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The Difference Between a Breakout and a Skin Purge— And What to Do About It

Skin blemishes of any kind are zero fun. The real struggle, though, is figuring out why your skin is freaking out in the first place and what you can do to make it look flawless again. 

If you’ve recently introduced new skincare products into your routine, it may be what’s referred to as a “skin purge.” Although it may sound scary, a skin purge is actually a good thing. It means the new products are doing their job.

So how can you tell if it’s a skin purge or just a breakout? We asked cosmetic dermatologist, Dr. Michele Green, to elaborate on the topic. Keep reading to understand the difference between a breakout and a skin purge. Plus, learn some tips on how to best take care of your skin in each scenario.

The difference between a breakout and a skin purge

Dr. Green explains that a skin purge is your skin’s way of detoxing, which can happen when you first use new skincare products. If the new product contains active ingredients such as retinol or alpha hydroxy acids, they will stimulate and speed up cell turnover pulling all the toxins and impurities in your skin to the surface resulting in pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, cysts, and other blemishes.

There’s a couple of ways to tell if it’s a skin purge or a breakout. For one, note where the blemishes are popping up. During a skin purge, Dr. Green says they’ll likely show up in areas of your face where you usually break out. If the blemishes appear in areas where you don’t often break out, however, it may be an allergic reaction to the new product. If that’s the case, it’s best to discontinue using it.

How long the blemishes last will also provide some clues. During a skin purge, skin cells turn over quickly, which means the blemishes will go away faster than usual, too.

How to take care of your skin during a breakout and a skin purge

If the surprise eruption of pimples wasn’t caused by switching up your skincare routine, then the breakout is likely caused by other lifestyle factors or hormone fluctuations, in which case, you can give your skin some TLC with Rael’s Clear Skin Bundle. It includes the Miracle Patch to spot treat surface blemishes, the Microneedle Acne Healing Patch to stop a breakout before it even happens, and the Tea Tree Facial Sheet Mask, which prevents clogged pores and helps keep the skin nice and clear.

If, on the other hand, you’ve confirmed that your skin is having a temper tantrum due to a skin purge, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that your skin will likely look worse before it gets better, and there isn’t much you can do to speed up the process.

The duration of a skin detox will differ from person to person. Generally, however, Dr. Green says a skin purge should last no more than six weeks as that’s how long it takes to go through an entire skin cycle.

The good news is that once your skin goes through the purge, new skin cells will come to the surface, leaving your skin looking more beautiful and glowing than ever. Although it may sound counterintuitive, the key to reaping the full benefits of the detox is to continue using the new product. It’ll be worth the wait. Promise!

In the meantime, don’t pick at any of the blemishes and stick to a gentle skincare routine. If the skin purge lasts longer than six weeks, definitely visit your dermatologist so they can help identify any other possible root causes, which can be hormonal or an allergic reaction to a certain ingredient.

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