New skincare causing breakouts? Or is my skin just purging?

New skincare causing breakouts? Or is my skin just purging?

Determine if you should toss or keep your products. 

Ever been so thrilled to try out a promising new skincare product only to wake up with a cluster of bad breakouts? Don’t panic and start throwing out your products just yet!

Experimenting with new skincare products or switching up your skincare routine can be exciting, but not always smooth sailing. Breakouts can happen and your skin condition can become worse than before. However, there are actually “good” and “bad” breakouts. Read on to find out more!


What is Purging?

Good breakouts are known as “Purging”, which refers to your skin’s reaction to an active ingredient that is increasing skin cell turnover rate. This means that your skin will start to shed dead skin cells faster and reveal a clearer, younger-looking skin!

When your skin purges, the flare-up is often temporary and it will be worth it for you to stick through it. So how do you know if your skin is just purging or reacting with a regular breakout?


First things first, check the ingredients. As mentioned, purging occurs when active ingredients in your skincare products start increasing your cell turnover rate. The accelerated shedding may trigger more blackheads and breakouts as trapped sebum and debris loosen and increase the rate at which pre-existing clogged pores rise to the surface and become blemishes.

Some ingredients that can trigger purging include:

  • AHA (alpha hydroxy acids): glycolic, mandelic, lactic, citric, malic and tartaric acid
  • BHA (beta hydroxy acids): salicylic acid, lipohydroxy acid
  • VITAMIN A/RETINOIDS: retinol, retinaldehyde, tretinoin.

You can also experience purging from using products like exfoliating scrubs, enzyme treatments, cleansing brushes and microdermabrasion tools.

On the other hand, if the new products are non-active and non-medicated but your skin is breaking-out, this could mean that products are clogging your pores and creating blemishes, or that the products contain ingredients that are not suitable for your skin and therefore causing irritations or allergic reactions. In this case, please stop using the products! 

Some possibly problematic ingredients include:

  • Oils
  • Silicones
  • Parabens
  • Surfactants
  • Fragrances
  • Thickeners
  • Sunscreen filters

Purging from products with active ingredients is usually temporary and can last anywhere from two weeks to two months, but you should start seeing improvement by the sixth week.

However, if your skin got worse after introducing a new product and stays that way for longer than two months, it’s definitely a breakout reaction and you should switch out the product asap and consult a dermatologist if your condition worsens.

Continued use of products that break you out can cause serious damage to your skin- more inflammation, more sensitivity, and deeper acne that can cause scarring! 


It is possible to differentiate between purging and breakouts through their appearances. Acne breakouts are blemishes that might come with swelling, redness, inflammation or itchiness. They are usually deep, tender bumps underneath the skin.

On the other hand, purging often appears on the skin mostly as blackhead or a cluster of small bumps just under the surface of the skin- usually not itchy, swollen or painful.

Normally, purging arises in the areas where you tend to breakout, while reaction to a product happens in areas that are not your usual “problem areas”. 

If you’re still unsure of what is happening to your skin, you can hit the pause button and stop using the product in question for a week or so. If the blemishes stop forming but you still see clogs under your skin surface, it’s indicative that you should continue using the product for better results. If, however, your skin looks better overall, then the product is not for you.



Purging, although a good sign, can be annoying. Here are some tips you can try to avoid purging and just enjoy the flawless looking skin on the other side of a purge. 

  1. Dilute the product or lower the strength

Purging can happen when your active products are too concentrated and harsh on your skin. A possible way to deal with this is to swap your products for weaker versions, if available. If not, you can try diluting the active product by mixing it with your moisturizer before slathering on your skin. You can also choose to apply the active product AFTER instead of before your moisturizer.

2. Alternate your actives, don’t overkill 

Because each active product targets different skin concerns, many people think more must be better, and they start using many different active products on their skin all at one go. However, even for the most durable skin types, applying the products all at once is overkill. Consider alternating the active products between your morning and night routine, or apply them on alternate days. Spacing out your actives can help avoid overloading your face and reduce the possibility of purging.



Not all breakouts are bad! Although it may seem rather unbelievable that you should hold out through some serious bad skin days before achieving your ideal skin, trust me, post-purging is worth the wait.

I hope this article helped you better determine what you’re dealing with, and saved you from throwing away a product that is actually helpful.