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Skin Purging vs. Breakout - How to Tell the Difference


Ever tried a new skincare product and had your complexion go into full-blown panic mode? Here comes the fleet of blemishes and acne. Yikes! We’ve all been there. How you treat it will depend on whether you’re dealing with a skin purge vs. breakout.

Truth is, new ingredients often produce temporary breakouts. This is known as “skin purging.” Ironically, it might mean your new routine is actually working. Funny way of showing it, right? 

Not to worry! We’re going to spill exactly how to identify each one, and suggest some effective remedies. Keep reading to get one step closer to fabulous, flawless, radiant skin! 

How do you tell the difference between a purge and a breakout?

Let’s break down the key differences between a skin purge vs. breakout, including triggers and symptoms, to help you identify what you’re up against.

What is skin purging?


Your skin naturally renews itself (sheds dead skin cells) about every 27 days or so. Some active ingredients (like retinoids, AHAs, or BHAs) trigger rapid cell turnover within your skin. In other words, they speed up the skin’s natural exfoliation process, causing it to purge.

So what does skin purging look like

  • Mild to moderate acne symptoms
  • Hyperpigmentation or redness
  • Swelling
  • Itchy, irritated skin
  • Dryness

How does a skin purge vs. breakout vary? For one, breakouts from purging are simply your skin adjusting to something new. But wait: does purging make you break out? 

Breakouts likely show up in areas where you don’t normally experience acne. Secondly, a skin purge tends to have a longer lifespan than your average breakout — about four to six weeks, according to some dermatologists. 

So while purging can cause a breakout, it’s paving the way for bright, glowy skin on the other side.

What are breakouts?


Breakouts are what happens when your pores or hair follicles become clogged. 

While purging happens when skin is adjusting to a new ingredient, breakouts occur for various reasons, like:

Breakouts appear as raised, discolored (often red) bumps above or beneath the skin’s surface. They can be painful, filled with pus, and mild to severe. 

One of the biggest differences between purging vs. breakouts is that breakouts don’t benefit the skin. Unlike skin purging (which heals skin to form fresher skin cells), typical breakouts tend to leave scars and blemishes in their wake.

There’s no specific period for when they’ll go away. It simply comes down to your skin’s natural cell turnover window. 

On that note, treatments between skin purge vs. breakouts are also quite different. What can you do?


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