The Difference Between Skin Purging and Breaking Out

The Difference Between Skin Purging and Breaking Out

Published by Jil Goorman on Oct 3rd 2022

Everyone wants perfect skin, but attaining it is easier said than done. There are plenty of products to improve the quality of your skin. However, you’ll find that there isn’t just one straightforward path to clear and balanced skin. You may have an odd reaction to a new skincare product, but you should know the difference between skin purging and breaking out to determine whether you should stop or continue using the product.

What Is Skin Purging?

Skin purging sounds entirely worse than it is. It occurs when your skin is adjusting to a new product. Active ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, and salicylic acid, can cause your skin’s turnover rate to increase. In other words, these ingredients can cause your skin cells to shed and replenish more quickly than they would without the product. Believe it or not, purging can manifest as any of the following blemishes:

  • Cysts
  • Pustules
  • Blackheads
  • Whiteheads

What Is Breaking Out?

Although skin purging is common, you can also have another reaction to a new product that may cause blemishes. While breaking out in this way may seem similar to skin purging, the excessive irritation and inflammation are unlikely to die down after extended use of the product. There’s a small chance your skin will get used to the new product over time. However, it may just cause further damage. So you should consider switching products in this case.

How To Tell the Difference

Even though skin purging and breaking out can look the same, you must be able to determine which phenomenon is happening. Consider the following factors to figure out how to help your skin.


Skin purging causes blemishes, but they heal faster than a regular breakout. If your pimples last longer than a month, then you may be dealing with traditional breakouts. In this case, consider finding a different skincare kit for acne-prone skin.

Active Ingredients

You must take note of the ingredients you apply to your skin. For instance, acne-fighting or exfoliating ingredients are likely to cause skin purging. On the other hand, you may have a traditional breakout if you have a reaction after using sunscreen, oils, or a comedogenic makeup product.


Purges tend to trigger breakouts in your specific acne-prone areas. Therefore, it’s probably not purging if you experience acne in a new location.

Now that you know the difference between skin purging and breaking out, you can better care for your skin. Although both reactions can appear the same, knowing the difference can help determine what your skin needs to heal.