How To Tell If Your Skin Is Purging Or Breaking Out

Mar 12, 2021
12:00 P.M.
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When your skin is purging, it may look very similar to a breakout, but it's different, and it may be telling you something about your skin products.


Our skin is in constant communication with us. It tells us when it like a product or practice by glowing, but it also tells us when it doesn't agree with something.

When you make changes to your beauty regimen, and your skin responds with pimples, it may initially be disheartening and confusing. However, this could be a good sign. Here's how you can tell the difference between a purge and a breakout and if you should essentially keep your products or toss them.

The Purge

Image by Sharon McCutcheon from Pixabay

Image by Sharon McCutcheon from Pixabay


The purge occurs when using a new product in your routine. These products may help your skin speed up its clearing process, resulting in dormant pimples, which probably would have appeared days later, appearing on the skin.

“A purge is not necessarily extracting bacteria, just simply removing the inflammation that is causing your acne so that you skin can start to clear itself.”

says board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Rita Linkner of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City to "Byrdie."


Some of the common culprits responsible for a purge are ingredients that remove dead skin and promote the production of new cells. These may include retinoids and exfoliating acids like Alpha Hydroxy Acid.

What's The Difference Between Breakouts And Purging?

Image by Joseph Mucira from Pixabay

Image by Joseph Mucira from Pixabay

From the appearance, a breakout and a purge may look very similar, but there are some signifiers that you might be able to pick up on to differentiate between the two.

Also, take consider if you've made any changes to your skincare routine, especially if you've added retinoids and other chemical peels as well as additional exfoliation like scrubs and exfoliating brushes. These can cause your skin to purge.


Photo by Anna Tarazevich from Pexels

Photo by Anna Tarazevich from Pexels

A purge doesn't take as long as a breakout, but it can appear more frequently. A breakout or adverse reaction to a change in your regimen will usually appear in a place where you don't usually breakout and can take just over a week to reduce.

Treating A Purge Vs Treating A Breakout


It's good to note that purging is a good sign, and what comes after may be worth the few wacky days. It says that your products or routine is working.

Be patient and remember to avoid picking at your skin as you may cause scarring, which can be permanent in some cases. For the most part, let your skin be and make sure to change your pillowcase frequently.

If you're experiencing a breakout or irritation, on the other hand, the sign may not be all that good. You might be having a negative reaction to your products, and they may be too strong or simply incompatible for your skin.

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