Adjusting to Medical Grade Skin Care – Tips for Experiencing Skin Purging

Medical grade skincare and more specifically medical grade exfoliating acids like retinol, koji, or glow pads, decrease acne, improve texture, and eliminate pigmentation. However, upon first application of these products, you may notice that your skin has started breaking out. I know what you are thinking…“If this product is supposed to help my skin, why is it making me breakout!?” Days after starting these products, you notice little bumps on your cheeks, forehead, and chin. Remain Calm! What appears to look like a breakout is totally normal

Most likely, what you are experiencing is skin purging, not a breakout. 

What is skin purging? 

Skin purging refers to your skin’s reaction to a specific active ingredient that triggers cell turnover, causing your skin to exfoliate and bring congestion to the surface. As we age, the rate at which our skin turns over new cells slows and slows. The exfoliating acids work to increase cell turnover and make this happen more rapidly. In doing so, you notice that your skin will become brighter, tighter, and acne and pigment free. BUT, in order to get to that point, we have to first shed off all the dead skin & old acne. This is the purging process. It isn’t fun, but it is necessary. We can’t reveal the new gorgeous skin if we don’t get rid of the old skin first.

Is skin purging common?

This process is completely normal. And not only is it normal, it is a GOOD thing.  Any redress, dryness, or purging of acne or dead skin is temporary and will resolve over the next few days-weeks. For the first few weeks it is normal for your skin to be sensitive and dry while you are adjusting to the products. This is all a part of the process. It typically looks worse before it starts getting better. Your skin has to shed all of the dead skin cells and purge old acne to get “the junk” out before it can start really looking its best. That is what the products are set out to do! This is the part where the products are speeding up skin cell turnover and they are telling your skin to slough off dead skin cells in order to regenerate and make new ones.

Tips for Working Through The Skin Purging Process and Irritation

1. Include a Hydrocortisone Cream to Combat Irritation 

I recommend adding our ADS Calming cream to help you get through a skin purge. This is also helpful for those with more sensitive skin types who need a little assistance acclimating their skin to the exfoliating acids. You will apply a thin layer to your skin two times a day for soothing and calming effects. For the first few weeks, you can even apply the calming cream directly on top of your retinol, koji, or glow pads as you adjust.

This aloe based hydrocortisone cream helps soothe and calm irritated skin. It’s formulated specifically for the face, with just 1% hydrocortisone to temporarily relieve itching caused by minor skin irritations or rashes which may result from the purging process. We also recommend this cream for post-procedure treatments. Squalane and glycerin help hydrate the skin barrier while protecting against dryness. 

Note: ADS Calming cream is gluten, oil, and fragrance free and non-comedogenic (will not clog pores). Please use ROCKYNP to save yourself 10% !

I recommend using this on the nights you are not using exfoliants/pads and that will help you push through any irritation you may get. Like I mentioned you can also use it by applying it after the pads. This product is really helpful for sensitive skin clients as your skin adjusts to the new products. 

2. Take a Break 

If you get a little dry and irritated take a break from the pads for 2-3 days and focus on hydrating with your moisturizer. Then pick it back up more slowly with the pads

3. Start Slow 

Try using the pads every 3rd night for now, and then make sure to take a break the night after glow pads and moisturize before jumping back into pads

4. Use Then Rinse 

If you want to try wearing the glow pads for just 15-30 mins or so and then rinsing off you can do that and then slowly and gradually work your way up to wearing overnight

5. Cool and Calm with a Moisturizer 

If you want to try applying a little moisturizer or calming cream on top of the pads, that will slightly neutralize the acid making them a little less strong which is not a bad thing until you build more of a tolerance and can wear without moisturizer. If you don’t have the calming cream yet and you need relief ASAP I recommend OTC hydrocortisone cream from the drugstore. Aveeno is my favorite.

Can I prevent a skin purge from happening?

Unfortunately, not really. You can slowly introduce new products into your routine to give your skin some time to adjust. For example, once you start the koji pads you can apply one pad every third night. After a few weeks of every third night you can try applying a pad every other night and eventually nightly. Your skin will adapt to the new product and the slower you go the less purge you may see. But in all reality, we need to purge so you don’t want to drag it out too long.

Who experiences skin purging?

Any single person can experience purging and unfortunately it comes in various degrees for all skin types. Because your cells are turning over more quickly, lingering breakouts that might’ve taken weeks (or even months) to surface all start to come up at once. Someone who is very acne prone will have more purging than someone who is not. Someone with a lot of sun damage and dry skin will also have more purging than someone who does not. This means that, before it gets better, your acne can actually get worse. It may seem unfair, and skin purging can definitely be a discouraging process. But if you stick with it, you’ll be rewarded with smooth, clear skin!

How long does skin purging last?

The good news is that this annoying side effect is temporary. How long purging lasts depends on the individual, but on average, it lasts about one month. This is also the amount of time it takes for your new skin to come through at the end of a skin cell turnover cycle. If at the 6-8 week mark you do not see that your skin is starting to improve, this might be a time to either stop using the product or consider switching to an alternative. If this is the case for you, please reach out to me at this point for help. Although it is not super common, there are times when I need to switch your products if something isn’t sitting well with your skin.

The DO-NOTS of Skin Purging!

I want to stress the importance of refraining from picking blemishes during the course of your skin plan. Picking will result in injury to the skin, products will not be able to work their best, and the skin will scar and can take weeks to heal. Do not further agitate your face by picking or excessive touching. 

Remember that purging is very worth the wait and remaining patient is part of the process. In the end, purging is a good sign and is just one step to better skin. Keep at it, persevere, and continue using those products to improve your skin.

If you don’t have a plan yet or, if you would like to have your plan updated please reach out to me! For new plans head to my Shop Skincare page and send a request skin care suggestions! For returning clients wanting updated plans, please be sure to include an updated photo and a list of your current AM & PM info along with any pertinent info.

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5 thoughts on “Adjusting to Medical Grade Skin Care – Tips for Experiencing Skin Purging”

  1. Such a great write up! I just started my new skincare products and felt the purge right away. Now this has me thinking positively, the biggest struggle now is not to PICK!!! ARGH

  2. This is a great article and you are banged on with your points about adjusting to medical grade skin care tips for experiencing skin purging. Be clear about what you really need and want to accomplish at this point- you are right with this point.If possible visit this website to gain more idea or tips on the same.

  3. During the purging process, is it safe to wear makeup or do you recommend going au natural to speed this up?

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Racquel Frisella

Board Certified Nurse Practitioner & Aesthetic Specialist based in Saint Louis, Missouri

I work as a cosmetic injector and skincare specialist with 12 years of experience in the Aesthetic Industry. I see patients both in-office at Nayak Plastic Surgery & Avani Derm Spa for treatments as well as online for customized, complimentary skincare plans. I focus heavily on preventative and corrective injections, treatments, and skincare.  My career is my passion and I love to help people feel like the very best version of themselves. I am a wife and a mother of 3 beautiful children under the age of 3. I love all things beauty, fashion, and fitness. I am creating this site as a place to share my expertise on beauty, anti-aging, and skin while also giving a glimpse into my lifestyle as a mom, wife and lover of fitness!  


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