Is My Skin Purging or Breaking Out?


Purging can look like little red, pus-filled bumps, pustules, or acne-like lesions. Purging can happen as a result of exfoliating products like AHAs, BHAs, retinols, and benzoyl peroxide. As the products remove the top layer of dead skin cells and allow new skin cells to come to the surface, they bring up subsurface acne. More simply, the product is not causing acne, it’s just bringing acne to the surface that already existed below. Acne starts as a microcomedone under the skin and as the pore gets more clogged, inflammation happens. However, exfoliating products causes cell turnover to increase, and when this happens, the microcomedones mature and rise up to the surface faster.


Moreover, the skin does something called desquamation which is when the top layer of skin sheds, and the renewed skin from underneath is revealed. This process takes around 28 to 35 days, but there are specific products that can make it happen faster. Prescription retinoids can make this happen as fast as 14 days. When you’re using a cream that is making the skin renewal process speed up, microcomedones move up to the surface, and form blackheads. If there’s a plug, and the oil and sebum is prevented from getting out, this can cause whiteheads or pimples.


Since purging normally only last 2-3 weeks, it’s helpful not to pop these. Purging is not an inherently bad thing. To prevent an intense episode of purging, it’s best to only switch one product of your skincare routine out at a time.


Breakouts appear as large, painful bumps, and they are caused by bacterial activity and sebum production.


If a product is causing irritation, and you are continuously using it, you’ll probably see spots for longer than 2-3 weeks. Some ingredients within products can be comedogenic, and therefore, clog your skin, and form breakouts. Remember that just because a product is oil-less doesn’t mean that it’s non-comedogenic.


Additionally, if a product is drying, the skin will attempt to lubricate itself with its natural oil. This could also cause build up within pores and likewise a breakout. When you start a new product, it’s important to make sure that you moisturize with product that works for you.


Another reaction that causes acne is inflammation. Depending on your skin, active ingredients can cause irritation or inflammation. Inflammation can greatly contribute to acne. Inflammation damages the sebum and causes the oxygen content of the sebum to lower. P. acnes bacteria, (the bacteria known to cause acne) thrives in a low oxygen environment and multiplies there. Once the bacteria takes over the hair follicle, infection develops and secondary inflammation develops. This is why you’ll see round, inflamed pimples on the skin’s surface sometimes after a bad reaction to a product.

If this type of breakout happens within the first week of buying a new product or does not subside, the product is most likely not a match. When searching for a product for your skin, make sure that the product is tailored to your skin type and skin traits, not only your skin concerns. Different products work for different people. There are also options such as Love From Yours which is a skincare line that provides an assessment to shoppers so they can receive a product custom tailored to their skin.



If you would like to know more, click here for a video explanation.