We’ve all been there—you get a new skincare product and are so excited to try it. Your girlfriends rave about, the online reviews are all five stars. So you get to work, making it a part of your daily regimen. All seems to be going swimmingly and totally according to plan…until you wake up with a smattering of new pimples. Cue the sad music and confused face emoji. Why did that happen? And how can you tell if that breakout is just your skin temporarily adjusting to the new product or if that newbie is actually clogging your pores and should be ditched completely? There’s a distinct difference between a skincare purge and a breakout, though it can be admittedly tricky to determine which is which. Ahead, we break it down so that you can better figure out what’s going on with your skin the next time you’re faced with this tricky complexion conundrum.
A skincare purge is pretty much what it sounds like—your skin purging or eliminating all kinds of ‘stuff’ that’s previously been dormant. It’s a common phenomenon that often occurs when you start using new products, particularly those with ingredients known to speed up the rate at which your skin cells turnover; the most common ones include retinoids and alpha-hydroxy acids. Why? All of us have some underlying clogged pores (technical term: microcomedones) lurking beneath the surface of our skin. Once you start using products with these types of ingredients, they push all that gunk and grime out of the skin, faster. And that in turn leads to those previously invisible clogs turning into whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, and even cystic pimples.
So, how can you tell if this is what’s in fact going on, or if a product is truly reacting poorly with your skin? Given that the types of blemishes can be pretty much identical in both cases, it’s important to take a look at where the pimples are popping up. If they’re in the same spots where you’d normally break out, it’s likely a purge. On the flip side, if all of a sudden you’re noticing zits galore on areas of your face that are usually completely clear, it may be that the new product you’re using is actually making you truly break out and isn’t the right fit for you.
How long any new blemishes last is another telltale indication. On average, our skin cells turnover every 28 days or so. (While this number can fluctuate based on age, time of year, the products you’re using, etc., it’s a good average to work with). With a purge, blemishes will typically crop up fast, but also disappear fairly quickly, all things considered. That means you shouldn’t immediately write off any new addition to your skincare routine; give any newbie you’re trying a good four to six weeks before you make the call. If your skin hasn’t cleared up by then, that’s once again an indication that this isn’t just a purge but more of a traditional breakout. True breakouts will linger much longer and take more time to heal and disappear.
On a related note, it’s important to also keep in mind that there’s a difference between acne and a break out. Everyone (we repeat, everyone) gets occasional pimples from time-to-time; they’re like death or taxes, no one is immune. But acne is a more underlying, systemic condition, and there’s no scientific proof that switching products causes any sort of true acne. All kinds of other factors can exacerbate the condition—everything from your diet to stress levels—but trying a new product, while it may make you break out or cause your skin to purge, isn’t going to cause true acne. So, at least that’s one thing you don’t have to worry about.
FYI, to help minimize the likelihood of experiencing a purge to begin with, it’s not a bad idea to ease into a new product. Try using it a few times a week at first, gradually increasing the frequency until you get up to daily use. This slow-and-steady method will give your skin a bit more time to acclimate and adjust, reducing the risk that it goes into total freak out mood right away. If you do in fact determine that your skin is undergoing just a temporary purge, the only real thing you can do is wait it out. It’s not unlike what happens when you clean out your closet; things are going to definitely look worse before they look better. First, you have to take everything out and dump it on your bed and have your room be in total shambles. But then, after that purge, things will slowly start to improve. The same goes for your skin. As the saying goes, patience is a virtue.
What you can do in the meantime is be super gentle with your skin, and give it the support it needs from other products already part of your routine. Case in point: Our Skinsei Clear Victory cleanser, which removes impurities known to trigger breakouts, making it a choice pick for those with oily-prone skin or who know they’re pimple-prone to begin with. In general, any Skinsei regimen is a good cornerstone to rely on given that it will help rebalance the skin’s microbiome, the delicate balance of bacteria living on the surface that’s essential for a healthy, gorgeous complexion. Sticking with your regimen, even as you possibly incorporate another product or two, or are using medicated acne treatments, will help your skin build its natural defenses. It will be better prepared to ward off possible breakouts and will remain in a much more balanced state as you adjust to any new products you’re using.