Skin Care for Women

Is Your Skin Purging or Breaking Out? How to Tell the Difference?

Skin Breaking Out VS Skin Purging

Isn’t it horrifying when you apply a skincare product only to see it breaking out rather than becoming better as the product had claimed? Although it is scary and might make you want to ditch that new skincare product, it isn’t something to worry about. What you are experiencing is something called skin purging and it is normal.

Skin purging is when the active ingredients in the skincare products used causes dead skin cells to shed faster. This gives way to fresh skin cells underneath leading to cleaner and youthful skin. But before that, toxins make their way to the skin’s surface and clog the pores leading to a huge breakout. An apparent result of this is that you notice multiple pimples forming on your face, which is any woman’s worst nightmare. After a few weeks, your skin becomes better. So basically, it is your skin becoming worse before it starts to get better.

What causes skin purging?

The process of skin purging is usually caused by retinoids, hydroxyl acids, benzoyl peroxide, and other ingredients that cause skin cell turnover rate (the rate at which dead skin cells are shed off) to increase. Even though faster skin cell turnover is a good thing for reducing breakouts in the future, you will initially see dead skin cells accumulating on your skin’s surface. Eventually, your skin will get used to the new, faster rate of cell turnover and you will achieve all the benefits the product claims.

How to differ between skin purging and breakout?

At a glance it might be difficult to tell the difference as both look the same. But there are subtle differences. A skin purge would occur shortly after you have started using a new skincare product or regime that includes active ingredients to increase cell turnover. If you haven’t started any new skincare products which have these ingredients then it is just a regular breakout or reactive breakout. For example using a new moisturizer without this ingredient would not cause purging.

Also, if you see pimples, blackheads or cysts in areas where you haven’t had breakouts before, it is most likely a reactive breakout. This means that you should switch to another skincare product because the one you are using is not working out for you and simply making your skin problems worse.

You can also get a clue from the lifecycle of the pimple. If it occurs and fades away faster than your usual breakout then it is your skin purging. A skin purge usually lasts four to six weeks as this is the amount of time the skin requires to fully renew itself. If the problem lasts longer than that after using a new product without showing any signs of improvement, you have a reactive breakout. In this case, you should stop using that new skincare product. If the problem still doesn’t go away, you should consult a dermatologist. They will be able to help you deal with the problem as well as suggest alternatives for your skincare routine.

What does purging skin look like?

The purge looks different on different people. During skin purging, you might notice tiny red bumps that are tender on your face. These are sometimes accompanied by whiteheads and blackheads. So if you see just a single or a couple of pimples on your chin or forehead, it is most probably not your skin purging.

You might also notice dry, peeling skin when it is purging. This is just the dead skin cells shedding so you don’t have to worry about it.

How to manage skin purging or speed it up?

When your skin is purging due to a new product, you can’t really do anything more than just waiting it out. Let’s get real, nothing will speed up the process and you don’t want to stop it altogether with additional products. But you can take certain steps to ensure that your skin doesn’t get any worse than it is at the moment.

Stick to your Skincare routine:

Firstly, keep the rest of your skincare routine the same as before. You wouldn’t want to start all new skincare products at once. This will definitely make your skin go crazy.

Once the skin purging is settled, you should start using a new product on your skin slowly. You can start off by using it less frequently or in lower concentration or amount and then increasing usage gradually to give your skin time to get used to the new product.

Avoid touching your face:

Don’t pick at the pimples during this time no matter how strong the urge is. This will simply irritate your skin, lead to scarring, and increase the amount of time it takes for your skin to purge completely. You definitely don’t want that when you are counting the days till the end of this problematic phase.

Be sure to take extra care of your skin when it is purging. Apply moisturizer for hydration as well as a cleanser and anti-inflammatory and anti-irritants. Don’t irritate it further by going out in the sun or applying spot treatment that contains harsh chemicals. Your skin needs all the tender love and care it can get during this time.


You can also further treat your skin by getting a facial. Having a facial will help you get rid of the bacteria clogging your pores. The deep cleaning will be really helpful. Do get an expert’s opinion before doing that as you don’t want to end up irritating your skin further.

Eating a healthy diet while your skin purges can also help. It is also helpful when you are having regular acne problems. Having junk food, too much sugar or carbs is definitely a big no when you are having acne or your skin is purging. Avoiding such foods temporarily can balance hormones and lead to clear skin.

Just remember that though your skin is far from ideal when it is purging, it is going to be worth it as its benefits to your skin will last for a long time. You will definitely get the reward for your patience in the form of clear and youthful skin.

Disclaimer: Content Research, Product Opinion & Publication Process

The articles, cosmetic tutorials, and beauty tips on SheBegan magazine are contributed by experienced fashion professionals, beauty & cosmetics experts. The team of our beauty and cosmetics professionals tests the products and then share the outcomes with proper citations and then after passing all the research & editorial checks; the content is sent live making sure there exists No Conflict of Interest. You can read about our authors, volunteers, team members and editorial board with our content review, product testing, tutorial guidance process here.

Zahira Bano

Zahira holds a Ph.D. in Cosmetics Surgery and Pharma. She worked with Mashable's and some other beauty, skincare, and wellness blogs. She is also a well-known researcher from Nanjing University of Science & Technology. She also writes on the female empowerment motivational topics in her leisure time.

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