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Ingrédients cosmétique induisant une purge cutanée.

Ingredients That Can Cause Skin Purging

In some situations, what we think is acne is not always acne: it could be a skin washout. This phenomenon occurs after the use of certain active ingredients in skincare. Find out which ingredients are responsible for this skin reaction.

What Is Purging of the Skin?

Skin purging, or rebound effect, is a natural process characterized by an epidermal rash, usually microcomedones, similar to an acne breakout. After applying a new leave-in care product and under the action of certain active ingredients, impurities quickly reach the surface of the epidermis. This is eithe

For the way skin cells from deeper layers reach the surface (accelerated cell renewal), or the way the skin removes impurities clogging the pores faster than usual. Normally, the skin would eliminate these impurities individually over time in the form of open comedones (blackheads) or closed comedones.

What Types of Ingredients Can Trigger Skin Purging?

The skin purging phenomenon is usually caused by the use of skin care products that stimulate cell renewal and promote natural desquamation of the skin. This pushes out the microcomedones that have formed or are forming all at once. Ingredients that activate cell renewal and/or exfoliate the skin include:

  • Azelaic Acid

    Azelaic acid is not an AHA, BHA or PHA, but its effect on the skin is comparable to that of a chemical peel. Instead of breaking down the bonds between superficial skin cells like chemical peels, azelaic acid acts on the various stages of keratinization, a process of cell differentiation in which the cells of the deeper layers of the epidermis are converted into dead cells to form the stratum corneum.

    This natural dicarboxylic acid, which is mild to the epidermis, actually has anti-keratinizing abilities, meaning that it helps to normalize the keratinization of the epidermis with a significant reduction in the thickness of the stratum corneum by modulating the early and late stages of epidermal differentiation of keratinocytes. They can then lead to a washout of the skin.

  • Organic hydroxy acids (AHA, BHA, PHA).

    Hydroxy acids are popular in cosmetic and dermatological formulations and are known for their peeling properties on the skin. They gradually disrupt the cohesion of corneocytes in the skin barrier, causing the dead cells to peel evenly from the outermost layers of the stratum corneum. As a result, they accelerate the skin's renewal cycle. Water-soluble AHAs and PHAs act only on the surface of the skin, while fat-soluble BHAs act both on the surface and deep within the pores. As a result, it is not surprising that they carry the risk of skin purging.

    Names: Glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, citric acid, tartaric acid, malic acid, salicylic acid, betainsalicylate, willow bark extract, salicylate, trethocanic acid, sodium salicylate, lactobion, gluconolactone.

  • The enzymatic peeling agents

    Enzymes from fruits/yeasts work on the same principle as AHAs, BHAs and PHAs. Their goal is to remove damaged skin cells that have accumulated in the upper layer of the skin and stimulate skin cell renewal through a chemical reaction. Here's why they are associated with the phenomenon of cleansing.

    Names: Grapefruit extract, pomegranate extract, raspberry extract, blackberry extract, papain, ficin, bromelain, actinidin, catalase, etc.

  • Benzoyl Peroxide

    Benzoyl peroxide, often used in the form of cream or gel to treat acne, has three functions: an antibacterial action, which consists in eliminating the bacteria involved in the inflammatory phenomena of acne (Propionibacterium acnes), a moderate sebostatic action to regulate sebum production, and a keratolytic action to neutralize hyperkeratinization. The latter makes it another ingredient that causes skin purification.

  • The retinoids

    Retinoids, popular for combating visible signs of aging, pigmentation spots and acne, promote proliferation and differentiation of epithelial cells (keratinization process). Although the application of retinoids is associated with desquamation due to their drying nature, they will not act like exfoliants on the surface.

    The fat-soluble retinol reaches the basal layer of the epidermis, where it enters the keratinocytes and binds to a receptor to influence the secretion of transcription and growth factors responsible for the proliferation of the epidermal layer and the strengthening of the protective function of the epidermis. As a result, it can lead to cleansing of the skin when you start using it.
    Names:Retinol, retinoic acid and its derivatives (tretinoin, adapalene, tazarotene, isotretinoin), retinal, retinol ester (retinyl palmitate, retinyl propionate, retinyl linoleate, retinyl acetate).

Sources :

  • ORFANOS C. E. & al. Effects of azelaic acid on sebaceous gland, sebum excretion rate and keratinization pattern in human skin. An in vivo and in vitro study. Acta Dermato-Venereologica (1989).

  • ARIF T. Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review. Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology (2015).

  • BUDZISZ E. & al. Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. Postepy Dermatologii I Alergologii (2019).


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