Skin Purging Vs. Breakouts: What's The Difference?

You've just purchased a new skin care cream and are excited to see results. Suddenly, your skin starts breaking out? Is this normal? What's going on?

According to Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, NYC dermatologist, empowerment leader and author of Let's Get it! Hustle and Grind Your Way to Personal Empowerment, you may be experiencing skin purging, and it's different than a breakout.

Skin purging happens in connection with some kind of skin treatment. "Skin purging is an acne breakout secondary to some sort of a therapeutic (retinoid use, chemical peel etc.) Purging tends to be transient and resolved when the skin recovers from or adapts to a new regimen. 'Breakouts' generally refers to more persistent acne lesions," Dr. Mudgil told Health Digest.

Purging happens because the skin begins to turn over skin cells faster than it used to. Along with new skin cells rising, so comes all the impurities that have been hiding in the skin. Thus, you may see several different types of blemishes (via Healthline).

What can be done to alleviate purging?

If you've recently starting using something like a retinoid (Retin-A), or had a cosmetic procedure like a peel, that acne is most likely the result of skin purging. "If, however, you invariably suffer from breakouts, you likely have clinical acne," he said. A doctor could help you with the diagnosis.

Unfortunately, if you're experiencing skin purging, there's not much to be done but wait it out. "The skin should return to normal within a couple of weeks. Sometimes, prescription topical or even systemic treatments are needed, but that's the exception, not the rule," said Dr. Mudgil. For people with regular acne, a daily skin care regimen is required to clear up breakouts and prevent new ones.

Skin purging is common, but it's hard to know when exactly it might happen (via Byrdie). According to Mudgil, it's different for each patient and each treatment. "For instance, some Accutane patients have a very significant flare/purge when beginning therapy and some don't — the body is unpredictable," he said.