Between the cooler temperatures and crisp air, the transition into fall and winter can present your skin barrier with some challenges. The good news? This is the perfect time to purge your sun-damaged summer skin and start a new skin care regimen that will have your skin looking and feeling its best all season long.

But before you switch up your routine, it's important to understand the concept of skin purging. What does skin purging look like, and what is it exactly? Here's what you need to know.

What Is Skin Purging?

Put simply, skin purging is how the skin responds to an ingredient that promotes skin cell turnover. So, what does skin purging look like? Outwardly, purging can resemble an ordinary breakout. This is because skin cell turnover can push impurities to the surface. But skin purging is actually a protective function of the immune system as it removes (or purges) damaged skin cells in order to make way for fresh ones.

In other words, skin purging is congestion being flushed out from below the surface of your skin—and it's a good thing!

Building a New Skin Care Routine

In addition to the skin care fundamentals, certain trusted ingredients can help you speed up skin cell turnover, like Retinol, and also repair and regenerate, like Hyaluronic Acid, ceramides, and Niacinamide. By learning how each product affects your complexion, you can put together a routine that leaves you with fresh skin purged of last season's impurities.

Use Retinol Like a Pro

Retinols are key to supple, healthy skin. When your skin is exposed to damage like pollution, smoking, stress, and ultraviolet (UV) light, your skin may become fragile, rough, discolored, and wrinkled. Retinol has been shown to improve these unwanted effects by stimulating collagen production and speeding up skin cell turnover. Including a topical Retinol at night can assist in healthy purging. These early breakouts may be frustrating, but they're a natural part of the process and will fade once your skin adjusts.

Here's how to use this all-star product:

  1. Apply a pea-sized amount to a clean, dry face one or two nights per week for the first two weeks, increasing gradually as tolerated.
  2. Apply a moisturizer, like EltaMD Skin Recovery Light Moisturizer, before and after the retinol to your entire face. Moisturizers with ingredients like Sodium Hyaluronate pull water into the skin to prevent dryness.
  3. Practice patience. Your skin needs (and deserves) time to adjust to your new regimen. Topical Retinols take an average of 12 weeks to demonstrate their full potential, which includes boosting collagen production, decreasing fine lines, and resolving dyspigmentation.

Stay Moisturized

When it comes to moisturizing, humectants like Hyaluronic Acid are wonder ingredients. They come in many forms, including serums, creams, gels, and lotions. Hyaluronic Acid can moisturize and plump skin within minutes by pulling water into the epidermis, playing a key role in skin cell generation and repair. Skin care products like EltaMD AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer also help to prevent dryness and irritation. Apply your moisturizer after a gentle cleansing to help it penetrate the skin.

Choose Ceramides

Intracellular lipids, or ceramides, are the glue that holds your skin cells together, improving resilience and preventing damage from the sun's UV rays and other harmful environmental factors. Seven classes of ceramides are responsible for upholding the structure and permeability of your skin's water barrier. But, do ceramides cause purging?

Given that ceramides don't speed up cellular turnover, they don't cause purging—but going without them can cause skin barrier dysregulation. The EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex contains five ceramides designed to repair the stratum corneum (your skin's outermost layer), restore hydration, and improve skin texture.

Fight Inflammation with Niacinamide

Derived from active Vitamin B3, Niacinamide complements topical Retinols with its anti-aging benefits. Niacinamide is also anti-inflammatory and antibacterial—and it both reduces hyperpigmentation and increases ceramide production. Using products like EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer with Niacinamide every evening can help decrease redness and repair skin.

Wear Sunscreen

Of course, a broad-spectrum SPF product is the cornerstone of every skin care routine. Apply sunscreen every morning after washing your face, and be sure to reapply every two hours as needed. Protecting your skin from UV rays is essential to get the most out of last night's Retinol routine. EltaMD UV Glow Broad-Spectrum SPF 36 provides sun protection with mineral sunscreen Zinc Oxide. You may prefer mineral sunscreen if you have sensitive skin, or prefer a topical that works immediately, and will reflect both UVA and UVB rays.

The Finished Product

Refreshing your skin care routine gives you the opportunity to examine your current product ingredients, account for changing seasons, and adjust for new goals. With a little education, you'll be equipped to purge your skin of congestion and strengthen your first line of defense. Retinols help stimulate cellular turnover, and ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid and Niacinamide create a cohesive skin barrier to block harmful bacteria, irritants, and allergens while refreshing skin tone, pigmentation, and suppleness.

So, go ahead—purge your skin with a new skin care routine to unleash the brightest, smoothest, and best version of yourself.


  • Jessica DiJulio, MA, MMS, PA-C

    Jessica DiJulio is a board-certified physician assistant. She graduated from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University as a member of its inaugural class. She enjoys all aspects of dermatology including working with inflammatory skin conditions like atopic dermatitis in children, adults and using her master's degree in English to contribute as a freelance medical writer.

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