Monday, August 22, 2011

What is purging? Myths and truths

Hi, everyone. First off, sorry for my long hiatus from blogging, and I am so sorry if I have ignored your emails and comments. My email account that was associated with this blog has been hacked, and it has taken me this long to recover the email address, and to continue posting. I will try to improve my email security in the future so that this do not happen again. I have attended a few beauty seminars in Korean and Japan, and met with a few renowned skincare experts there. I couldn't stop nagging them with a lot of different questions, and I am bursting to share the new information with you! In addition, I have also tried a lot of new products, some of which are just genius/wonderful, and I really want to share all the reviews with you. 
One of the questions I get asked most often is whether breakouts after initially switching to a new product is "purging, and how long "purging" is supposed to last. I feel that purging is one of the most confusing skincare concepts, and often misused by sales assistants to persuade you to stick with a product that do not work. In this article, I wanted to share a few facts about purging to help you: 1. recognize purging; 2. know when to expect purging; and 3. debunk all the myths of purging. 

What is purging?: Purging, by definition, means the skin's action of getting rid of excess sebum or "gunk" in the skin, generally through the process of breaking out. Many people allege that they experience purging when they try a new product that causes breakouts initially, but works well eventually without causing further breakouts. However, not all of those reactions are actually purging. Sometimes, the initial breakouts experienced when trying new products may indeed be the new products working to rid the skin of all the "gunk", before making skin better; however, other times, the initial breakouts may just be the skin's way of getting used to the new products.

Differentiating between purging and skin's initial adjustment period to a product: As mentioned before, there are two main reasons why a new product would cause breakouts on the skin initially, but stop causing breakouts after some time of continued use: purging and reactive skin. Purging occurs usually when someone uses a product that is supposed to help with acne, generally cleansers, exfoliants, and other topical acne medications (such as salicylic acid, retin-a/tretinoin, and benzoyl peroxide). The product may work by first lifting the impurities from the skin, such as the gunk in clogged pores. Sometimes, the gunk comes out easily, while other times, the gunk may have a difficult time being expelled from your pores, causing a whitehead or a inflammatory pimple. This is not really supposed to happen with non-medicated moisturizers or foundations. 

Reactive skin also causes breakouts (as well as maybe red patches or other symptoms) when you first start using a product, and the breakouts may or may not subside after a time. This is because some of us has skin that is rather sensitive and reactive, especially those of us using acne or other topical medications that thins the top layer of skin (such as benzoyl peroxide). The thinner the top layer of your skin is, the more you may be prone to sensitive or allergic reactions to a product. Unlike purging, reactive skin can occur with a full range of skincare and facial makeup products, from cleansers to concealers. 

What products generally cause purging: Products that are most prone to causing purging are products containing topical acne medications and products that are supposed to help with acne. Some examples are a new scrub, a new toner containing salicylic acid, and a new moisturizer containing benzoyl peroxide. Do not stop using a product simply because you are purging. Once the purging period is over, you may (or may not) receive the clearer skin the product promises. 

How long to expect purging to last: This is a really hard question and differs from person to person. It depends on how fast your skin reacts, and also, how serious your acne was before you started the new product. For example, a person who had a full face of clogged pores may experience more purging than a person only suffering from a blackhead on the side of his/her nose.

How long to expect reactive skin to last: This also differs from person to person, depending on the sensitivity of your skin and the products you are trying. I sometimes experience no reactions from new products, sometimes I experience one single breakout, and sometimes, I may have to wait for 2 months before a product starts working for me without causing trouble. 

Am I purging or having reactive skin or is this product simply causing me to break out?: As mentioned before, the type of product you are experiencing with gives a clue about whether you may be experiencing purging. It is more difficult to differentiate between reactive skin and simply breaking out. For a lot of people, this simply turns into a waiting game to see if their skin bounces back after a time. 
Sometimes, you may be able to tell based on your skin's past reactions. For example, if I am reacting to a product, I would generally experience inflamed pimples. If a product is simply too rich for my skin, I would see whiteheads and clogged pores. And if I were purging, I would see whiteheads and some inflamed pimples where clogged pores used to be. 

How to reduce the symptoms of purging and reactive skin:  There is no way to skip right through the purging or reactive skin phase, but you can make the symptoms milder by easing in a new product. When I start using new products, I never start using a few new products all at once. I ease them into my routine one by one. I generally experience the least reactions this way, and also, if a product were causing me trouble, it is easy to pinpoint which product it is. I also start using a product very slowly. For example, if I were trying to introduce a new cleanser into my routine, I would substitute it for my original cleanser twice a week or begin with, and slowly increase the frequencies until it completely replaces my original cleanser. 


  1. Replies
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  2. really glad you're back. i love skincare posts :)

  3. Hi Cathy,
    I'm glad you're back.
    I was reading your posts about Mamonde and Laneige. I was exploring the possibility of starting korean skincare. I've been exploring Amore Pacific brand options recently. If you do not mind would you please tell me what are the target age groups for:

  4. I love that outfit!!
    Much love,

  5. Purging disorder is a type of eating disorder that hasn't yet been officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, the medical group that classifies eating disorders and defines the criteria by which they are diagnosed.

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  8. Mike Walden
    Your are slow....
    Obviously we are not speaking of that type of purging!
    Clearly you did not read the article, so why did you feel the need to post that comment?

  9. There are a lot of ineffective ways to purge, and a few ways that work well.for tips you can visit here..
    Acne Cure Program

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Nice info sharing. Great! Having a perfect scar revision may cause fullfilment after your procedures.


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