After much research and consideration, you finally decide on trying out that new skincare routine. But one week later instead of having amazing skin, you find a lot more bumps starting to appear!
Is this normal? How long should I persist? Will the breakouts stop?
Before you go into panic mode and start to switch, let's find out what is happening before deciding what to do.
Why am I breaking out more?
First of all, this is quite normal when you initially switch skincare products. It is commonly referred as 'purging' and happens when
- You start incorporating acids (AHAs, BHA) regularly in your routine
- There is congestion beneath your skin surface
AHAs and BHA are chemical exfoliants. They act on the outermost layer of our skin causing the skin cells to slough off, allowing the newer cells beneath to surface. This is how they facilitate skin renewal along with all the other benefits of chemical exfoliation. As the lower skin layers are now starting to surface at a much faster speed, all congestion or clogged sebum will be brought to the surface very quickly, and usually most of them at once. These blemishes are not caused by your new products, but rather, they are now being exposed and will be eliminated much faster.
How long will this last?
Since our outermost skin layer takes about 4 weeks to renew itself, the process can last anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks, depending on how much congestion there is under the surface. Give your new routine at least a month before you dismiss it; don't make it a habit of chopping and changing without giving products enough time to work properly, unless it is an allergic reaction! Once you push through this period, you should start to see fresh smooth skin.
How do I tell if I'm 'purging' or genuinely breaking out?
Purging commonly occurs when you start introducing ingredients that exfoliate (AHAs, BHA) or accelerate cell turnover (retinoids). If you have already been using these ingredients prior to your new products, it could also be that your new products may be more potent (i.e. having a lower pH of AHA/BHA or higher concentration) that further accelerates this process. These blemishes are usually non-inflammatory (i.e. not super red or painful) and appear in areas where you normally experience breakouts. They only take a couple of weeks to resolve.
However, you should also know the signs if you are actually reacting negatively to your new products. You will start to get blemishes in places where you don't usually have them. They can be either raised flesh-coloured bumps or whiteheads if the new product is clogging your pores; or red/inflammed spots if the product is causing irritation in some way. They do not go away and but instead worsen with continued usage.
So the next time you try something new, you know whether your new products are working as intended or are actually making things worse for you!