Why Some People Get Acne During Detoxes and How to Prevent It

Published November 13, 2019 | Published by Daisy Cabral

When you start taking a detox product, whether it's for your skin or for your body, you probably expect to feel better. What many detox products don't tell you is that there are often side effects.

One common side effect is acne. Skin blemishes are common, both with internal detox teas and with external face masks and other products. They're temporary, sure, but they're annoying and sometimes painful when all you wanted was to feel better. So what gives? 

Is Acne During Detox Normal?

First, let's get this major question out of the way. Is a breakout during a detox normal, or is it cause for concern?

Thankfully, it's completely normal. There's nothing wrong with you if you have a few blemishes or a minor breakout while going through a detox process. Most of the time, you don't need to be worried about it.

The only time when acne during a detox is cause for concern is when it's very bad and gets worse after several weeks of detoxing. This can be a sign of some kind of allergic reaction to an ingredient in the detox, particularly when you're noticing it in areas you've used a skin detox mask or other topical product. 

Be sure to recognize the difference between acne and hives; hives are definitely a sign of an allergic reaction and mean you should discontinue using that product until you identify what causes them. 

How a Detox Works 

It's worth taking a minute here to explain how detox products work. There are a lot of different kinds of detox products, but most of them tend to work in one of a few ways.

Consumable detox products include a range of different ingredients for different purposes. They have vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that stimulate and heal your liver, to enhance your body's natural detoxification processes. They often include nutrients to replace those you lose through the detox process, or through fasting during the detox.

These detox products also often include ingredients with laxative and diuretic effects, to help your body expel toxins and other accumulated junk. So, don't be too surprised if your detox product of choice has you spending a bit more time in the restroom than usual.

Topical detox products don't directly stimulate your internal organs, but rather, they address the problem from the surface level. Face masks and other skin detox products are aimed at stimulating the natural healing processes in the skin, as well as lifting away any toxins or other grime that seeps to the surface.

When a detox product stimulates your body to purge toxins, your body does so, through natural means. This includes getting rid of them through urine and feces, but also through breath and sweat. It all depends on what, specifically, the body is getting rid of, and how your natural processes get rid of it. 

See where we're going with this? 

Why a Detox Causes Acne

If a detox is causing your body to purge accumulated grime and dirt, and sweat is one way to get rid of it, it stands to reason that your body will be sweating out dirt and grime. It does this because one of the primary carriers for such toxins is the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is close to the skin, and makes your pores a convenient exit.

Of course, having dirt clogging your pores is exactly what causes acne. Thus, stimulating the removal of toxins via the skin can lead to clogged pores, breakouts, and full on acne attacks.

The other way in which a detox can lead to an acne breakout is if you're using a topical face mask style detox product, and you aren't fully cleaning it off. Many such products call for a deep exfoliating scrub after using the mask, to get rid of all of the mask and any lingering toxins it has lifted off of your skin.

If bits of the mask and bits of toxins are left in your skin, they linger and fester, and that causes acne as well. 

A third possible cause for acne flare-ups during a detox is simply your body adjusting to a new normal. This is particularly common with people who are doing a detox for the first time. You've never gone through the detoxification process, and now you're putting a lot of burden on your skin to purge years worth of built-up toxins that have never had anywhere to go before. 

Your skin is a huge organ that is constantly replenishing itself, from the inside out. Outer layers of skin are dying and falling off all the time, and inner layers are growing and refreshing themselves.  In fact, if this process goes too quickly, it causes disorders such as psoriasis!

When your skin goes through detox, you're encouraging it to purge toxins along with dead skin, old oils, accumulated dirt, and other nastiness. It can do so, but it might take some time. Lower layers of skin need time to grow and die and fall off – or be removed via a mask, scrub, or other skin treatment – carrying the toxins with them. This is why you might get more than one breakout while detoxing; your skin is progressing in "waves" and each wave is bringing more junk with it to get rid of. 

How Long Will an Acne Breakout Last?

It's hard to tell you just how long a breakout will last, because everyone's skin is different. You may have a shorter or longer skin rejuvenation cycle. You might be more sensitive to certain kinds of treatments.

