purging vs reaction
Acne 101

Purging vs. Reacting: What’s the difference?

January 8, 2021

Sometimes your skin can get worse before it gets better—and sometimes it just gets worse! Here’s how to tell if you’re experiencing skin purging or your skin is breaking out.

So you’re just received your SMACNE kit and you’re excited to try it out—congratulations! But then two weeks in you notice your skin getting worse. We’ve discussed this quite a number of times before: this is called skin purging, acne purging or simply purging, and it is a natural part of the skin care process—especially if you’re working with acne treatment products like SMACNE. 

We have an in-depth look into purging, but if you’re just looking for a quick guide to purging vs. acne breakouts, we’ve got it here just for you! 

Your skin is purging if…

Purging happens when your skin releases the toxins trapped in your skin. This is actually a good sign that tells you your skin care treatment is working. But it can be hard to differentiate between purging and your normal acne breakouts because they can look similar. 

You’ll know your skin is purging if: 

  • You are using a retinol, retinoid or acid-based exfoliating product
  • You use a cleansing brush or a deep cleanser—basically anything that causes deep exfoliation and resurfaces your skin will trigger a purging process
  • It lasts only for 4-6 days and will disappear easily
  • Instead of seeing fully-developed pimples, you see little bumps on areas of  your face where you usually would get acne breakouts before you started using the new product. 
  • The bumps are not appearing on new areas of your face where you don’t usually get acne
  • The pustules and other “breakouts” will disappear and reduce itself in 4-6 weeks with the continued use of your new product. 

Other factors can affect your skin’s reaction and the severity of your purging stage, such as your stress levels, your diet and your lifestyle (do you smoke, are you frequently exposed to different elements, do you exercise and get enough sleep). Your hormone levels also play a role in how severe your purging stage may look. 

It’s not the purging uglies if…

Now let’s look at the flip side: When is it not the “purging uglies,” but actually a reaction to the product that you’re using? 

Your breakouts are not purging uglies but an actual reaction to a new product you’re using if: 

  • You are not using a product with an exfoliating agent
  • You are getting acne in new spots on your face that are not usually affected by acne
  • It takes the acne more than eight days to clear up
  • It persists in  4-6 weeks
  • You see more than just little bumps, blackheads and whiteheads—you have fully developed pimples that either dry out and mature over time or even develop pus inside.

If you notice these symptoms and you’re using a new product, it’s best to stop using that product immediately and seek your dermatologist’s advice for another product. 

What should I do if I’m purging?

If you’ve gone through the checklist and determined that your breakouts are actually a result of your skin purging, don’t worry—this is part of the process! However, in order to make it past this stage and back on track to having clearer skin, you will need to keep using your product as instructed. This will ensure that the product’s active ingredients have enough time to work their magic on your skin. 

If you feel like it’s too much for your face to follow the instructions, you can try incorporating it into your skin care routine slowly. Try using it alternately with your preferred brand and build up your usage as your skin adjusts to the product. 

Make sure to check out our full guide on purging for more information on this stage. If you’re ready to start your own journey to skin transformation, then get your free SMACNE kit and share your progress with us via social media!

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