Purging vs breakouts

Is my skin purging or breaking out?

Ever tried a new skincare product and had your face explode in pimples? Some sales associates will tell you that your skin is ‘purging’ all the bad clogs deep within the pore, but not all products purge the skin — some just cause reactive breakouts.

Here’s how you can tell the difference.

What is purging?

Purging occurs when a skincare product speeds up skin cell turnover. This means the entire life cycle of a pimple speeds up and existing clogged pores turn into breakouts more quickly.

As the product starts to work, fewer clogged pores should form. This means your skin becomes clearer than when you initially started using the product.

Purging does not cause new clogged pores or irritation.

What are reactive breakouts?

When a product causes new clogged pores or irritation, this means your skin is suffering a reactive breakout.

If you use the product for a few weeks and experience no improvement in your skin, it’s time to stop using it.

What products cause purging?

Products that have active ingredients that increase skin turnover can cause purging. Look for ingredients like:

  • retinoids (retinol, Vitamin A, tretinoin, retinyl palmitate)
  • fruit enzymes
  • hydroxy acids (glycolic, salicylic, lactic)
  • benzoyl peroxide

Skin treatments like scrubs, chemical peels and lasers can also increase skin turnover and cause purging.

If the product does not have active ingredients, it is highly likely that you are experiencing a reactive breakout.

How can I manage a purge?

Skin takes 6-8 weeks to completely renew itself, so purging should last approximately a month. If your skin doesn’t get better after 8 weeks, stop using the product.

Reduce the severity of a purge by slowly introducing new exfoliating products. Start at a lower concentration (like a 10% peel instead of a 20% peel) or use the product less often until your skin is more used to the increased cell turnover.