woman skin purging

Skin Purging

Our guide to help you understand how long does skin purging last & what does skin purging look like, as well as purging skin advice.

What is skin purging and how long does skin purging last?

Skin purging is a supercharged cleanse for your complexion. It is usually caused by an active ingredient in a skincare product or a process that speeds up the skin’s cell shedding and renewal phase. These ingredients stimulate cell renewal turnover rate leaving behind clearer, smoother skin.


While the process of purging skin itself isn’t pretty, the results are usually worth it. Let’s take a closer look at skin purging, what purging skin looks like - and how long it lasts.


What is skin purging?

So what is skin purging? Purging is our skin’s way of getting rid of spot-causing gunk that's lurking under the surface of your skin.

Skin purging is often the result of introducing ingredients like retinoids, AHAs, BHAs, PHA, chemical peels and even lasers that can kickstart your skin’s cell renewal and bring all the debris under your skin to the surface, which, in the short term, can cause breakouts and redness.


Spots are caused when the sebaceous glands in the skin produce too much oil or sebum, which can become mixed with debris such as dead skin cells. This then gets trapped in the pores which bacteria can thrive on. This can trigger an immune response and the body will send white blood cells that causes inflammation we know as blemishes. The reason some treatments can trigger a similar reaction to breakouts is because they increase cell turnover with the aim of polishing away the top dead layer of skin.


Active ingredients, such as retinols, acids and exfoliates don’t push the bacteria out of your pores, but they do stimulate the skin cells to speed up the turnover process to reveal new, healthy cells - and a younger and clearer complexion.


But getting to that ‘tah-dah!’ stage requires some patience. 

lady skin purging
woman purging skin

What does skin purging look like?

You may be wondering what does skin purging look like? On the whole, it ain’t pretty. 
lady purging skin

Skin purging means your skin is eliminating - on turbodrive - unwanted material that causes spots, pushing everything to the surface to speed up your skin’s recovery. The fallout can cause breakouts and you are likely to see a whole manner of spots including:


  • Whiteheads 
  • Blackheads
  • Pre-pimples 
  • Pustules
  • Cysts
  • Dry and peeling skin is common
  • Red, inflamed skin
In the long run, skin purging helps us shed dead skin cells more effectively which reduces pore-clogging build-up and breakouts, and it does settle down after a few weeks. But you do have to buckle in and ride out a few weeks of discomfort to see the best results. 

Is it irritation or skin purging?

There’s a difference between purging and irritation. If you’ve added a new skincare product to your routine and your skin is breaking out, it is important to bear in mind an ingredient or process may not be stimulating a purge but rather irritating the skin.   


But how do you know?

woman understanding what is skin purging
Is it irritation or skin purging?

Where is it?

Purging tends to focus on the areas where you usually breakout, while irritated skin will break out in areas you are not usually prone to getting spots.
woman after skin purging
Is it irritation or skin purging?

How long does it last?

Spots that are caused by purging will appear and disappear faster than a ‘normal’ pimple. If a breakout is lasting for longer than four to six weeks then it may be a sign your skin is reacting badly to the ingredient. 
lady after purging skin
Is it irritation or skin purging?

What is in the product?

Skin purges are usually triggered by chemicals that exfoliate your skin, such as  retinols, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. If you have used these for a while, or are not using them, then it is likely your skin is reacting to a non-purging product such as oil, sunscreen or make-up. 

How long does skin purging last?

Purging follows our skin’s natural cell renewal so the full benefits of purging won’t reveal themselves for between four to six weeks after adopting a new skin care regime, depending on your skin type. Unfortunately, there’s little you can do to speed up the process - your skin cell’s can’t renew any faster. 


If after a few weeks you are not seeing any improvement in your skin or it is getting worse, then you may want to stop the product that may be causing the irritation, or see a dermatologist. 


How to treat your skin when it is purging

During this turbulent time for your skin, it is important to be kind to it.


Stick to a gentle and basic skin care routine to avoid further inflammation; a gentle cleanser, a soothing hydrating moisturiser, and sunscreen during the day. Don’t stop using the product that has triggered the purge, but do limit its use. Go gently with masks and exfoliators.

  • Avoid irritating the skin further - use a gentle cleanser such as NIVEA Naturally Good Micellar Face Wash which soothes and purifies the skin.
  • Avoid exfoliating acids, such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, and other drying products. If you still want to slough off dead skin cells, use a gentle scrub, although avoid using it daily. NIVEA Gentle Exfoliating Scrub delivers a dose of vitamin E antioxidant along with it as it wipes away dead skin cells.
  • Do not touch or pick spots
  • Soothing face masks can help if your skin isn’t too sensitive. Multitasking NIVEA Pore Purifying 3 in 1 Wash Scrub Mask can be used as a face wash to remove daily impurities and deeply cleanse the skin, as a scrub and a five-minute mask. Loaded with antibacterial ingredients and soothing properties, it is a great skin purging partner.
  • While it may be tempting to stop using the skin purging ingredient, it is best to reduce how often you use it to minimise the purse fallout while allowing time for your skin to experience the benefit.

How to approach skin purging

  • Avoid trying new products in the lead up to a big event, for example a wedding or holiday. 
  • Try easing in - for example, try using the product once in the first week, twice in the second week, three times in the third week, and so on until you're using the product everyday or every other day (depending on how sensitive your skin is).