Purging or Breaking Out? Here's how you can tell!

Purging or Breaking Out? Here's how you can tell!


Purging and breakouts are two distinct reactions your skin may have in response to using certain products. Here's everything you need to know about them. 

When you use a new skincare product, you will discover three things; it can work for you, make your skin feel irritated, or cause you to break out. The problem is not the irritation or breakout; it's figuring out which of the two you are experiencing. Let's discuss purging and breakouts in detail to understand the difference. 

What is skin purging and breakouts? 

In simple words, purging is nothing but a reaction that occurs when you use a specific skincare product or procedure for the first time. It does not necessarily happen to everyone; not all skincare products will make you purge. But majorly, retinoids and other exfoliating acids, such as AHAs, BHAs, Vitamin C, etc., are known to cause purging.  

Worried if it's normal for your skin to purge? The skin naturally sheds dead skin cells and renews itself, but specific ingredients like retinoids should accelerate it. And this makes the impurities underneath come to the skin's surface faster, causing it to purge. It usually happens when you introduce a new product that your skin is not used to in your skincare routine. So there's nothing you need to worry about. 

On the other hand, if your skin is not purging and breaking out, it will irritate the skin, clog pores, and lead to acne. Unlike purging, breakouts are caused because a particular product is unsuitable for your skin. Most commonly, when a skincare product is comedogenic or has ingredients that can cause allergies, it will cause a breakout. These products can be anything from cleansers to facial oils. Other reasons for breakouts can be stress, pollution, and dirt. 

What does skin purging look like?

Skin purging can show itself as red bumps, whiteheads and blackheads on the face. In addition, it causes dead skin cells to surface, which results in flakiness and dryness. These signs can also indicate your skin is getting accustomed to a product.  

How to tell purging from breaking out

Now that you know these two, here's how you can differentiate between them. However, distinguishing a breakout from a purge can be difficult for people with acne. So, here is a list of signs you can look out for:

  • Check the duration

Purging is temporary and doesn't last for more than a month. However, breakouts last for a while, more than a month.

  • Check the product type

Purging can happen only after introducing a new skincare product or procedure that increases cell turnover. Hence, purging can only result from products with active ingredients such as Retinol, Benzoyl Peroxide, Hydroxy acids, L ascorbic acid, etc. Breakouts, conversely, can result from trying a new product that isn't right for you or can clog your pores.

  • Check the location

Purging occurs only around the areas that you usually break out. So, if your chin is where your most breakouts are, you will purge there. In contrast, breakouts occur on your face, forehead, shoulders and chest.

  • Check the signs

Purging makes you experience no such signs of irritation or pain. However, with breakouts, you may see dryness, irritation, redness, itchiness, swelling, and pain.

  • The after-effects

With purging, you won't see any blemishes or marks afterwards. But breakouts leave scars when they are gone.

The Conclusion 

It's important to note that while skin purging can be frustrating, it's a natural process and a sign that the skincare product is working. Sticking with the product for at least a few weeks is usually best to see if your skin adjusts and improves over time. Each skin type is different, and its reaction will vary. Therefore, it is crucial to remain patient and consistent to reap the best benefits from your skincare products. However, if the purging is severe or causing discomfort, it's always a good idea to check with a dermatologist. 


1.How long does skin purging last?

The period for which skin purging can last depends on the product used and the duration. Generally, skin purging should last for 4-6 weeks. If the purging lasts longer than six weeks, it may be a sign that the product is not working for your skin, and you should consider stopping it or consulting a dermatologist. 

2.Will my skin purge before it gets better? 

While purging does not happen with every product you use, certain products like retinoids can accelerate cell turnover, speeding the rate at which newer acne beneath the surface appears. Purging can also signify your skin getting used to the product. It’s a temporary condition your skin will go through but will improve gradually.   

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