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Medically Reviewed by Dr. Eva Simmons-O’Brien

Dr. Eva Simmons O’Brien received her MD from Yale University and is a board-certified dermatologist. With over 30 years of experience, she has worked for hospitals, established her own private practice, and consulted for organizations such as the FDA. Today, Dr. Eva runs her own practice in addition to serving as our Chief Science Officer.

What Is Skin Purging

What Is Skin Purging

What Is Skin Purging



Picture this: you finally bite the bullet and decide to take better care of your skin. You grab a few products from the store, get them home, and start using them completely as directed. Within a few days, you’ve got a rash of pimples all over your face. 

We’ve definitely been victimized by the new product breakout, but skin purging is the real culprit behind the bumps. Skin purging sounds as fun as it is, but it’s actually a good and necessary part of using some skin care products. 

We’ll explain skin purging, which products cause it, what to do when it happens, and which ingredients might make purging a little easier for you. 

Skin Care 101

Before we go HAM on skin purging, let’s cover a few basics of how your skin works. Your skin is made up of multiple layers. The layer you see is the stratum corneum or the epidermis. Guess what? It’s dead. The outer layer of your skin is made up of 20-30% dead skin cells.

Your skin is constantly in the process of making new skin, pushing older skin cells to the surface (the stratum corneum) so they can be sloughed away. This process can take up to a month as you get older. When you’re younger, it takes roughly 7-14 days. 

Because new skin equals more youthful-looking skin, we often find ingredients in products that are designed to speed up the skin cell turnover process. 

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s), beta hydroxy acids (BHA’s), chemical peels, and even more aggressive treatments like laser therapy can all stimulate cell turnover and speed up the skin cell cycle process. 

When we use these products, skin purging is likely to happen. 

Why Is My Skin Purging?

Skin purging is the development of pimples and blackheads (usually really small) after beginning a product designed to speed up cell turnover. It can seem like a nasty side effect, and it’s definitely made much worse if you can’t leave your skin alone and insist on picking or prodding it. 

When your skin cell turnover speeds, the layer of dead skin cells on your stratum corneum multiplies. These dead skin cells can mix with sebum (your skin’s natural oil), dirt, and other external particles and clog your pores, forming blemishes. 

These blemishes multiply when your skin is turning over rapidly, making the situation on your skin pretty freaking annoying. 

How Long Does Skin Purging Last?

From start to finish, you can experience skin purging for up to six weeks. Settle down, that’s the long-range estimate. Most of the time, you’ll only have bumps for a few days to two weeks tops; a small price to pay for the reward of eventually having more youthful-looking skin. 

Breakout vs. Skin Purging: How To Tell the Difference

You can easily tell the difference between a regular breakout and skin purging by paying close attention to your skin before and after using a product. If you never get breakouts but develop bumps within a few days of beginning a new product, your skin is purging. 

Skin purging bumps are also different in structure than normal breakouts. 

Normal breakouts can include large cysts and whiteheads and serious, deep blackheads. The blemishes created by skin purging are usually much smaller, and almost look like a rash. 

What To Do About Skin Purging

First, don’t pick your skin. Bro, it will make matters so much worse. The key to surviving the purge is patience, but you should also make sure the product that’s causing the purge is worth the wait. 

Some products are too harsh, especially for sensitive skin. If your skin becomes red, irritated, and begins to peel or flake, the ingredients are likely too strong for your skin. It’s a better idea to start off with a product you can trust to be gentle yet effective, and know that any skin purging you experience will be short-lived. 

Ingredients That Cause Minimal Purging

You want anti-aging and the benefits of using products that encourage cell turnover (which can also be incredibly beneficial in fighting acne). Still, you want the least amount of purging possible. No, it’s not an impossible dream. Here are three ingredients that work to increase cell turnover without leaving you covered in bumps. 

1. Phytic Acid

Phytic acid is a naturally occurring, plant-based acid derived from almonds. This ingredient works to speed up the skin cell turnover process, but it does so without causing serious irritation to your skin. 

Like glycolic acid, phytic acid is an AHA, which means it exfoliates your skin and speeds up skin cell turnover by breaking the bonds between dead skin cells on your stratum corneum and new, living cells underneath. 

This type of chemical exfoliation works well, primarily if you use phytic acid in a cleanser so that the dead skin cells are effectively washed away. 

Disco’s Face Cleanser Stick contains phytic acid along with charcoal. 

Once phytic acid has removed the dead skin cells, charcoal dives deep into pores to clean out the gunk. Coconut oil rounds out our ingredients to help keep skin hydrated without clogging pores. It also helps soothe irritation, which can help prevent purging. 

2. Papain

Papain is an extract of papaya. It’s a fruit enzyme that also has chemical properties that allow it to break down the proteins in dead skin cells and help lift them from the surface of your skin. Papain is especially good for the skin because it also has ingredients that help it heal and restore your skin. 

Often added to scar-reducing products, papain helps fade areas of hyperpigmentation, which can give you a smoother, more even skin tone. 

We include papain in our Exfoliating Face Scrub

Most scrubs are abrasive and can even create microtears in the skin, but our scrub uses papain and apricot seed powder to gently remove dead skin cells. 

We also apricot oil and aloe in our face scrub to ensure your skin is hydrated and soothed while you exfoliate. This can help keep your skin calm and help you avoid irritation and skin purging. 

3. Macadamia Oil

Macadamia oil is a plant-based oil that won’t clog your pores and works to hydrate your skin and reverse the signs of aging (like those crow’s feet hanging out by your eyes). Macadamia oil contains squalene and oleic acid, which encourages cells to regenerate more quickly. 

Macadamia oil has skin-soothing properties that help keep your skin from experiencing irritation. Our Hydrating Face Moisturizer contains macadamia oil along with vitamin C to help boost collagen production and keep your skin looking bright. 

Let’s Disco

Skin purging isn’t an event you want to host on your skin, but sometimes it’s a necessary part of your skin adjusting to a new product, especially if that product is anti-aging. If you use a product and notice your skin begins to purge, don’t panic. The purging phase should only last a few days to two weeks tops. 

If you’d rather just skip the whole thing, we hear you. It might not be possible to avoid skin purging altogether, but you can switch to products with plant-based ingredients, which may help you see less of it. 

Disco’s entire line of skin care is formulated without harsh chemicals that could cause your skin to purge and become irritated at the same time. 

Our ingredients help encourage cell turnover naturally and gently because we understand that dudes have a sensitive side (even if it’s just on their skin). 



How does skin work? | 

Layers of the Skin | 

Sebum - an overview | Science


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