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Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that is used in many skincare products to treat and prevent acne. It can help to unclog pores, kill acne-causing bacteria, reduce inflammation and smooth skin texture. Although it sounds like a miracle ingredient for acne, many people wonder does salicylic acid cause purging? Let’s find out!
What Is Skin Purging?
Let’s say you started using a new skincare product that contains salicylic acid. You hope to see clearer skin, but suddenly you notice that you’re breaking out more than usual. Your skin looks red and inflamed and you feel like you’re back at square one.
Don’t worry, this is likely just skin purging and it’s usually only temporary!
Skin purging occurs when an active ingredient causes an initial outbreak of acne or worsening of existing breakouts. This happens because the ingredient is working to speed up the skin’s natural turnover process, and as a result, it will bring all the dirt, oil and bacteria that’s clogging your pores up to the surface, which leads to an increase in acne and pimples. But only temporarily.
While it may be tempting to give up and ditch the product, it’s important to remember that this is only temporary and things will eventually get better. In fact, purging is actually a good sign that the product is working!
The term “purging” refers to the common side effect many people experience when using active ingredients like azelaic acid, retinol or glycolic acid. These ingredients work to speed up the skin’s natural turnover process, and as a result, they will bring all the dirt, oil and bacteria that’s clogging your pores up to the surface and leads to pimples, rough skin texture and inflammation.
Although annoying, skin purging is actually a good sign that the product is working doing its job and rest assured, you will have clear skin before you know it.
Purging severity and duration can vary from person to person. Some may experience closed comedones or blackheads, while others may get whiteheads, cystic acne or other inflammatory types of acne.
What Is Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid is one of the most popular skincare ingredients , and for good reason. It’s the gold standard for treating acne, and can also help to improve the appearance of large pores, blackheads, and oily skin.
Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), that comes from willow bark. It’s a natural exfoliant, so it helps to slough away dead skin cells and unclog pores. It’s considered a chemical exfoliant, which means it’s similar to lactic acid and glycolic acid. However, salicylic acid is special because it’s oil soluble which means that it can penetrate deep into the pores to help unclog them. And this is part of the reason why it’s such a great ingredient for acne and oily skin.
Salicylic helps to dissolve the “glue” that keep dead skin cells together, making it an effective method for exfoliation. When dead skin cells accumulate on the surface of the skin, they can clog pores and lead to breakouts. By dissolving the glue that holds these cells together, salicylic acid helps to prevent them from clogging pores in the first place.
Salicylic acid can help to dissolve dead skin cells and unclog pores, decrease blackheads, regulate oil production, and shrink pores. BHA’s are capable of going deep into the pore and cleaning it out, making them superior for treating acne than glycolic or other AHA’s.
It also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, making it ideal for acne-prone skin. Salicylic acid is available in a variety of forms, including gels, creams, serums, toners, and spot treatments.
Related post: Azelaic Acid Vs Salicylic Acid
Benefits Of Salicylic Acid
- Treats active acne – salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory properties which helps to decrease inflammation associated with pimples and can help to heal them quicker
- Prevents acne – BHA can treat active acne, but it also prevents new acne from forming by killing acne causing bacteria, balancing oil production and unclogging pores. It’s a comedolytic agent which means it prevents comedolytic acne like blackheads or closed comedones
- Smooths skin – salicylic acid is a keratolytic agent which means it can break down the outer layer of dead skin. This can help with stubborn closed comedones and smooth out rough skin texture
- Decreases oil production – salicylic acid is known for its ability to help balance and regulate oil production. It does so by regulating sebocytes, which are the cells that produce the sebum on your skin
- Minimizes pores – salicylic acid helps to keep pores clear and when pores are clear, they appear smaller
Related post: Salicylic Acid Vs Lactic Acid: What’s The Difference?
Does Salicylic Acid Cause Purging
So can salicylic acid cause purging? In short, yes salicylic acid can cause purging and an increase in breakouts at first.
Salicylic acid is one of the most popular skincare ingredients for treating acne and other skin issues. It can help to treat and prevent acne, smooth rough skin texture, decrease oil production, and minimize the appearance of pores. And while salicylic acid is definitely an effective skincare ingredient, most people will experience purging when first starting to use salicylic acid.
Salicylic acid is an exfoliant with keratolytic and comedolytic properties, which means it helps to unclog pores, shed dead skin cells and smooth skin texture. It does so by traveling deep into the pores to clear out any trapped dirt, bacteria, oils and skin cells. And all that gunk has to go somewhere, so salicylic acid brings it all up to the surface. The result? Skin purging!
Related post: How To Exfoliate Underarms For Body Odor
Many people start to experience an increase in breakouts when using salicylic acid for the first time. This is completely normal and it should get better as the weeks go on. Just remember, purging means that it’s working and you’re on your way to clear skin.
How Long Does Skin Purging Last With Salicylic Acid
If you experience salicylic acid purging, you’re probably wondering how long it will last. Of course, how long the purging lasts will vary from person to person. In general, it can last anywhere from a 3-4 weeks to 3-4 months. The average purge duration is about 6-8 weeks for most people, but some may experience purging longer than this. The purging will gradually get better as time goes on and will eventually stop. If you’re still experiencing breakouts after several months, you may need to adjust your routine.
Can Salicylic Acid Make You Break Out More?
