Skin Purging Vs Breakouts: How Estheticians Can Tell the Difference

You’ve just recommended a new product to a client struggling with acne but when they come back, it seems to be worse, not better. As an esthetician, you know that there are both good and bad types of reactions to a new skincare routine. The skin is either purging or the skin is breaking out in reaction to the product, but what is the difference between the two?

When the skin is purging, it is just getting used to a new product. The sudden increase in blemishes is an indicator the product is doing its job. A client can safely wait out the purge without worrying about doing further damage to their skin. 

A breakout occurs when the skin is reacting to the product. An ingredient is causing skin irritation or clogging the pores. Either way, continued use might cause further damage. Perseverance is not going to fix the problem if it is a breakout instead of purging. 

In short, purging means keep going and breakout means stop usage ASAP. Let’s take a quick look at how to tell the difference between the two. 

Product Ingredients

The main indicator between a purge and a breakout is the ingredients in the newly introduced product. Skincare with active ingredients that increase the rate of cell turnover encourages the skin to purge. If many blemishes show up at once, it means that the impurities that would have caused a breakout later on are being brought up out of the skin at a faster pace. This means that the ingredients are doing their job of encouraging skin cells to reproduce more quickly for a healthier glow. 

Ingredients that might cause temporary purging are:

  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids
  • Beta Hydroxy Acids 
  • Retinol
  • Vitamin C
  • Fruit Acids and Enzymes

If the product has none of those ingredients, there is a very good chance that purging is not the issue. Skin breakouts are a way for our body to tell us that a product does not agree with it. Heavy ingredients that seal debris inside the pores or halt the natural exfoliation process are very likely to cause breakouts. 

Ingredients to be wary of include:

  • Oils
  • Silicones
  • Emollients
  • Thickeners
  • Emulsifiers

These are all likely to make your client’s face break out instead of clear up. 

Breakout Location

It is also important to pay attention to where the breakout is happening. When your skin purges, it causes dormant pimples to come to the surface, so you should be looking for an increase of blemishes in places that are already problem areas. For most people, their problem areas are places where they produce the most sebum, such as the forehead, nose, and chin. It is highly unlikely a purge would cause new problem areas.

An indicator that the ingredients of a new product are blocking pores instead of clearing them is finding acne in new areas. If clogged pores and pimples begin to show up in places on the face that have never had an issue before, the skin is not purging but reacting. The skin will continue breaking out as long as the product is in use. 

Breakout Timeline

Something to consider when deciding between breakout and purge is the length of the breakout. When skin is purging itself, the reaction only lasts about two weeks to a month. If the worst has not passed in that timeframe, it is definitely not a purge. The active ingredients that cause a purge work to clear all subdermal impurities and then prevent them in the future, so the resulting pimples will eventually clear up. You can confidently reassure your client that the adjustment period doesn’t last forever. 

Breakouts can last for months at a time or never really clear up without help. If a client has gone past the two-month mark with no improvement, they are having a breakout and it is time to consider different facial care options. 

Help your client’s skin function at its best and glow its brightest with products specifically formulated for acne-prone skin. Skin Moderne’s line of clean skincare products is perfect for treating their skin with the care it deserves. Visit our website to find out more about our products.