

But is the purging process real? And, if so, how long does the purge last? We answer these questions and reveal if skin really has to get worse before it can get better.

What Causes Skin Purging?

Purging is real and does occur for some people, but exactly who it affects and why it occurs remains a mystery. One theory has to do with BHA being oil-soluble. As such, it exfoliates not only on the surface of skin, but also inside the pore lining, where oil lurks. For some, that kind of exfoliation triggers a loosening and mass exodus of debris and oil. If conditions are right, this “release” can trigger more blemishes.

A concentrated BHA formula can quickly bring to the surface clogs that were already brewing before you started using the product. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it seems that for some people, skin has to get worse before it gets better (and it will get better, so don’t give up).

Does Skin Purging Have to Happen?

Whether purging occurs or not isn’t really something you can control. You can skip using an exfoliant, but that only sets skin up for more trouble down the road, not to mention losing all of the wonderful benefits exfoliation provides.

Besides, what you might see on skin’s surface after you start using a BHA would’ve shown up eventually anyway, or simply would’ve remained deep in the pore, keeping it clogged and enlarged. In other words, it’s actually good to see all this movement, despite the initial distress it causes.

What if I’m Still Breaking Out More Than Usual?

If you’re still breaking out more than usual weeks after you start using a BHA exfoliant, take stock of what else you're using in your routine. In many instances, one product alone isn’t causing the problem; rather, it's the combination of products that’s responsible.

What to do? If you’re using several products and applying them all at the same time, try applying them at different times (for example, apply one product in the morning, the other at night) or try switching to products with lighter textures (go from a cream to a lotion or gel), which often makes a world of difference.

When clogged pores and blemishes are a concern, it usually takes experimentation to find the best combination of products—but the effort is worth it to finally get and maintain the bump-free, even-toned skin you want!

With all that said, if you’re not 100% satisfied with any Paula's Choice exfoliant, we offer a 60-day money-back guarantee, and our world-class Client Service team will be happy to get you back on the right track. We invite you to contact them at your convenience!

References for this information:

Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, August 2015, pages 455–461
Clinics in Dermatology, January-February 2010, pages 8–11
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, March 2009, page AB19


About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!