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What is Happening to My Face? Anticipated vs. Adverse Reactions

Here's what you need to know about how your skin reacts to your new skincare routine.

Barefaced skincare model image for blog post Anticipated vs Adverse reactions.

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Imagine this...

You've just started your skincare routine and you're thrilled to begin! A few days in, you look in the mirror and you see that your skin is red, tight, dry/flaky, irritated and sensitive.

Before you can even gasp, we’re here to tell you not to worry. This kind of reaction is completely normal when starting a new medical grade routine, and it’s what we call an anticipated reaction (keep scrolling to read more about this and purging, below). The active ingredients are penetrating into the skin and causing a reaction — but it’s the good kind of reaction, the kind we want!

These anticipated reactions occur especially when pairing products that contain these ingredients with a retinoid. Salicylic acid is oil-soluble which allows it to penetrate into the pores to unclog them (hello, acne sufferers, salicylic acid is your new BFF!) These two products are a powerhouse together and cause your pores to unclog, dead skin on the surface is removed and the stimulation of collagen production occurs. *Don’t worry though — these reactions will subside as you continue to use these products.


Barefaced skincare models with Glow Peel Pads and Toning Pads II.


However — adverse reactions are what we want to keep an eye out for. Adverse reactions usually present in the form of a rash or hives and this means that you in fact do have a sensitivity to the product. Remember, blotchy, red, dry, reactive skin is anticipated initially. Hives and rashes are usually raised and bumpy, cause redness and can be itchy. We know, we know — hives/rashes and redness/itchiness kind of all sound the same. But in reality, if you take a close look at the surface of your skin, you’ll definitely recognize the difference!

Still not sure? When in doubt, cut back on usage of your products that you may think are causing these reactions (example: use them a few times/week instead of daily) and ALWAYS gradually introduce new products to help minimize anticipated reactions. The Barefaced team is happy to help! If you have questions, don’t hesitate to email us!


About Purging

The dreaded purge. One in four people will experience purging when starting a new regimen with active ingredients. Purging generally happens in areas on the face that are already prone to breaking out. It occurs because your new regimen is bringing all of the dead skin cells and impurities to the tippy-top surface of the skin.

What to do? Use your products consistently and stick it out for the best results! Not everyone experiences a purging phase (lucky ducks!) However if you do, it can take up to 8 weeks for your skin to adjust. Hang in there! It will be worth it!


Barefaced skincare model.

Side note: if you are acne-prone, you will still have breakouts here and there! Skincare doesn’t magically make it all disappear forever (although that would be amazing, right?!).

If you are still experiencing breakouts after 8 weeks, you may need to switch up your products. If you have questions about this, reach out to us and we can work with you to customize your routine! You also have the option of discontinuing your products and slowly reintroducing them one by one.

When you’re going through the purging or anticipated reaction phase, remember: consistency is key! It will clear your skin quicker and you’re that much closer to being barefaced. We’ve done the research, and we’re here to tell you this is all normal and to be expected on your skincare journey when starting to use clinical grade products. It’s working and inducing positive change in the skin.
Cue the huge sigh of relief. You’ve got this, and we’re here for you along the way!

  1. Dermatologic Therapy, September 2017, pages 293-304
  2. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, January 2017, pages 37-46

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