Benzoyl Peroxide is a popular active ingredient in skincare that is amazing for treating acne.
It acts by killing acne-causing bacteria, unclogging your pores, and removing dead skin cells from the surface of your skin.
However, there is one potential side effect of using benzoyl peroxide that many of us know little about – purging.
Does Benzoyl Peroxide Cause Skin Purging
Yes, benzoyl peroxide can cause skin purging for some individuals.
Benzoyl peroxide essentially speeds up the rate at which your skin cells are turned over. When this happens, the clogs and build-up that are deeper down in the skin are pushed to the surface faster than they would have been normally.
This makes it seem like your skin is breaking out or like your acne is getting worse. But what is really happening is a skin purge, which is generally a good thing.
However, not everyone’s skin will purge when using benzoyl peroxide. Everyone’s skin is different. Some people will have lots of debris and clogs under the surface of their skin that the ingredient will push to the surface. Some of us will have little to none. Therefore, some of us will purge and some of us will not.
How Long Does A Benzoyl Peroxide Skin Purge Last
A benzoyl peroxide skin purge should not last for more than 4-6 weeks.
Skin purging “breakouts” resolve much faster than acne breakouts or regular breakouts. If the breakouts last longer than 6 weeks, this could be a sign that the product is making things worse. If that is the case, you should see your dermatologist as soon as possible.
How to tell the Difference Between A Benzoyl Peroxide Skin Purge & Acne
A skin purge will look like a breakout, but three things will confirm the difference between a benzoyl skin purge and acne: timing, duration, and location.
If you notice that your breakout starts just after you have started using benzoyl peroxide rather than after a new moisturizer or other non-active products, then your skin is most likely purging.
A regular breakout or acne usually flares up spontaneously, with changes in weather or hormones, after eating certain foods, or after using products (like moisturizer and sunscreen) that block the pores.
A skin purge should not last for more than 4-6 weeks.
If your breakouts last longer than that, then you are either having an acne flare-up or a regular breakout.
This can be because the benzoyl peroxide is either too strong, being used too much, not being used enough, or is just not right for your skin.
When your skin is purging, the breakouts usually appear in the areas where you usually have acne breakouts. If you see breakouts in new areas, then it is most likely not a skin purge.
How To Manage or Treat A Benzoyl Peroxide Skin Purge
The best thing you can do when your skin is purging is to wait it out and keep your skincare routine simple.
While you wait for your purge to end, you can:
- Keep your skin clean (but avoid exfoliating and harsh cleansers)
- Keep your skin hydrated and moisturized (use moisturizers that will not block your pores)
- Avoid picking or popping any of the pimples or breakouts that appear
- Limit sun exposure and/or always wear SPF
If you realize that your breakout is not a skin purge, stop using benzoyl peroxide immediately. See a dermatologist as soon as possible and stick to the very basic skincare routine for a few days (cleanse, moisturize, SPF).
Skin Purge VS Breakouts – How To Tell If You’re Having A Product Reaction
Can You Prevent A Benzoyl Peroxide Skin Purge
A skin purge cannot be truly anticipated and prevented, whether it be from benzoyl peroxide or another active ingredient in your skincare routine.
However, most dermatologists recommend that you may be able to help your chances of avoiding a skin purge if you gradually introduce benzoyl peroxide into your routine rather than using it all at once.
For instance, you can start by using it in a mild, wash-off formulation (like a face wash or cleanser) and then gradually work your way up to leave-on products (toner, serums, spot treatments).
Or, you can start with low concentrations in any formulation and gradually work your way up to stronger concentrations if necessary.
You may always play around with how often you use it. You can start by using it once per week and gradually work your way up until your skin can tolerate daily use.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Should you stop using benzoyl peroxide if you are purging?
You should not stop using benzoyl peroxide if you are purging.
Purging is ultimately good for your skin and is temporary. After it is over, you will start to see the true effects and benefits of benzoyl peroxide on your skin.
However, if you stop using the ingredient before your skin has time to purge itself of its impurities, you will never see the treatment actually work.
Does benzoyl peroxide make you break out at first before it gets better?
In some people, using benzoyl peroxide can cause a breakout first before your skin gets better.
However, as discussed above in this article, this is not a real breakout, but a skin purge, which is not a bad thing.
How normal is it to purge using benzoyl peroxide?
It is quite normal for your skin to purge when using benzoyl peroxide, especially if you are using it for the first time.
This can also happen if you change the concentration, frequency, or formulation of benzoyl peroxide after using one thing for a while.
Can you stop purging from benzoyl peroxide?
If your skin begins to purge after starting benzoyl peroxide, the only way to stop it is to stop using the treatment, but this is not recommended.
While doing this will slow the purge down and eventually stop it, you would have just irritated your skin. You will not get to see the actual benefits of your treatment in the long run.