Purging vs. Breaking Out: What’s the Difference?

Purging vs. Breaking Out: What’s the Difference?

Skin purging occurs when the active ingredients in skin-care products increase your skin cell turnover rate. Because of this increase, your skin will push out impurities and shed dead cells much faster. Surprisingly, this can lead to acne, resembling a breakout. To help you determine whether or your skin-care products are doing the job, read on to learn the difference between purging and breaking out.

Timing Is Everything

One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between purging and breaking out is to note the timing. If acne has suddenly appeared or gotten worse after using a product with a new or concentrated active ingredient, it’s likely purging. However, purging should last only about four to six weeks. Anything beyond this can indicate that this reaction is a breakout or irritation.

Look at Active Ingredients

Not all skin-care products will make your skin purge, as not all active ingredients increase your skin cell turnover rate. If you’re using products that contain AHAs, BHAs, retinol, vitamin C, or benzoyl peroxide, know that these active ingredients can cause skin purging. However, if you’re using thick creams or products with comedogenic ingredients and are experiencing acne, this is likely a breakout rather than purging.

Misuse or Overuse of Treatments

Exfoliators and chemical peels can cause purging, but they can also cause acne and irritation if misused. In fact, one of the most common exfoliation mistakes is overuse, often leading to painful breakouts, dryness, redness, inflammation, and irritation. This can look similar to purging, so make sure to exfoliate at most twice a week. Do light peels once a month, intense peels twice a year, and deep chemical peels once a year.

Pay Attention to the Location

Purging will occur in areas that you usually break out in and isn’t limited to one area of the face. Pay attention to where your breakouts normally occur. If you’re noticing irritation in new areas, this likely isn’t purging but rather a breakout.

Additionally, purging shouldn’t cause acne that you’ve never experienced before. Purging can appear as blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, and cysts. However, if you haven’t experienced a form of acne before and are suddenly experiencing them, this likely isn’t purging either. In fact, this is an indication of irritation, meaning you should stop using the product.