It happened again. You’ve been testing a new moisturizer for the past few days and now you’ve got pimples all over your face. What’s going on?!
Best case scenario, you’re dealing with a purge. Some skincare products need to make your skin worse before they make it better.
Worst case scenario, it’s a breakout. Your skin does NOT like that moisturizer and it’s trying to tell you to get rid of it ASAP.
How do you know what you’re dealing with? Here’s how to tell the difference between a breakout and a purge:
What’s A Breakout?
Your skin breakouts when its pores are clogged. That moisturizer had comedogenic ingredients that got trapped in your pores, got infected with bacteria and then erupted in pimples.
When this happens, stop using the product immediately. Your skin will never heal if you keep clogging it.
What’s A Purge?
When your skin goes in purging mode, it expels all the gunk (like excess sebum and dead skin cells) that was hiding in the pores and clogging them up.
It works like this: excess sebum and dead cells get trapped in the pores, stretching them out. Bacteria then join the party, causing an infection. Your immune system kicks into gear and gets rid of all that gunk by pushing it through to the surface of your skin.
When you use products that stimulate cellular turnover, like exfoliants, this process happens way faster, bringing those pimples to the surface sooner.
In another words, those pimples would have made an eventual appearance on your skin anyway. Purging didn’t cause them. It just made them show up more quickly.
If you’re dealing with a purge, keep going. Once all that gunk has been kicked out of your pores, the breakouts will disappear and your pores can shrink back down to a smaller size.
How To Tell The Difference Between A Breakout And A Purge
The symptoms are the same: ugly, red, pus-filled pimples on your face. How can you tell if it’s a bad breakout or a good purge?
Just ask yourself these three questions:
- What Type Of Products Are You Using?
If it can’t stimulate cellular turnover (i.e. exfoliate your skin), there’s no way it can be a purge. The only ingredients and treatments that can speed up the skin’s natural exfoliating process are:
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Hydroxy Acids (aha's, glycolic, gluconolactone, lactic, lactobionic, malic, mandelic, and salicylic/willow bark)
- Scrubs (including the Clarisonic)
- Vitamin C
Did you use any of these? Check the product's ingredient list to be sure. It may be a purge. Move onto the next question to be sure.
Not a drop of these in the skincare product/treatment you were using? It’s making you breakout. Ditch it now!
- How Long Is The Purge?
It doesn’t take forever to remove all the gunk that was clogging up your pores. A purge ends within a month, six weeks tops.
Are your pimples still there after the six weeks are over? It’s likely a breakout then. Whatever you were using it, stop it now!
- Where Are The Pimples?
Last clue: where are the pimples?
If you’re prone to breakouts on your chin and that moisturizer with glycolic acid gives you pimples on your chin, it’s likely a purge.
But if your moisturizer is making you breakout in random places all over your face - even those where you never get pimples? It’s clogging your pores. Throw it away.
The Bottom Line
Purges are short, appear on spots-prone areas and are caused by exfoliation. Keep using the product: it’ll make your skin better in the long run. Breakouts are long, appear everywhere and are caused by clogged pores. If a skincare product makes you breakout, toss it and move on!
Looking to rid your skin of congested pores? Here are a few of our expert-recommended products to help "purge" your skin; Babyface's Skin Fix, 2% Salicylic Acid Gel, and Salicylic Facial Wash with activated charcoal are all staples in our recommended acne preventention regimen. For regular maintenance and clear skin all year long, our Millionaire Cream with Glycolic and Night Renewal Cream with Retinol will help keep skin smooth and glowing.