Breakouts vs Purging Skin – Let’s Discuss the Differences

Have you ever had the experience of trying out a new skin product and ending up with a face full of pimples?

Your first reaction was probably to ditch the new skincare routine and go back to your old products. But while nobody likes their skin to break out, it doesn't mean that all breakouts are bad.

There are two main types of 'breakouts'. True breakouts happen when your pores are clogged or your skin is reacting badly to a new product. On the other hand, purging is a process your skin goes through that will eventually make it healthier.

There's a lot of confusion surrounding these two terms, so it's important to understand the difference and how to tell which one you are experiencing.

What Is a Breakout?

True skin breakouts or acne occur when the pores on your skin become blocked. This can happen for a number of reasons, such as using products that are too heavy or oily, not removing makeup before going to bed, or touching your face too often.

Breakouts can also be caused by hormones, which is why you may have noticed an increase in pimples around the time of your period.

When the pores become blocked, sebum (oil) and dead skin cells build up inside them, and bacteria begin to grow. This can lead to redness, swelling, and eventually, a pimple.


Skin Purging Acne Infographic

Sometimes a particular ingredient in a new skin product can cause your skin to react badly, resulting in a breakout. This is different from purging because the irritation and pimples can continue for many weeks and may not go away until you stop using the product.

Skin breaking out? Try a gentle gel cleanser that has antibacterial properties.

What Is Skin Purging?

Skin purging is a process your skin may go through when you start using new products, especially those containing active ingredients like retinoids or AHAs.

When you first start using these products, you may notice an increase in pimples. This is because the active ingredients are working to deep-clean your pores and bring toxins, dead skin cells, and accumulated dirt to the surface.

While it may be tempting to give up on the new products when this happens, it's important to stick with them for at least a few weeks to see if your skin purging subsides.

You'll likely be rewarded with clearer, healthier skin if you can wait it out.

How to Tell If Your Skin Is Purging or Breaking Out

One of the main ways to tell the difference between a breakout and purging is the timing. Breakouts tend to happen randomly or at the same time of your menstrual cycle every month, while purging usually occurs within the first few weeks of using a new product.

Another way to tell them apart is by looking at the type of pimples you're getting. Purging usually causes small, white bumps called microcomedones, while breakouts tend to be red and inflamed.

Finally, skin purging should eventually stop on its own after a few weeks, while breakouts may persist if you don't take steps to treat them.

Skin Purging Close Up

How to Deal with Purging Skin

If you think your skin is going through a purge, the best thing to do is to continue using the new product and wait it out. Most people see an improvement after a couple of weeks, although it can take up to a month for your skin to adjust to the new routine, so be patient.

Don't pick at your skin or try to pop any pimples, as this will only make them worse. Try to avoid touching your face too much, and make sure to wash your hands before applying any products as any added dirt from unlcean hands can make your skin react more.

Make sure you're using a light oil-free moisturiser during this time to avoid further irritating your skin. Avoid harsh soaps, exfoliants, and other products that could dry out your skin.

When you're introducing a new skincare product into your routine, it's always a good idea to start slow and give your skin time to adjust. Start by using the new product just a couple of times a week, and gradually increase to daily use. Don't introduce more than one product at a time, as this can make it difficult to determine which one is causing any skin issues.
If the purging persists for more than six weeks or if you start to experience red, inflamed breakouts, it's best to stop using the product.

The easiest way to avoid both purging skin and breakouts is to use gentle, all-natural and chemical-free skincare products. Chemicals in skin care products are one of the leading causes of irritation in skin care, which can not only cause damage to the skin but also lead to purging skin.