Is my skin purging or breaking out? Let’s figure it out together.

Have you ever heard someone say that it gets worse before it gets better? Well, this can be true even when it comes to skincare. You get a new acne treatment just to wake up the next morning with new pimples. But there is a huge difference between experiencing a breakout and your skin’s natural purging process.

What is ‘skin purging’?
Skin purging is a process that happens mostly in acne-prone skin types after using certain ingredients. These ingredients ‘purge’ or push to the surface of the  skin clogs that are formed and stuck deep in the pores. In other words, these new pimples or acne have already formed, but the products that you are using, speed up this process. These congestions would eventually make it to the surface of the skin as blackheads or whiteheads, but when left untreated, they can get inflamed and painful.

What causes skin purging?
Normally, skin renews itself every 28 days, but certain products can speed up this process and therefore bring new pimples to the surface. Exfoliants and retinoids are the most common ingredients that cause skin purging. Exfoliants like beta hydroxy acids and alfa hydroxy acids, remove dead skin cells in the surface of skin, exposing new skin underneath, loosen the gunk in the pore and speed cell turnover, thus bringing the congestion to the surface faster. Retinoids cause purging by speeding up skin’s renewal cycle and the way cells move from one layer of the skin to another.

How to know when it’s a skin purging and when breakouts?

So, skin purging is good, breakouts are bad, but, how to know which is which? In case of skin purging, it is recommended to keep using the product causing it until the skin is clear. However, if you experience a breakout after using a product, you should stop using it immediately. Here’s how to tell the difference:
1. Check the ingredients. If you notice new bumps forming after using a new product, make sure to check the ingredients list. Active ingredients like AHA, BHA, retionoids and BP are known to cause purging. However, if you are breaking out after using a new sunscreen or moisturizer, then you are definitely experiencing a breakout.
2. Duration. Acnes that are a sign of purging heal much faster and without leaving any spots, unlike breakout acne. Purging phase usually lasts 4-6 weeks. If it lasts longer than this check with your dermatologists because it can me a sign of skin irritation and breakout.
3. Location. Skin purging acne is located on areas where you usually tend to breakout. If you normally breakout around the chin and after introducing a new product you experience acne on your cheeks or forehead, it’s most likely a breakout.
4. Pain. Skin purging is characterized by small and painless bumps that disappear quickly. While breakouts can be inflamed and painful. Some advices if you are experiencing purging.

Not everyone will experience purging, and that’s okay; it doesn’t mean that the product is not working. If you are though, just be patient. I know it’s tempting to stop using the product, but keep in mind that sometimes skin gets worse before it gets better. In the end it will all be worth it. Make sure you are using a gentle cleanser, non-comedogenic and fragrance-free moisturizer, sunscreen and keep your skin hydrated.

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