Link to share article here:

Myth Buster: Skin Purging Explained

Skin purging, although temporary, can be a very real issue for a handful of people who begin their skincare journey to clear up acne and spots using active ingredients. Sometimes called tretinoin purging’, skincare ingredients that increase cell turnover can trigger more spots as your skin adjusts to your treatment.

If you think you’re experiencing skin purging during your Skin + Me journey, rest assured it won’t last forever and our experts are always on hand to advise. Read on for your guide on all things purging related, from why purging happens to how long purging lasts and how to deal with skin purging.

What is skin purging?

Purging is when you experience a breakout of spots or a worsening of existing acne in the first few weeks when your skin is adjusting to a new skin treatment. This is not just the case with Skin + Me treatments – it can happen with any acne or skin-ageing treatment that contains prescription strength and even over-the-counter active ingredients.  

Purging is known to occur in up to a quarter of people with acne and even in some people who don’t already have acne. The breakout of your skin can range from just a few more blackheads and whiteheads to a larger number of new, sore spots. 

Although it can be frustrating when it happens to you, don’t panic – purging is a normal process in the journey to clearing your skin and it is only temporary. 

Although it can be frustrating when it happens to you, don’t panic – purging is a normal process your skin goes through in the journey to clearing your skin and it is only temporary. 

What causes skin purging?

Purging is most often caused by active ingredients such as tretinoin and azelaic acid that increase skin cell turnover and target blocked pores. The increase in skin cell turnover may initially lead to more blocked pores before the skin starts clearing entirely. Think of it like a spring clean – just a temporary side effect on your way to clearer skin. 

How long does skin purging last?

Purging from active ingredients generally doesn’t last for much longer than a month, or six to eight weeks at most. If you’re still experiencing purging after that amount of time, it’s probably another cause. You can contact our support team at if you want to discuss any worries about purging.

Sometimes a product is irritating your skin rather than causing skin renewal, leading to spots. Ensure your skin remains well hydrated with a non-comedogenic moisturiser (it won’t clog your pores) and adjust your treatment if your skin feels red and irritated. Make sure to stop using any additional over-the-counter ingredients that could irritate your skin further, like harsh cleansers and exfoliating acids such as AHA and BHAs

However, if you’re breaking out after introducing a new moisturiser, sunscreen or serum, there’s something going wrong! It could be the product, it could be something else in your life, but it’s probably not a skin purge. 

Is it possible to purge again?

In short, yes. But there are a few different factors that will affect whether or not you go through purging again. Staying consistent with your treatment reduces this risk immensely, so be sure to apply your treatment every night – if you’re struggling to do this, you’ll need to contact your Pharmacist Clinician.

If you use a new product that increases skin-cell turnover (a retinoid such as tretinoin, or a strong acid like azelaic acid), after a long break, then you might start purging again if your skin isn’t used to it. 

What can you do if you experience purging?

Remind yourself that purging is a temporary process and there is light at the end of the tunnel. The purge means that the ingredients are doing their job. Your skin and your mental health are linked though, so if you do feel like you need support in this area there are resources out there like The Acne Support Charity’s Guide To Emotional Support.

In the meantime, here are a few tips and tricks that can make this period a bit more tolerable: 


Purging can be reduced by building up your tolerance to prescription ingredients slowly. That’s one of the many reasons why your Skin + Me treatment will usually begin with a gentle concentration of an active ingredient and slowly increase the strength every month. This also depends on your individual skin, which we assess when you sign up and throughout your treatment journey.

This doesn’t mean you’re able to guarantee that you won’t purge. In fact, many Skin + Me customers go through the purging process, but once it clears their skin is better than ever – take it from Skin + Me Subscriber Stephanie.


Keep using your personalised Daily Doser as you usually would, unless you are experiencing exceptional dryness and irritation. Using more of your personalised solution will not have any additional benefit and might actually make your purging worse, so stick to a simple twist and click. 


Keep your skincare routine simple. Ensure you are using a gentle cleanser – try our Skin + Me Purify + Prep Cleanser, designed to support the active ingredients in your solution.

Ensure you stay away from additional active ingredients such as AHAs and BHAs that can strip the skin further during this period – they can be re-introduced later on once your skin has settled. And of course, a dose of self-compassion is what’s needed here. You’ll get through it, and your skin will thank you for it.

You can hear more about purging and how to manage it from Consultant Dermatologist at Skin + Me, Dr Malvina Cunningham below:

If you notice a significant breakout or flare-up of your acne, please contact our Dermatology Support Team at They’ll be able to advise you, support you and discuss any changes to your solution should you need them. In some cases, they might recommend reducing the application of your personalised solution to every other night for two weeks, just to ease it off a little. 

If the purging has not decreased after six to eight weeks please contact our Dermatology Support Team at to discuss your treatment plan. Don’t worry – you’ve got this.

Medical facts checked by Head of Medical, Dr Jason Thomson.

New to Skin + Me? Get your first month of personalised skincare for £4.99 with promo code DOSE – complete our quick consultation here.

Looking for a routine refresh? Add the Dream Routine to your Skin + Me subscription.

In need of a restock? Head to The Skincare Shop for one-off purchases of your Routine Essentials.