HOW DO SKIN PURGES AND BREAKOUTS DIFFER?
"In the most basic sense, a skin purge is a reaction to an active ingredient in your skincare that is increasing skin cell turnover rate. Before these new skin cells appear, other congestion will rise to the surface first. This includes excess sebum, flaky skin, and any build-up—all the things that can clog pores, thus causing blemishes or what is known as the 'skin purge'," shares Macdougald.
"A breakout on the other hand can be a reaction from [either] products or other lifestyle factors, usually resulting in fresh blemishes and skin issues. Breakouts can be [triggered by] things like diet, hormonal changes, environmental factors or skin reacting to ingredients that are irritating the skin," she explains.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE WHICH ISSUE YOU'RE DEALING WITH?
"There are a couple of differences that can help you define what you're dealing with," Macdougald confirms. "The first is where on your face the blemishes are appearing. If you're experiencing blemishes in a place you would normally breakout, then it could be part of a skin purge, however if the blemishes appear in areas where you don't normally breakout, it could be an allergic reaction to a product."
"The other way to tell, is that during a skin purge, skin cells will turn over at a fast rate, meaning the blemishes will go away faster too, typically within a few days. Breakouts on the other hand can last eight to ten days," she explains.
HOW DO THE TREATMENT METHODS DIFFER?
"Firstly, it's important to note that a skin purge is actually [generally] a good thing. So, if you are experiencing one, just be patient," Macdougald tells BAZAAR.
"The reason it is good is because you're essentially clearing out your pores and obviously making way for fresh new skin. Any build up on the surface will eventually clear and reveal a glowing complexion—no treatment necessary."
"Skin purges are better done when you have the time to be patient to let the skin balance out naturally, so only switch your skincare if you're getting blemishes in strange areas. [However], if the [blemishes] continue on for a couple of months, consult a dermatologist as it is likely there are some other things at play," she advises.
"[On the other hand], a breakout should be treated by monitoring the skin and implementing products that can target blemishes," Macdougald confirms.
One product that's always in our arsenal is the Nexcare Acne Absorbing Covers. These acne patches help to protect your pimple from dirt and germs potentially ending up on it while you're sleeping, as well as absorbing fluid and pus from inside the spot.
Nexcare Acne Absorbing Covers Assorted 36 Pack, $10 from Priceline.
ARE THERE ANY STRATEGIES TO EMPLOY WHEN INTRODUCING NEW SKINCARE TO AVOID MAJOR PURGES?
"Absolutely," she says. "We always recommend minimising your skincare routine as much as possible to allow any active ingredients to do their job. That means avoid layering skincare products or using an overly complicated routine [to allow skin to adjust while also making it easier to pinpoint the cause of the problem if a major one occurs]."
"[It's also important to] try to go through the skin purge when you're wearing less make up—for example, now is a great time [due to social distancing], because some make up free days should help speed up the process," Macdougald shares.