How to Tell If Your Skin is Purging or Breaking Out?

By Dr. Joseph

Dealing with skin issues can be frustrating and confusing. When you start a new skincare product or routine, you might experience some unexpected changes in your skin’s appearance. It’s essential to distinguish between a skin purge and a breakout to make informed decisions about your skincare. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between skin purging and breaking out, helping you understand what’s happening with your skin and how to address it.

What is Skin Purging?

Skin purging is a temporary reaction that occurs when you introduce a new skincare product or ingredient into your routine. It typically happens with products that contain active ingredients like retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), and vitamin C. These ingredients increase skin cell turnover, which can accelerate the shedding of dead skin cells and bring underlying clogs to the surface.

How to Identify Skin Purging:

Timeline: Skin purging usually occurs within the first few weeks of using a new product. If you notice an increase in blemishes shortly after starting a new skincare regimen, it may be a sign of purging.

Types of Blemishes: Purging tends to manifest as small, uniform pimples or whiteheads in areas where you typically break out. They may appear in clusters and disappear relatively quickly, often within a week or two.

Location: Purging occurs in areas where you usually have congestion or clogged pores. If you notice breakouts in your T-zone or areas prone to blackheads, it’s likely purging.

No Pain or Redness: Purging pimples are usually not painful and do not cause significant redness or inflammation. They are more superficial and not as angry-looking as regular acne.

What are Breakouts?

Breakouts, on the other hand, are acne flare-ups or blemishes that occur due to various factors such as hormonal changes, diet, stress, or using the wrong skincare products. Unlike purging, breakouts are not associated with the introduction of new products.

How to Identify Breakouts:

  • Timeline: Breakouts can happen at any time and are not linked to the introduction of a new skincare product. If you notice sudden and unexpected blemishes, it’s more likely a breakout.
  • Types of Blemishes: Breakouts can be diverse, including cysts, papules, pustules, and nodules. They often appear as red, inflamed, and painful bumps.
  • Location: Breakouts can occur in various areas of the face, not just in areas prone to congestion. They can also appear on your chest, back, or shoulders.
  • Causes: Breakouts can be triggered by factors like hormonal imbalances, stress, diet, or using comedogenic (pore-clogging) skincare products.

How to Address Skin Purging and Breakouts

Dealing with Skin Purging:

  1. Be Patient: Skin purging is a temporary phase that may last a few weeks. Give your skin time to adjust to the new product.
  2. Continue Using the Product: If the new product is suitable for your skin type and concerns, don’t stop using it just because of purging. It may lead to improved skin texture in the long run.
  3. Moisturize and Sunscreen: Keep your skin moisturized and apply sunscreen daily to protect it from UV damage, as some purging products can increase sun sensitivity.

Addressing Breakouts:

Identify Triggers: Determine what may be causing your breakouts, such as stress, hormonal changes, diet, or skincare products.

Choose Appropriate Products: Select skincare products that are non-comedogenic and suitable for your skin type. Avoid heavy, pore-clogging products.

Consult a Dermatologist: If your breakouts are severe, persistent, or causing distress, consult a dermatologist. They can provide personalized treatment options, including prescription medications.


Understanding the difference between skin purging and breaking out is crucial for effective skincare management. Skin purging is a temporary reaction to new skincare products, while breakouts can occur due to various factors. By identifying the cause of your skin issues, you can make informed choices about your skincare routine and seek professional advice if necessary. Patience and proper skincare practices are essential for achieving healthy, radiant skin in the long run.

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Dr. Joseph is a dedicated and experienced dietitian and nutritionist who helps people to achieve their goals. He helps people to share personalized nutrition plans. Promoting healthy eating tips and habits prevents chronic diseases.