Can Lactic Acid Cause Skin Purging?

Can Lactic Acid Cause Skin Purging?

Have you ever treated yourself to a new skincare product only to find you suffer from a flare-up of blemishes and breakouts, it doesn’t necessarily mean what you first think! Admittedly it could be a result of the ingredients found in the formulation you have tried, especially if it is a rich face cream or containing something you have not introduced to your skincare routine before. This is usually something we would suggest you should stop using all together. The other reason your skin could be breaking out is due to a normal skin reaction called purging, if this is something you have never heard of before you’ve joined us on the perfect day!

In this blog post we are going to be investigating the skin purging that can be caused by AHAs, in particular lactic acid as this it is known as one of the gentlest chemical exfoliants.

What is skin purging?

Often mistaken as a flare-up in breakouts but compared to it being the result of ingredients clogging the pores. Instead, the long-term results of skin purging are increasing the cell turnover by removing the top dead later of the skin making the complexion appear younger, fresh and glowing. The downside to this is the short term accelerated shedding can bring on a lot of blackhead and breakouts, this can often last between 4-6 weeks and requires you to continue using the product to ensure the skin builds its tolerance and reaps the full rewards from the skin performing a purge and removing all traces of unwanted gunk in the lower layers of the pores.

What does skin purging feel like?

You’ll find that purging looks like small, red bumps that can sometimes feel quite painful when touched. You’ll also find more common blemishes appear during purging, such as whiteheads and blackheads which explains how it is very often mistaken for acne breakouts. Considering the red bumps looking and feeling similar to an allergic reaction or irritation we always advise to perform a patch test by applying a 10 pence size amount of the product onto the inside of the forearm and leaving it on the skin for 24 hours. If there are no signs of irritation to the skin after this time, it is a good indication that your skin is happy with the formulation and you can apply it topically with the peace of mind there would be no reactions.

How long does your skin purge before it clears up?

Generally speaking a skin purge can begin to take effect on the skin after 2 weeks when you first start using a new skincare product especially if it is containing an ingredient that can speed the skin cell renewal such as the chemical exfoliants, AHAs, like glycolic acid and lactic acid being the two most popular. Ordinarily the skin can renew its cell cycle every 28 days which is a process that overtime can slow down as we age often resulting in a build-up of cells leaving the complexion looking dry, dull whilst showing signs of premature ageing such as fine lines and wrinkles. You can expect a skin purge to last for as long as 6 weeks, remembering that everyone’s skin is unique making it difficult to determine just how long a purge will last. Many experts and dermatologists say that anything between 4 and 6 weeks is normal but you are still seeing signs for longer you should consult a doctor or dermatologist to discuss what are be done to help calm and reduce the flare-up especially if it is a case of having to adjust the dosage or frequency of applying the product.

What acids cause purging?

There are some acids and certain ingredients that can cause purging such as:

  • Retinols/retinoids
  • AHAs such as lactic acid and glycolic acid
  • BHAs, mainly salicylic acid

All of these ingredients mentioned perform chemical exfoliating meaning they are able to rid the surface of the skin of a build-up of dead skin cells and other traces of dirt and debris that can result in the pores becoming blocked and developing into different breakouts and blemishes. Once the first purge of the skin is subsided you can expect to find the clarity of your skin is improved with the ability for other products to absorb into the skin more effectively.

Can lactic acid damage the skin?

Lactic acid is a popular member of the AHA family and is well known as one of the gentlest used in skincare formulations. It's molecular size is very large compare to other well-known ingredients, such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid. This also allows this acid to more widely used by all skin types as it can only work on the upper most layers of the skin preventing it from reaching too far into the dermis causing irritation and other reactions. One other benefit of using lactic acid compared to other more potent acids is the fact it is a humectant meaning it is able to draw in moisture from the area surrounding the face and any water from product formulations, locking them into the skin helping it to appear hydrated, less visible signs of ageing with a youthful bounce to the complexion.

How long does lactic acid purging last?

You can expect the purging of the skin after using lactic acid for the first time to last similar time to any other purging, from 4-6 weeks. As previously mentioned, if you are finding the side effects are still very much active and noticeable then it is best to consult with a dermatologist to figure out what would be the best way of tackling this without causing too much dryness and irritation to the skin. You may find that seeing as lactic acid is gentle that purging may not last as long, always remember to take your skin type into consideration when introducing ingredients into your daily routine and if you find your skin to be sensitive and prone to flare-up and inflammations it is best to perform a patch test for 24 hours to avoid any unwanted reactions. 

So, there you have a few answers to what purging actually is and how long you can expect to last on the skin. All AHAs vary in potency and can affect the skin in different ways, purging however, is something that will happen and although it may be a nonsense to begin with, in the long run you can expect your skin to look it’s best, feel amazing and reap the rewards of a well thought out daily skincare routine. If you are wanting to find out more about this clever acid you can check out our dedicated blog about lactic acid and its skincare benefits

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