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Purging VS Acne: What’s The Difference?

POV: you buy yourself a new skincare product that you have been eyeing since quite some time. Excitedly, you use it every day without fail. But, after a week or so, when you’re expecting to see some minor changes happening, you see bumps, blackheads and acne all over. Now, this might lead you to believe that the product just did not suit you, and you stop using it to prevent the flare up. We hate to break it to you, but that’s actually a rookie mistake. The good part? The flare up is temporary and it is called purging. 

What causes skin purging?

purging vs breakoutsThe bumps, congestion and acne that you see on your face after trying a new product is a skin reaction, true, but a good one. Using actives and exfoliating acids in your skincare routine like retinol, vitamin C, AHAs and BHAs accelerates cell regeneration. While our usual dead skin shedding cycle is of 28 days, adding these ingredients to your routine causes all the underlying gunk and impurities and bacteria to surface. Which is why you might see acne, pustules, whiteheads, blackheads or cysts springing up randomly. This only means that things will go south, before they get better. 

If your skin is undergoing a purge, then that means that your skin is actually adjusting to this new ingredient and the product is indeed working. Your skin is throwing out all that was hindering its optimum health, and once that’s done, you’ll have flawless, err-free skin! 

One might also experience dryness of flakiness along / instead of breakouts as well. Plus, the intensity of the purging depends on what all lies beneath your skin. Those with oily, combination and congested skin undergo proper purging, but there’s a good chance that you might not experience any purging depending on your skin type and health. 

But it is important to keep in mind that purging only occurs when you’ve introduced an active ingredient or an exfoliating acid in your routine, not otherwise. 

Ingredients that cause purging

skincare ingredients that cause purgingVitamin C – while the list of benefits of this antioxidant power-house is long, vitamin C derivatives in higher concentrations such as 15-20% can cause purging. Introduce it gradually in your routine, and start with a lower concentration. 

Retinol – a potent anti-ageing elixir, experiencing purging with retinol is pretty common. Since it dramatically speeds up cell re-generation, you might notice purging from the initial weeks of application itself. 

AHAs – these are water-soluble acids that work on the outermost layer of the skin to exfoliate and clarify pores. All this deep sweep in the pores pushes out all the baddies to the surface of this skin leading to purging. 

BHAs – these are oil-soluble acids that go deep into the skin to control excess sebum, eliminate acne-causing bacteria, and to undo sun damage. The process is similar to drawing water out of the well – everything that is hidden deep inside the skin is out and about! 

Barring these ingredients if a new product is causing skin reactions, then it might actually be an allergic inflammation. 

How to know if you have purging or acne breakouts? 

difference between purging and breakoutsPurging might look like a twin to regular breakouts, but there are certain demarcations that help distinguish between the two. 

Duration of breakouts 

Purging is a temporary and short-lived skin reaction. If you’re experiencing breakouts for longer than 4-6 weeks then it’s a breakout and not purge. This means that your new skincare buddy is not gelling well with your skin, and irritating your skin. You can pretty much put a stamp on it, if your acne is accompanied by redness, itchiness, burning sensations or stinging. 

Location of breakouts 

The places where acne frequents, is the troubled area. So, naturally, purging is bound to pop up in these areas. Although, if you notice breakouts in ‘non acne’ zones, then it might not be purging. 

Marks & scars 

If you’ve been dealing with acne, then you’re no stranger to acne marks. Post-inflammatory pigmentation is common with acne marks, but not with purging. Purging leaves behind no scars or inflammation and exits in silence. 

How to deal with purging? 

Is there a way to speed through the purging process? Unfortunately, no. Is there anything you can do to avoid purging? Also, no. So, while you patiently wait out for the purging to settle on its own, here are a few things you should keep in mind. 

Do not ditch the new product 

Stick to that new active or exfoliating ingredient, no matter how bad your purging is. You might be tempted to switch or to reduce the usage, but keep using it. The only way out is through. 

Leave it alone 

One thing common with acne and purging? You do not have to pick on it. Squeezing or trying to extract that purge will lead to unwanted scars. 

Do not add another product with actives or exfoliating properties 

When your skin is already at war with one ingredient, do not push limits. Don’t put your skin under attack with multiple potent ingredients. Use non-interfering ingredients like hyaluronic acid or aloe gel to soothe inflammation and add hydration. 

CTM + sunscreen is the holy grail 

Your skin needs extra TLC when it is undergoing a purge. Taking proper care in the form of following a consistent CTM routine and applying a non-greasy sunscreen will boost your skin’s health and aid the healing process. 

Quench Recommends: 

Step 1: Cleanser

Matcha Better Skin Detox Gel Face Wash. MRP: ₹449 

Step 2: Toner

Matcha Better Pore Clearing Skin Tonic. MRP: ₹699

Step 3: Moisturizer 

Mon Cherry Ultra Light Moisturizing Gel. MRP: ₹599 

Step 4: SPF 

Bravocado SPF 50+ PA++++ Sunscreen Gel. MRP: ₹649  

Now you know, not all acne is all that bad, right? 

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