Skin Purging vs. Breakouts: Explained

As much as we love our skin, it sure loves to wreak havoc on our lives at times. From pesky breakouts to mysterious purging, it can be challenging to decipher what exactly is happening on your face. Sometimes, it can feel like trying to solve a complex math equation without a calculator. We hope to clear up some of your questions (and your skin) by diving into the world of skin purging vs. breakouts. So, put away your worries and get ready to learn how to handle these skin dilemmas like a pro.

What Is A Breakout?

We've all been there— it's the night before a big event, and blemishes suddenly appear, seemingly out of nowhere. A breakout is a common skin condition that is characterized by the appearance of small red bumps (pimples), blackheads, or whiteheads on the skin. These blemishes are often caused by excess oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria clogging pores, leading to inflammation and swelling. They can also be triggered by hormonal changes, stress, and even certain medications. And while they may seem to appear at the most inconvenient times, they can be managed and reduced with the right skincare routine, which we'll cover below.

What Is Skin Purging?

Have you ever tried a new skincare product and noticed a sudden increase in breakouts after using it? This could be a sign of skin purging. But don't worry, it's not your skin trying to sabotage you.

Skin purging is a process where the skin speeds up its cell turnover rate, resulting in an initial acne flare-up. It happens when a new product, such as a retinol or chemical exfoliant, accelerates the shedding of dead skin cells and brings underlying congestion to the surface. As these new cells reach the skin's surface, the skin sheds dead cells faster than usual. This can bring underlying microcomedones (early acne formations) to the surface faster, manifesting as "purging acne" or "purging pimples".

Common culprits include active ingredients like retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), such as salicylic acid. This brings us to a frequently asked question: can salicylic acid cause purging? The answer is yes. As an exfoliant, salicylic acid can speed up the shedding of dead skin cells, leading to a potential "purging skin" phase.

While it may seem like a bad thing, skin purging is actually a sign that the product is working and can lead to clearer, healthier skin in the long run.

break outs in skin vs skin purging

How Do You Know If It's Purging Or A Breakout?​

It can be challenging to tell the difference between skin purging and a breakout, especially if you're new to the world of skincare. However, there are a few things to consider that can help you determine what is going on with your skin.

  • Timing: First, consider the timing. If you recently introduced a new product into your routine, and the breakouts are in areas where you typically experience congestion, it's likely purging. However, if it's been weeks and you're still breaking out in new areas, it could be a breakout caused by the product. A breakout can occur at any time while purging usually happens within a day or two of using a new product.
  • Blemish Type: Also, pay attention to the types of blemishes. Breakouts typically consist of inflamed, red pimples, while purging typically includes whiteheads, blackheads, and smaller bumps.
  • Blemish Location: Another way to tell the difference is the location of the blemishes. If they are popping up in areas where you typically break out, this can be a sign of purging. But if they appear in new areas where breakouts rarely occur, it could just be a breakout in a new area.
  • Duration: Lastly, be patient and monitor how long the blemishes persist. Skin purging should be temporary (4-6 weeks max), while breakouts can last longer (even months) or keep coming back.

Ultimately, listening to your skin and monitoring the changes can help determine whether it's purging or a breakout. If you're still unsure, consult with a dermatologist for a professional opinion.

What What Does Purging Skin Look Like?​

Purging skin can bring out a wide range of emotions. On one hand, you may feel excited that the product is working and your skin is purging impurities. On the other hand, you may feel frustrated and self-conscious about the sudden increase in blemishes. But what does purging skin actually look like? As mentioned earlier, purging can manifest as small bumps, whiteheads, or blackheads in areas where you typically experience congestion. It can also cause your skin to feel rougher or look more congested temporarily. However, remember that this is only a temporary phase, and with continued use of the product, you should start to see the results you're looking for.

Does Skin Look Better After Purging?​

It's a common question among people experiencing skin purging: "Will my skin actually look better after this?" The answer is typically yes, but it may not happen overnight. Skin purging is a sign that the product is effectively unclogging your pores and improving your skin's overall health. With continued use, your skin should start to look clearer, smoother, and more radiant. However, it's essential to listen to your skin and make adjustments if you notice any adverse reactions.

It ultimately depends on your skin and the product you're using. The results may vary depending on the type of product and your skin type. For some, their skin may look significantly better, while others may see only minor improvements. It's essential to be patient and consistent with your skincare routine during the purging period to achieve the best results in the end.

How Quickly Does Skin Purging Start?

Skin purging can vary from person to person, but generally, it can start within a day or two of using a new product. This timeline may also depend on the product type and your skin's sensitivity to it. If you're using exfoliating products like retinol, AHAs, or salicylic acid, you may see purging sooner since these ingredients speed up the cell turnover process. On the other hand, it may take longer for purging to occur if you're using a new moisturizer or serum.

However, we recommend giving a product at least two weeks before determining if it's causing purging or a breakout. If you experience any adverse reactions, discontinue use and consult with a dermatologist.

When Should I Stop Using A Product If It Causes Skin Purging Or Breakouts?

It can be tempting to want to push through the purging process and continue using a product that causes breakouts or purging. However, it's essential to listen to your skin and make adjustments if needed. If the purging or breakouts persist or become too severe after two weeks of using the product, it's best to discontinue use and consult with a dermatologist. Similarly, if you experience any adverse reactions, such as burning or intense redness, stop using the product right away and seek professional advice. Remember, the goal of skincare is to improve your skin's health, not worsen it. So don't be afraid to make changes to your routine if needed.

The Final Verdict: purging vs breakout

Skin purging and breakouts can be frustrating and confusing, but understanding the difference between the two can truly make a difference in your skincare journey. Whether you're experiencing purging for the first time or are a skincare veteran, remember to be patient, listen to your skin, and make adjustments as needed. And don't be afraid to seek professional advice if you're unsure or notice any adverse reactions. With the right knowledge and skincare routine, you can conquer any skin dilemma and achieve the radiant, healthy skin you deserve.