Skin Purge vs Breakout - Which is which?
So you've seen rave reviews about a certain skincare product online, and people are shook about how good this product is. Of course, you buy this supposed "holy grail" because it promises that all your skin problems would go away. But after a few days of using it, it looks like your skin is taking a turn for the worse.
Don't throw the product right away - introducing new skincare products to your routine commonly causes skin purging. But here's the dilemma - Should you ditch the product because it's causing irritation? Or are there actually better days ahead?
Breakouts can happen, so I'm here to help you figure out if the new acne on your skin is purging or breakouts.
What is Skin Purging?
When your skin is undergoing a 'purge', that means it's just speeding up skin cell turnover by expressing the bacteria, dead skin cells, and sebum underneath. Acne develops during purging because your skin is triggered that you've started using a new product, more so if it's an active ingredient.
If you're not familiar with active ingredients, they're usually divided into two groups: AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta hydroxy acids). These include ingredients such as lactic acid, salicylic acid, and others like benzoyl peroxide.
But don't worry, even if these substances may be making your skin purge, they can actually do your skin good in the long run.
In fact, actives help your skin heal and take care of itself. Other products may make you feel good from the first application, but actives transform your skin in the long run.
Ever heard of the phrase "You can't have a rainbow without a little rain"? Skin purging looks like that. You'll have pimples and blemishes first before that glowing skin underneath is finally revealed.
Your skin will have a reaction to the new product which will speed up skin cell turnover. Remember that there are blemishes that may be hiding below the skin surface, and they will take time (about 8 weeks) to break out. Trust me, if you have the right products up your sleeve, it's worth the wait.
What Causes a Skin Purge?
When you start using a new product or even an entire skin care line that has a lot of good active ingredients (like our Glowing Skin Kit *wink*) purging may occur.
The best thing to do is check the product label to see which ingredients may cause a surface reaction due to increased skin cell turnover.
“The topicals that routinely cause your skin to purge are vitamin A as well as alpha and beta hydroxy acids," says Dr. Rita Linkner, board-certified dermatologist.
Our Glowing Skin Kit is full of natural ingredients like aloe vera, hemp seed oil, and brown sugar - all of which clear up the skin and make it more radiant. However, because these ingredients are spread out among four products, it's a complete set of products that will walk you through your skin-clearing journey.
But aside from actives in new skin care products, cell turnover can also be caused by physical exfoliation. Exfoliating also gets rid of dead skin cells, which then give way to purging. So choose a gentle exfoliator like this whipped sugar scrub so you're not actually aggravating the acne.
How Do You Know if You're Purging or Breaking Out?
Again, introducing a new product to your routine causes skin purging and acne. But what does skin purging look like?
Skin purging will happen in the usual places where you get pimples. So if you normally breakout on your nose and T-Zone area, you should be concerned when blemishes suddenly start popping out on your cheeks and jawline. This can be an allergic reaction.
Here's a quick comparison between purging vs breakouts:
If it lasts longer than 8 weeks - that's a BREAKOUT.
The process of skin purging usually lasts for a month or two because your skin needs some time to shed before all the new skin comes out on top. As I mentioned, there are pimples and bacteria trapped deep in your pores and it would take time at first before they breakout on the surface.
“The life cycle of the acne (that occurs during a purge) is faster than a regular breakout. It will heal much quicker than in a typical breakout,” says Dr. Sapna Palep, a board-certified dermatologist.
Typically, you would see a difference when you're 30 days into the process. But of course, we have different skin types, so it may be longer or shorter than others. But one good rule of thumb is to reevaluate your products if you see no difference after 8 weeks.
If you're introducing or using new products - that's PURGING.
Let's say you've been using a product like the Glowing Skin Kit for 2 months. The road was a bumpy one (because you know, you get bumps on your face) but now you've got clear skin. You assume that your breakout days are finally gone and you added a new serum to your routine.
Suddenly, acne pops out again! What happened?
You're probably breaking out because of the actives. If your skin has gotten used to one active such as retinol, that doesn't mean you wouldn't notice a sign of blemish when you use Vitamin C.
If you're getting blemishes in unusual areas - that's a BREAKOUT.
While pimples usually mean your skin is just expressing all the bacteria underneath, the place where they pop out matters too. If you usually have blemishes on your cheeks but you suddenly develop some on your forehead, that's already not a good sign.
If your skin looks nicer in the big picture - that's PURGING.
Instead of counting your blemishes, really take a step back and evaluate your skin as a whole. Ask yourself some questions - do your pores look less visible? Are your blackheads improving? Maybe your skin looks less irritated than it was before?
If your answer is yes to any of these questions, your skin purging won't last long now. Stick to your skin regime and allow your skin to heal.
On the flip side, if you look at your purging skin and conclude that it just became more painful or inflamed than usual, the product you've been using may be the cause for concern.
Tips to Manage an Acne Purge
If you're already at this point in my article, you know by now that skin purging is how your skin deals with the turnover of skin cells. If you use a new product with actives such as retinol or benzoyl peroxide, this will speed up the process of removing the junk out of your skin.
So, how do you cope when your skin is purging?
I won't sugarcoat things here because I've been there, done that. Cell turnover is exciting because it means that the product you use is transforming your skin. But let's face it, the process itself is not unicorns and rainbows.
Here are my tips:
1. Keep doing your routine.
I know it's a bit difficult to continue using the same products that are causing your skin to purge. But trust me, you want to keep the same routine for at least 30 days to speed up the process.
After all, if you start to use another product again, it may just cause purging too. Then you're trapped in a cycle of skin purging after skin purging. So, my best tip is to be patient.
2. Indulge in a facial.
If you need to get a little bit of help with your breakouts, I also recommend getting a facial treatment. Facials are highly effective in deep cleaning your pores and will do more than the usual exfoliating you do at home. Plus, I also recommend having a face mist on-the-go like our rosewater toner, just to keep your skin hydrated even when you're outside.
3. Eat clean.
A lot of studies have already proven that certain foods like sugars and dairy can worsen acne and breakouts. But before you denounce me for telling you to give up pizza and cupcakes, know that eating clean is not a requirement when you're going through skin purging. Still, it's scientifically proven to aid in clearing up your face.
Skin purging can be tough to go through, but I hope I did help you identify the difference between purging and breakouts. So, the next time you use a new product on your face, don't worry too much if pimples and blackheads pop out after a few days. If you've identified that the reaction is purging, keep on doing what you're doing and you'll notice transformative results in no time.