How Will You Know if Your Skin is Breaking Out or Just Purging?

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by Mylene Mendoza   |  Aug 15, 2020
Image: Alyssa Pe Benito
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Nothing is more exciting for a beauty enthusiast than trying out new products. But that's not always a success, especially if we're talking about skincare. Sometimes, you'd experiment with a new product variant to see if it's effective, only to wake up to your face breaking out the next day.

If you're a seasoned skincare user, you'd probably already be familiar with the term "purging." Basically, it happens when your skin reacts to an ingredient in that new product you're trying out, which causes breakouts. It doesn't immediately mean the product is not effective, though. In fact, it could mean that it's actually working because it's getting all the dirt out of your skin faster. The question now is, how will I know if it's a regular acne breakout or if it's caused by the ~purge~?

In an interview with healthline.com, dermatologist Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson says that purging is "a reaction to an active ingredient that is increasing skin cell turnover rate." The process of cell renewal of your skin is being sped up by such ingredients, which might in turn irritate your skin. 

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It also means that your skin will likely purge if you're using products with active ingredients like retinoids and exfoliating acids like your AHAs and BHAs. So if you're observing a sudden breakout after using a new product that has an active ingredient, it's most likely purging. Because these ingredients are speeding up your skin's cell turnover rate, the duration of your breakout is also quicker than your typical acne woes.

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Lastly, it's most likely a purge if you're breaking out in the same areas where you usually get acne. “Because purging is thought to be due to increased cell turnover, it's really going to bring preexisting microcomedones to the surface and they will turn into whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, and cysts," shares Sejal Shah, M.D. to Allure. Purging is most likely future breakouts that haven't happened yet. If you get a pimple in a new spot on your face, it's probably caused by something else.

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Mylene Mendoza
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