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How Long Does Skin Purging Last? Plus Other Questions, Answered

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Hazel Caingcoy · Updated Jul 19, 2023

How Long Does Skin Purging Last? Plus Other Questions, Answered

Experimenting with a new skincare product or regimen often results in increased pimple formation, known as skin purging. It basically happens when clogged pores (microcomedones) under the skin activate together. The skin then forms pimples at a quicker rate than normal, and leads to hormonal acne formation. How long does skin purging last? What causes it? And what can you do about it?

What Causes Skin Purging?

Skin purge occurrence is usually associated with active ingredients that accelerate skin cell turnover.  It can occur when an individual uses products with active ingredients designed to increase skin turnover. 

How long does skin purging last? It can take weeks and sometimes, even months. Purging usually occurs if you start using products containing retinoids and exfoliating acids. How long skin purging lasts may also depend on the type of active ingredient in the product.

Active Ingredients That Could Cause Skin Purging


Using retinoids, which are vitamin A derivatives, breaks up blackheads and whiteheads and prevents clogged pores. And it is these clogged pores that generally cause acne. 

It is important to use retinoid medications on the entire area of skin affected by acne, not just a few spots, to prevent the appearance of new pimples. 

One of the common side effects of retinoids is skin sensitivity, peeling and irritation. Moisturizing usually reduces these side effects. You may also experience reduced effects if you have been using the medicine for a while.

Hydroxy Acids

Hydroxy acids work by removing the damaged top layer of skin. Dead skin cells are dissolved by the acid to prevent hair follicles from becoming clogged. Skincare products contain various kinds of acids, but the most common ones are hydroxy acids. 

Hydroxy acids include: 

  • Citric Acid
  • Hydroxycaproic Acid
  • Salicylic Acid
  • Lactic Acid
  • Lactobionate Acid
  • Tartaric Acid
  • Glycolic Acid

Benzoyl Peroxide

Over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide products are available as gels and washes. By targeting bacteria on the surface of the skin, these products help treat acne. 

Dryness is one side effect that is often experienced by users of this product. Wash formulations with lower concentrations are less irritable to the skin.

Chemical Peels

Chemical peel products, or procedures that use chemical peel procedures, use chemicals to remove old skin cells. After removing the top layer of skin, the new skin grows. This layer of skin is usually smoother and lighter in tone, which is also beneficial in reducing acne scars. 

Breakout Vs Purging

As you adjust to a new product, your skin purges. Whenever you are purging, pimples appear, but these go away faster than pimples formed when you are not purging. You should continue to take the treatment as prescribed if you experience purging.  If your new skin care is working, the skin and acne will appear better after purging for a few weeks.

Breakouts happen when your skin reacts to an ingredient in a product. Getting spots in a new area is usually a sign that you are breaking out. 

Breakouts may not go away as quickly compared to purging. They also usually leave scars

How Long Does Skin Purging Last?

Purging is temporary and subsides as you continue using your skincare product, provided that you are using them correctly. Usually, purging lasts about one month. However, it can last longer or shorter depending on the individual. 

In general, how long does skin purging last? The answer is about 6-8 weeks. You might want to consider stopping using the product or seeing a professional if after 6 to 8 weeks you have not seen significant improvements in your skin.

What To Do During Skin Purging

It takes time for acne treatments to work. Use the product for a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks, and results will begin to show after that time. If your skin does not improve by then, you can try another product. A complete skin clear-up usually takes between 3 and 4 months.

Follow the instructions for acne treatments. Apply a moisturizer specially formulated for acne-prone skin, especially if the product you are using makes skin dry. The moisturizer should be applied twice a day, after you wash your face. In addition, you should not use astringents, alcohol, or anything else that dries out your skin.

Make sure you’re gentle when washing acne-affected areas of your skin. Choose a mild cleanser that is non-comedogenic. Massage it gently into your skin, and use your fingertips when cleansing. Afterwards, gently rinse it off with warm water. 

Finally, don’t squeeze or pop acne as this can make acne worse. Instead, use acne medication. For deep or painful acne, you should see a dermatologist for help.

Key Takeaway

Skin purging is a natural process that happens in the skin when it’s trying to adjust and adapt to new products. How long does skin purging last? The period of adjustment may last from one week up to three months. During this time, you may experience breakouts or other common reactions like dryness and redness.

Skin-purging occurs when your body starts getting rid of all toxins from previous products in order to create space for newer, more effective alternatives. It’s not always a pleasant experience, but it is temporary and should go away in a few weeks. 

Learn more about Acne here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Hazel Caingcoy · Updated Jul 19, 2023

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