Is Skin Purging a Myth?

You decided to revamp your beauty routine and switch to clean skincare (hooray!). You love your new products and feel good about stepping in the right direction with your skin’s health. Morning and night, you apply your ethically-sourced oils, balms, and lotions. But, um, what is this? A pimple? Two? Three? Your skin was relatively clear before switching. What’s going on? Below are three common reasons switching to natural skincare can cause breakouts and how to get back to loving your clean routine.

  • 1. Your skin is adjusting to active ingredients
  • Natural Skincare Purging

    If you’re switching from conventional skincare…

    Conventional skincare often contains harsh ingredients, like benzoyl peroxide or retinol, said to ease acne but can also cause dry, red, or peeling skin. Dominique Carron, founder of Apoterra Skincare, says, “I sometimes get emails from customers who stop these kinds of products cold turkey. They start breaking out and don't know what to do." The cause? A decimated skin microbiome. For healthy skin, this delicate balance of bacteria is responsible for a glowing complexion. When it’s stripped or undernourished, often the case with topical antibiotics, it can lead to acne. This is just one instance of “purging.” “If you start using natural products that are a good fit for your skin your skin microbiome will rebalance within a few weeks,” says Dominique.

    If you’re brand new to skincare...

    There are a few natural active ingredients derived from fruit and plants typically found in green beauty, such as BHAs (like salicylic acid) and AHAs (like glycolic or lactic acid). Their main purpose is to prompt cell turnover—more commonly known as exfoliating. “While there is a bit of truth to the fact that skin needs to be exfoliated, too much too soon can cause inflammation and irritation,” explains Rita Marroquin, founder, and lead aesthetician at Calm Skincare Studio.

    The clogging of a pore starts small and then inflammation occurs slowly, bring it to the surface of the skin. So suddenly using a product that has acid in it can accelerate skin cell turnover, in essence, speeding up the rise of a blemish to the surface of the skin, which is one explanation for this mysterious “purging” thing. This may just be a case of using the wrong product or needing to adjust frequency, but if things don’t clear up after four weeks, stop using, Rita advises. Big beauty brands, like Allure, deem this increased cell turnover a “purge.” Of course, skincare isn’t one-size-fits-all so we dug a little further.

    2. You got duped by greenwashing

    Greenwashing skin purging

    We get it: it’s hard to tell the difference between clean skincare and total bull with those long and convoluted ingredient lists. One big, pore-clogging offender to steer clear of: mineral oil. It sounds classy, but it’s really a man-made, refined petroleum product that will do nothing positive for your glow. “This isn’t a “purge.” It’s just a cheap, non-quality ingredient irritating your skin. “Stop using it,” Rita warns. Other ingredients to steer clear of include silicone and fragrance.

    But natural minerals, on the other hand, like salt, clay, and zinc are beneficial to the skin. And natural oils that are nutrient dense with omegas and essential fatty acids do wonders. “They really do improve the overall function of the skin barrier by clarifying and promoting cellular regeneration—I’ve seen it,” says Rita. And, just to be clear, all of our products here at Apoterra are ethically sourced, rich, pure, and plant-based. We make sure to have a variety for all skin types (take our quiz!) and use only the most nourishing natural minerals, oils, and herbs.

    3. You switched too quickly

    New skincare routine skin purging

    A fresh skincare routine is exciting! You’re not alone in wanting to ditch the old stuff and start using all new mists and oils at once. But even natural skincare can cause unexpected reactions, like acne or a rash, especially if you have sensitive skin or an undiscovered allergy. “If you switch all at one and happen to have a sensitivity to an ingredient in one product, you won't be able to tell and might give up on other products that are actually a great fit,” says Dominique.

    Instead, eliminate your old routine in full and bring in new products one by one over a two-week period. This way you can monitor how your skin reacts to the changes. “Your skin should not react in a manner that is angry. If it does, I like to break it down ingredient by ingredient,” says Rita. Sound a little daunting? Our skincare experts are here to help. Don’t be shy in sending them an email at Also important: make your switch to green beauty the only change you make in your routine. That is, don’t start an elimination diet the same week you change your skincare.

    So, all in all, the definition of “skin purging” is a little murky. Breaking out from a new natural skincare routine can be due to an ingredient allergy, over-exfoliation, or previously unbalanced skin microbiome. Whatever the case, you’re on the right track looking to green beauty. As with anything, it may take a tweak or two to get just right.

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