Yes, salicylic acid can make you break out more. When you first start using salicylic acid, you may experience more breakouts than usual. Most likely, this is just purging and it will get better over time.
However, if you’re breaking out vs purging, you’ll likely need to adjust your skincare routine or even stop using salicylic acid.
If you experience a lot of breakouts with salicylic acid, it may be due to the fact that your skin is too sensitive for this type of exfoliant. You may want to try using a lower strength product or using the salicylic acid less frequently, such as just using it once a day instead of twice a day.
You may also want to adjust the frequency with which you use salicylic acid. If you’re using it every day, try cutting back to just 2-3 times per week.
How Do You Know If Salicylic Acid Is Working?
As with any skincare product, it can take several weeks before you start seeing results. Before you determine how salicylic acid is working for you, be sure to give it at least 4-6 weeks.
Salicylic acid is an incredibly effective acne treatment, so you should start to see changes in just a few weeks. You may notice that your breakouts are less severe and less frequent, your skin is more smooth, and your pores look smaller. Of course, if you purge on salicylic acid, you’ll notice an increase in breakouts, but those should gradually get better over the weeks. You should start to see an improvement in skin texture and clogged pores, even while purging.
If you have been using salicylic acid for 3-4 months and are not seeing any improvements in your skin, it’s likely salicylic acid is not right for your skin. After 3-4 months you should see major changes in your skin and any purging should be resolved or getting better. Although it takes time for salicylic acid to clear your skin, after several months, you should at least be seeing some improvements. And if you’re not, it’s a sign to make some adjustments.
Why Am I Still Breaking Out On Salicylic Acid?
There is nothing more frustrating than using a skincare product that’s supposed to help with acne, only to experience the dreaded purge. It leaves many people wondering why their skin is getting worse.
As with many skincare products, salicylic acid can take several weeks to start working So before you determine why you’re breaking out on salicylic acid, be sure give it at least 4-6 weeks. You should start to see gradual improvements in your skin. Keep in mind that full results can take 3-4 months!
If your skin is still breaking out despite using salicylic acid consistently for several months, there are a few possible reasons.
First, it may just not be the right product for your skin type or you could be using too much of it. If this is the case, try reducing the frequency with which you use salicylic acid or switching to a lower strength product.
For some people, salicylic acid can be too irritating, especially for those with drier or sensitive skin types. If this is the case, it may be worth trying a gentler exfoliant such as an AHA or low-strength retinol.
Purging Vs Breakout – How To Tell The Difference
If you’re starting to use salicylic acid, you might be wondering what does a salicylic acid purge look like? How do you know if it’s purging or a breakout? It’s helpful to know what each of these look like to help you determine if the product is working like it should vs causing acne.
Skin purging can look a lot similar to regular breakouts; hence it’s difficult to differentiate between the two. Which is why many people give up on using chemical exfoliants or retinols because they think it’s making their skin even worse.
Luckily, there are a few key things to look out for when determining if you are experiencing purging vs breakout with salicylic acid
In general, if the breakouts start soon after starting salicylic acid, chances are it’s purging.
But if you experience an increase in acne that you normally don’t break out in, then it could certainly be a breakout. For example, if you tend to get acne on your forehead and chin, but are suddenly experiencing acne all over your cheeks, that’s a good indication it’s a breakout and not purging.
The type of acne can also be an indicator. Purging will typically produce the same type of acne that you normally have. So if you normally get a lot of whiteheads or pustules and then start experiencing closed comedones, this can be a sign it’s a breakout.
If you continue to use salicylic acid and things just aren’t getting any better (or are even getting worse) several weeks after starting, this can also be an indication that it’s not just purging that’s going on.
How To Reduce Purging From Salicylic Acid
Once you start to experience an increase in breakouts, you’ll probably be wondering how to speed up skin purging. Unfortunately, you can’t speed up or prevent purging, but there are a few things you can to make it a little bit more bearable.
Nobody wants to experience a purge, but it’s important to remember that it is only temporary and will eventually subside. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help manage and reduce the purging process.
Start with a lower concentration: When first starting out with salicylic acid, it’s always best to start with a lower concentration. Whether you are using OTC products or prescription, try to stick with the lowest concentration available, and then you can work your way up once your skin adjusts.
Ease into it: Similar to starting with a lower concentration, you also want to ease into using it. Start by using it every other day or even just a few times a week. Once your skin gets used to it, you can increase frequency as needed. Salicylic acid can be used 2x daily, but you definitely don’t need to start out using it that often
Give your skin time to adjust: Just like with any new product or active ingredient, your skin needs time to adjust. Be patient and give it at least 4-6 weeks before you start seeing results. And remember, the purging process can last up to 6 weeks, so don’t give up too soon!
Pamper your skin: it’s important to also keep up with your regular skincare routine. This means cleansing your skin and making sure you remove all makeup. Moisturize twice daily. And you can even use more soothing products to help reduce inflammation associated with purging
Does Salicylic Acid Cause Purging? Wrap Up
Salicylic acid is one of the most effective active ingredients for treating acne-prone skin due its ability to exfoliate dead skin cells from the surface, kill acne-causing bacteria and smooth skin texture. However, salicylic acid can sometimes cause purging, where you’ll experience an increase in breakouts. Purging can last several weeks to several months. Some may think they’re skin is getting worse, but it really just means that the salicylic acid is doing its job and you’ll have clear skin in no time.