We already brought you up to speed on all the different types of acne and how to identify them. Now, we are going to dive into the best ingredients for fighting acne and explain what the purging process is (and yes, it’s a real thing).
Salicylic acid: A beta-hydroxy acid that’s an effective and powerful exfoliant to help keep pores clear by exfoliating inside the hair follicle. Did you know that Salicylic acid is close in its chemical relationship to aspirin (aka acetylsalicylic acid), which has anti-inflammatory properties, so it's usually better tolerated for those with sensitive skin prone to redness and irritability.
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs): AHAs slough off dead skin cells that cause pimple-producing clogged pores and leave you with smoother, softer skin. Better yet, they help dissolve the “glue” on the surface that results in buildup and uneven texture. They can be applied all over the face and are often less irritating to skin than a scrub or physical exfoliant. Types of AHAs include glycolic and lactic acid.
Clay: A calming ingredient in acne treatments (usually masks) thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. Clay however, can be overdrying so tread lightly on this one if you fall on the drier to sensitive skin side.
Sulfur: A natural occurring mineral decreases bacteria and inflammation and helps to exfoliate dead skin cells but comes attached with a “not-so-pleasant” smell and potential to over-dry skin.
Benzoyl peroxide: Kills bacteria, removes excess oil, and exfoliates dead skin cells. But beware that this ingredient can be pretty harsh on sensitive skin and is notoriously for bleaching fabrics.
Tea-tree oil: A natural blemish-fighter that has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to help calm acne. Beware that this natural remedy can also be too harsh for people with sensitive skin. Just because it’s a natural oil doesn’t mean it’s the gentlest option!
So what is skin purging? Simply put, skin purging refers to your skin's reaction to a specific active ingredient that triggers cell turnover. When you think of a “purge” you might associate the term with cleaning (like Spring Cleaning) - out with the old, in with the new - and that’s exactly what’s happening on the surface of your skin.
How and why does it happen? Skin “purges” when effective exfoliants and anti-acne ingredients you start using loosen the bacteria in the pore and speed cell turnover, bringing the clog in the pore to the surface faster. Your skin naturally turns over about every 28 days but when you use a chemical exfoliant, it speeds up the process.
But don’t be scared! Purging usually doesn’t last very long and on the plus side, what was waiting to come to the surface finally has and will soon be a thing of the past! There’s no real way to prevent a purge (since what’s coming to the surface was already deep within pores) however, you can ease into the process by slowly incorporating the exfoliating ingredients into your routine rather than jumping in all at once - do what feels right for YOUR skin.
Is it a purge or a breakout? Here’s how to tell the difference:
Purging: Located in a defined area where you already have frequent breakouts. Skin purging also clears up much faster than a pimple or reaction.
Breakout: You’re getting breakouts in new areas where you don’t often get pimples, and they take longer to heal. Remember that a breakout can come about due to several different factors, not just new active ingredients in a routine: hormones, diet, stress etc.
Best Practices when dealing with purging & breakouts