Acne is a difficult disorder to track, as well. Skin breakouts like acne can start forming weeks or even months before they swell up enough to be visible. On the shorter end of the cycle, dietary sources can lean to a breakout in a few days or a few weeks after consuming the item, which is common with detox teas and other supplements. Conversely, other causes, like topical causes, can be anywhere from a few days to up to 90 days before the breakout becomes visible, heals, and passes.

Luckily, an individual breakout isn't necessarily going to last very long. It only takes a few days to heal a minor flare-up of acne, in most cases. Of course, this can also vary depending on how oily your skin is naturally, how much care you take to keep your skin clean, how heavy your activity levels are during the day, and if you're using any dedicated anti-acne skin care products.

As mentioned, though, your skin lives and dies in waves. Acne flares will come and go, sometimes for months, as long as you're taking a detox product. If you're sensitive to the ingredients and your skin is prone to breakouts, it can last longer. If you're more resistant and don't normally get acne, you're more likely to be over them quickly.

Thankfully, each flare-up is likely to be less intense than the previous flare. Assuming you're taking a detox product or routine regularly, and you're adjusting your diet and exposure to things like sun damage and petrochemicals, your body will have fewer and fewer toxins to expel. Thus, each time a flare-up occurs, you have less causing it, and it won't be as bad.

Your body will never be completely free of toxins. There's simply too much present in everything we eat, everything we breathe, and everything we touch. Your body even produces toxins naturally, as byproducts of digestion, healing, and growth. That's why we've evolved organs to deal with them, after all. Still, your goal with a detox routine is to minimize the amount trapped in the body, not to get rid of every last atom.

How to Deal with Detox Acne Breakouts

Unfortunately, there's no reliable way to completely prevent any sort of skin breakout from happening during a detox. Some people are simply more prone to acne than others, and any detox cleanse is going to cause them. 

There are a few things you can try, though.

First, consider switching the product or routine you're using. There are a lot of different detox products out there, from robust routines of supplements and skin care items, to simple liver stimulating supplements, to fasting and deep cleansing. If one of them is causing you discomfort, consider trying a different one.

The problem with this option is that many people experience one negative side effect and choose to switch products rather than stick it out past the point where that side effect drops off.

Thus, the second option is to NOT switch the product or routine you're using. If your acne is particularly bad, it's probably a good idea to switch. If it's not quite so bad, or if you're practiced in dealing with it, you can simply tough it out. There's a pretty good chance that, once the initial flare-up passes, you may not get more, or those you do will be less and less pronounced each time.

A third option – really, just something you should do in general – is keep better care of your skin in general. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure to remove any makeup before exercising or doing any moderate to heavy physical activity; anything that makes you sweat, really. Makeup tends to seal in the skin, so anything that causes sweating – physical activity, detoxing, and so on – will simply trap all those excess toxins, oils, and dead skin cells on the surface and in your pores. It's better to let your skin breathe and get rid of those toxins through sweat and evaporation.
  • Use a daily cleanser to keep your pores clean and your skin as clear as possible. Harsh face masks and scrubs might be better left for a couple times a week or less, but a daily cleanser is a good idea. Again, all of these dirts, oils, and toxins are building up in your skin and pores. You want to remove them as much and as thoroughly as possible without causing damage.
  • If you're using a mask or other lifting detox product, make sure you thoroughly cleanse your skin afterwards, to avoid letting any of those toxins become trapped in the skin. 

Additionally, you can make other beneficial changes to your lifestyle to encourage detoxification. Most importantly, drinking plenty of water – at least 1 liter every day – helps your body flush out toxins through the kidneys rather than through the skin. Sure, you'll have to pee a lot, but that's better than an acne flare-up, wouldn't you say?

Other healthy changes include eating more healthy foods and cutting out the less healthy processed, high fat, high sugar foods. Those kinds of foods are responsible for a good portion of the toxins in your body to begin with, so it's generally better to minimize how much you take in, so your detox doesn't have to work as hard to remove them later.

And, of course, if you do have acne flare-ups while you're detoxing, be sure to treat your skin properly. There are a lot of different treatments, both holistic and prescription, to treat acne. Give each treatment a try, give them time to work, and see how your skin feels. Something has to work for you. It's just a matter of finding the right combination of detoxing, skin cleaning, and treatments.

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