How to Tell If Your Skin is Purging or Breaking Out

Mother Dirt

Nothing is quite as frustrating as beginning a new skincare routine only to wake up to a rash of bumps and blemishes on your skin. 

While you may immediately think the product you’re using isn’t working, it might not be that simple. You can determine if your skin is purging or breaking out by learning a little more about how your skin works, what causes it to break out, and what will trigger a purge. 

Skin Basics

Your skin is fundamentally amazing. The largest organ in your body, it’s exposed to numerous external stressors (the sun, pollution, makeup, etc.) and keeps your insides protected. Your skin is responsible for protecting you from certain pathogens and keeping you well. 

Your skin - when it is healthy - gives you a look of pure radiance that no cosmetic product can rival. What keeps your skin healthy? A microscopic ecosystem called the skin microbiome.

The Skin Microbiome

Your skin is dirty. It’s covered in trillions of microorganisms that help keep your skin healthy and keep you protected from bad germs that can make you sick. Your skin’s dirt is good dirt, but it can easily become imbalanced.

What Causes Skin Microbiome Imbalances?

Keeping your skin’s microscopic ecosystem thriving is important in keeping your skin radiant and youthful, and ensuring it’s able to perform its essential protective functions. When your skin’s microbiome becomes unbalanced, your skin (and your body) suffers. 

From dryness to excessive oil, skin imbalances can leave your skin looking less than healthy. Skin imbalances can be caused by numerous stressors, but the number one culprit is traditional skincare. 

Traditional skincare has effectively stripped, peeled and “deep cleansed” the healthy bacteria right off the surface of our skin, leaving it unbalanced, parched, and in need of restoration. Unfortunately, it only gets worse. 

When the skin’s microbiome is unbalanced, the healthy bacteria levels needed to fight off bad bacteria that can make our skin sick are lowered. The results are chronic skin conditions, dryness, overproduction of sebum, irritation, and acne. 

Healthy Skin Doesn’t Break Out

When your skin is healthy and balanced, you don’t experience breakouts. It’s that simple. When you have a breakout, it means something is interfering with your skin’s proper function, causing an increase in sebum production which can lead to clogged pores

However, traditional skin care products that can make our skin unbalanced can build up in the skin over time. When you begin to use skin care products that help to restore and balance your skin, you may experience a purge of toxins that looks similar to a breakout. 

Skin Purging: What Is It and Why Does It Happen?

You’ve probably heard a friend or two talking about skin purging, but if you’ve never experienced a purge before, it can be really hard to differentiate between skin that is purging and skin that is simply breaking out. 

Skin purging refers to the process by which the skin naturally removes built-up toxins from the deeper layers of the skin to the surface, where they are excreted and eventually sloughed away. 

Skin purging happens when you use a product that restores your skin cells’ ability to rapidly regenerate, sending unhealthy, dead skin cells to the surface and replacing them with healthy new ones. 

We won’t mince words here: skin purging can be a dramatic process, but restoring your skin’s microbiome to healthy levels will help you have skin that rarely (if ever) sees a breakout. 

Speaking of breakouts, let’s talk about what causes them.

What Causes Skin Breakouts?

A breakout is the development of comedones (whiteheads and blackheads) on your skin. They may occur on a monthly basis, or from time to time depending on your personal skin care habits, how much you sweat, and of course the products you use. 

Heredity also plays a role in the formation of acne and pimples, but thankfully, your genetics don’t get to sentence you to a lifetime of bad skin. 

While there are numerous triggers for breakouts, the science behind a breakout all leads back to your skin’s microbiome, and whether or not it’s properly balanced. 

When your skin’s healthy bacteria levels have been lowered, they are unable to fight off acne-causing bacteria called cutibacterium acnes or “c. acnes.”

Traditional acne “solutions” fail to focus on restoring the skin’s ecosystem, and instead end up damaging it more by stripping away both good and bad bacteria from the surface of the skin. 

While the skin may clear up, it’s short lived. Once you stop using the product, the unbalanced microbiome can’t properly ward off acne causing bacteria, and the blemishes return. The solution is to restore the microbiome.

Purge vs. Breakout: Which Is It?

If your mission is better skin, restoring your skin’s balance will be essential, but skin purging can be a part of this process -- we promise, it’s definitely worth it. 

How can you tell if your skin is purging or breaking out? There are definite differences which can help you determine what you’re experiencing. 


Breaking Out

Happens in areas where you normally break out

Can happen anywhere on your face

Bumps develop along with irritation like redness, dryness, itching, and flaking

Bumps develop without irritation 

Bumps form faster and disappear sooner than normal breakouts

Bumps take 8-10 days to develop and disappear

While it can still be difficult to tell which is which, the biggest factor is time. Irritation and bumps from purging form rapidly and disappear just as quickly as they appeared. 

Resist the urge to pick and touch your skin, regardless of whether your skin is purging or breaking out. You can introduce new bacteria which can harm your skin while you’re attempting to restore its balance and also cause scarring.

Restoring Balance

It may seem impossible to restore your skin’s natural balance, but it is possible with the right tools. Your biggest ally in the fight are probiotics

Probiotics work with your skin just like they do for your gut, helping to restore natural flora and support levels of healthy bacteria. When your skin’s levels of healthy bacteria flourish, your skin is healthy, radiant and capable of keeping bad bacteria away. 

Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria

At Mother Dirt, we saw the need for skin wellness, and how modern hygiene had stripped away much of our skin’s good bacteria. 

Several years ago, MIT scientists discovered a revolutionary way to restore the skin’s microbiome by using a powerful probiotic once found naturally on the skin. Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB) has the superpower of being able to restore a diverse set of ecosystems, including the microbiome of your skin. 

AOB works by interacting with ammonia found naturally on your skin and in sweat to produce nitrite and nitric oxide. These compounds are essential to keeping your skin microbiome balanced. 

Mother Dirt’s patented AO+ Restorative Mist is the first product of its kind that contains live and active culture to help balance your skin microbiome giving you healthier, more radiant skin. 

AOB has the power to restore the levels of good, healthy bacteria on your skin so it can function as it should. 

Getting Started

Not sure where to begin? We can help. The PeaceKeeper is the perfect way to start your skin wellness journey. Three easy to use products help get your skin back on track.

  • Probiotic Foaming Cleanser. Don’t just cleanse, balance. Our foaming cleanser removes impurities while helping balance the skin microbiome with a blend of probiotics and prebiotics.
  • Probiotic Moisturizing Serum. Squalane and phospholipids combine with probiotic extracts to help balance your microbiome and nourish your skin to reveal a glowing, healthier-looking complexion. 
  • AO+ Restorative Mist. Our patented live and active Mist that helps restore essential bacteria lost to modern hygiene. 

The PeaceKeeper has everything you need to help revive your skin, restore the peace and enjoy the beautiful skin you have. 

Final Thoughts

Purging or breaking out? Either way, you can get better, healthier skin by using products to help support a healthy skin microbiome. When you’re ready to get your skin dirty, trust Mother Dirt to help you get balanced. 


The Human Skin Microbiome | Nature 

Acne and Genetics | Springer 

Acne: Back to the Basics | The Secret Life of Skin

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