When using new products (especially those with potent actives!), it's important to be able to tell the difference between an adverse reaction and a healthy skin response.
Here's a guide to help you identify the differences.
A temporary response to your skin's process of removing toxins and impurities. When you use a new product, especially one with active ingredients, it can result in "purging", the response will vary depending on your skin type and the potency of the formula.
Any impurities that show up would always have found a way to the surface but by incorporating products that exfoliate, speed up our skin's regeneration or brighten, they will show up faster.
It's also worth nothing, it has less to do with the type of product and more about the ingredients. It's also less likely to happen with wash-off products like cleansers!
Ingredients most likely to cause a purge are:
Although it can be frustrating, purging is a healthy response that is necessary to go through to reveal a new layer of damage free skin.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT FROM PURGING?
Sensitive/ Dry Skin -
It can be more common to experience flakiness or redness with sensitive skin. This is especially true when adding in ingredients that increase our skin cell turnover.
Acne/Blemish-Prone Skin -
If you already have a tendency towards blemishes, you may find them crop up when introducing more potent actives into your routine. Anything that is brewing beneath the skin's surface will likely come up if you add in glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, and Retinoids.
Normal Skin -
You may experience a more minimal response if your skin is but the cell turnover has still been sped-up so expect some things to surface! Again, this depends on the potency and ingredient you're using.
PURGING VS BREAKOUT
- Happens after adding a new product with actives that exfoliate or encourage cell renewal.
- Should clear within 1-3 weeks and leave no scars.
- Pimples that will appear in a cluster or separated but all at one time.
- Temporary redness/ flakiness of skin.
- Skin will appear healthier on the other side.
- May appear randomly, with a change in hormones or after a rich product that blocks pores.
- Will typically last longer, and may reappear.
- May leave scars, discolouration or long-lasting cystic acne.
If you are someone who doesn't experience breakouts but are dealing with one after the introduction of a new product like the ones mentioned above - it's probably purging!
There are two types of reaction to topical products: irritation and allergic.
Irritation is the response when the skin barrier is a damaged. An example of this would be when a product is drying and strips the skin of lipids. Symptoms of irritation can include dryness, itching, burning or stinging and would either happen quickly after application or after repeated exposure to the irritant.
Once you stop using the irritant, your skin will heal but it may need a little time and help to repair the barrier.
Allergic reactions, on the other hand, are an immune response from our skin when "triggered" by an ingredient our body perceives to be an "invader". This type of reaction is usually instant and could include: hives, burning, itching and rashes. It is possible for allergic reactions to be delayed, showing up in the few days after applying the product but this is generally less likely.
Symptoms usually subside after a few hours but sometimes, anti-histamines are needed to control the response. Anything more severe and the best course of action would be calling a medical practitioner.
In some cases, you can introduce the irritant back into your routine, slowly and build up tolerance without causing further damage but we recommend focusing on repairing the initial damage before doing this.
In other cases, it's just not meant to be and maybe looking into alternative ingredients that offer similar results will be more beneficial for you!
The likelihood of purging all depends on the concentration of actives and the rest of the ingredients in any product. Just remember that it is temporary and a positive sign that your skin is doing it's job. Try to be patient and trust the process because what lies on other side is newer, healthier skin!
Reactions tend to be more obvious and instantaneous (although delayed reactions can occur!). It's always a good idea to do a patch test before using a product to get a gauge on how your skin reacts to the ingredients.
It's also a good idea to not overwhelm the skin. Try to add new products in one at a time and use for a good amount of time before adding in any others. That way, if your skin does produce a reaction, it'll be easier to determine the cause.