Allergic Breakouts and Purging | Identify the cause of your acne breakout

Difference between Allergic Breakouts and Purging

Is Your Skin Purging or Breaking Out?

Stop me if this sounds familiar. You buy a new, popular skincare product, its backed by plenty of customers with rave reviews. Excited to see the results, you apply it diligently every night, hoping to wake up to a brighter and clearer face. A few days later, something seems to have gone horribly wrong, looking into the mirror you notice your face is covered in more pimples than usual. 

What do you do at this stage? Do you press on and continue using the product or stop using it entirely? The answer lies in identifying whether what you are going through is a purge or an allergic breakout.

What is Purging?

Put simply, purging is when skincare products accelerate your skin’s natural turnover process, sloughing away build-up of dead skin cells and loosening gunk to bring deep clogs in the pores closer to the surface. Eventually, this manifests as flesh-coloured bumps, whiteheads, blackheads, pimples or cysts. 

Once this initial breakout clears, new skin surfaces, revealing a smoother, clearer complexion — hence why the process is called purging.

How is Purging Different From an Allergic Breakout?

As mentioned above, purging speeds up your body’s natural skin cell cycle, causing lesions and clogged pores deep within the skin to quickly surface all at once. Continued use of the product should result in an improvement in your skin after this initial purge, as the shedding of dead cells reduces the chances of oil and dirt becoming trapped in the pores.

On the other hand, an allergic breakout is the result of a new product causing irritation or increased sebum production, causing more blocked pores and new acne to be formed. In this case, continued use of the product leads to acne becoming worse instead of improving. 

Why is it Difficult to Tell the Difference Between a Purge or an Allergic Breakout?

Although it seems simple, it can be difficult to tell the difference between purging and an allergic breakout – especially since we cannot tell what is happening under our skin.

For instance, when Skinlycious first introduced our Calming Cleanser with tea tree oil, many long-time customers found that their skin condition became worse after use. We initially attributed this to the purging effect from our Blemish Corrector, which contained Vitamin C. 

However, many still continued to experience breakouts even after temporarily removing Blemish Corrector from their routines. We then made a batch of the cleanser without tea tree oil for the affected customers to test. True enough, these customers stop breaking out. Although tea tree oil is a natural essential oil and only a very low dose was added, the chemicals in it were still enough to potentially irritate the skin. We’ve since removed essential oils from the Skinlycious brand, but this incident highlights how difficult it can be to pinpoint a single ingredient that is causing a breakout. 

Also, since we use a number of different skincare products as part of a routine and not in a vacuum, finding out which is causing purging or a breakout can be a time consuming trial and error affair. Thus, I always advocate not to use too many new cosmetic products at once.

Even though we can use Skinlycious two spot treatments, Blemish Corrector and Glow Exfoliant, together to experience faster results, I don’t encourage new customers to do that, thus our kits come with only one spot treatment. Determine if one spot treatment suits you first before adding on the other spot treatment. 

How can You Tell the Difference?

Ask yourself these questions to determine if what you’re going through is a purge or a breakout.

 

  • Does Your Product Contain Actives that Increase Skin Cell Turnover?
    Purging is caused by active ingredients like :
    – AHAs and BHAs (e.g. salicylic acid, glycolic acid, mandelic acid)
    – Retinoids and Retinoic Acids
    – Vitamin C
    – Benzoyl Peroxide
    These ingredients increase the rate of skin cell turnover and are commonly found in products like exfoliants and serums. Products like cleansers and moisturisers typically don’t contain actives that increase cell turnover, so if you experience a breakout after introducing a new cleanser or moisturiser, it is most likely an allergic breakout. However, you should still check their ingredients list for actives to be sure. 
  • Where are You Breaking Out?
    Purging causes pre-existing clogs to come to the surface, so any breakouts during this period should be well within your usual problem areas where you typically experience acne. So, say your forehead is typically bumpy and a new product causes a cluster of pimples to appear there, it’s most likely purging taking place.If you find yourself breaking out with several new bumps or pimples outside of your usual areas, it’s likely that the new product you are using is causing irritation. You may also experience significantly worse acne in your usual areas. 
  • How Long have You Been Using the Product?
    It takes about 6 to 8 weeks to see the results of a purge. If your skin continues to worsen or shows no signs of improvement, stop using it and remove it from your routine.

Conclusion

Telling the difference between purging and allergic breakouts takes patience and knowledge of your skin’s tendencies as well as the ingredients of your products. Having a consistent skincare routine and only introducing one new product at a time greatly increases the chance of identifying the cause of any new skin issues. 

Reduces your chances of having allergic breakouts with Skinlycious products. Formulated with key active ingredients with no potential irritants, incorporating Skinlycious products into your routine is a fuss-free way to clear your acne and maintain acne-free skin.