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SKIN PURGING Or BREAKOUT? (What’s the DIFF?)


So you purchased a new skincare product then woke a few mornings later to find sections of your face covered with acne. Did your new dream cream cause this breakout?

Before you chuck out that new dream cream consider the cause may be a case of skin purging and not an actual breakout.


What is Purging and What Causes It?

Initially, skin purging may look like a regular breakout but it’s far from it! In fact, skin purging is actually a good thing. This is because skin purging occurs due to increased cell turnover from using products like retinols and acids that exfoliate the skin. As a result, all of the existing pore blockages come to the surface quickly and appear as blemishes. But why does this happen? Think of purging as your skin clearing itself out and putting you on the path toward clear skin. Once all the blockages come to the surface, your skin can develop clear and healthy skin cells in their place. You may also experience dry and peeling skin during the purging process.


How To Tell the Difference Between Purging and Breakouts

Purging and a regular breakout can look very similar. So, how can you tell the difference? Here are some signs to look for:

  • If you’re experiencing blemishes after introducing a new product that exfoliates the skin, such as a retinol or an acid, then you’re likely experiencing a purge. On the other hand, if you’re experiencing blemishes after introducing a new product that could potentially clog the skin such as an oil or a sunscreen, you’re likely experiencing a regular breakout. Finally, if you’re experiencing blemishes despite no new additions to your regular skincare routine, then it’s likely just a breakout.

  • If you’re experiencing blemishes in the same areas that you usually see them, then you’re likely experiencing a purge. Conversely, if you’re experiencing blemishes in new areas, then you could be experiencing a negative product reaction that’s causing a legitimate breakout.

  • If your blemishes appear and disappear faster than normal, then you’re likely experiencing a purge. But if your blemishes are appearing and disappearing at a normal rate -- about eight to ten days, then you’re likely dealing with a breakout.

How To Manage Purging

Even though purging may be considered a good thing, it doesn’t mean that you simply have to suffer through the process. In fact, there are things you can do to manage this process and help improve the appearance of purging-related breakouts. Here are some steps that you can take to make the process easier on you and your skin:

  • When introducing a new skincare product or developing a new skincare routine, you may want to ease your skin into it to manage purging. For example, start by using a new product once a week and slowly increase the frequency to a few times a week. Another example involves introducing one new product at a time so that your skin can slowly adjust to each new product rather than several all at once.

  • No matter how tempting it is, do not pick or mess with the blemishes that appear on your skin during the purging process. This could only make the purging worse by spreading bacteria or lead to permanent acne scars that negatively affect your complexion.

  • Avoid the use of drying agents while your skin is purging. Drying agents can dry out the skin -- causing your skin cells to produce more oil that can further exacerbate the purging process. As a result, stay away from exfoliating agents, including acids like salicylic acid which is commonly used as a remedy for blemishes.

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