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Skin Purging vs. Breakouts

How To Tell The Difference Between These Two Common Skin Care Conditions

A universal truth about skin care is that sometimes, no matter how hard you try to keep your routine on point, at one point or another you’re bound to deal with struggling skin in the form of blemishes, bumpy texture, and other imperfections that resemble a breakout. 

However, something that fewer people realize is that not all of these types of reactions are due to your typical breakout activity. In fact, what you may be experiencing is a phenomenon called “skin purging” which happens for a very different reason and therefore requires a different approach to address. Here is what you need to know:

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Skin Purging 

What is skin purging and what causes it?

Simply put, skin purging is a kind of reaction that can occur when your skin has been treated with a new product or active ingredient. Often caused by exfoliating agents or other formulas that can increase cellular turnover, purging is the result of deep-seated debris - including oil, bacteria, dirt, and dead skin cells - coming to the surface, or “purging” as the term suggests. 

How to tell if your skin is purging:

The key thing to remember is that purging usually only happens after you’ve switched up your routine or introduced something new, and will likely be very temporary. In the event that purge activity is occurring, it will often show up as small closed comedones, or a kind of rough, bumpy texture in specific areas like the jawline, chin, or cheeks where you tend to typically experience congestion.

The Fix for Purging Skin:

If you’re pretty certain your skin’s condition is the effect of a new product, experts say you can keep using it but may need to be patient while your skin works through an accumulation of congestion. During this time, it's important to continue to incorporate lots of hydrating and moisturizing products to support the turnover process, rather than add anything drying or more aggressive to try and troubleshoot your new symptoms.

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Breakouts

What are breakouts and what causes them?

Acne breakouts on the other hand, are the result of inflammation or irritation in the skin and can result from a number of factors including - using the wrong products or ingredients, hormonal imbalances, a damaged barrier, excess oil production, buildup of bacteria or some combination of these things.

How to tell if your skin is breaking out:

Unlike skin purging which can usually be easily traced back to a disruption in your regular routine, acne breakouts tend to happen more at random and linger for longer. They can show up anywhere on the face and are characterized by more inflamed or cystic lesions, including whiteheads, blackheads, and pustules that may become red or even feel painful.

The Fix for Breakouts: 

If your skin continues to experience breakout activity with no end in sight, this is when it’s safe to assume that you may be reacting poorly to your current skincare habits. To put your skin on the path to repair, it may be necessary to pare down to just a few simple products with soothing ingredients that calm inflammation. For example, a gentle cleanser, a hydrating toner, and light moisturizer. 

Additionally, it may be helpful to look for formulas that are non-comedogenic, meaning they won’t clog pores. Once your skin starts to bounce back you can try adding back in more active ingredients and products. Just be sure to be on the lookout for any adverse reactions, and cease use if needed.