Purging VS Breaking Out: How Can You Tell The Difference?

by Gio

purging vs breakouts difference

Have you ever tried a new skincare product only to see a whole gang of pimples spring up on your face?

Sometimes, that’s a good thing. Yes, really. It means the product is working its magic. Soon, you won’t have to deal with pimples again.

Sometimes, that’s not a good thing. It means the product has clogged your pores. As long as you keep using it, it’s breakout galore, baby!

But how can you tell the difference? You don’t want to stop using a gem that can give you beautiful, glowy skin but you can’t keep using something that gives you pimples for too long either. At least not unless you’re 100% sure those pimples are gonna disappear soon.

Here’s how to tell if your skin is purging (good) or breaking out (bad):

What The Heck Is Purging?

Purging is when your skin is kicking out all the gunk that was hiding into your skin. Here’s how it works:

  1. Your workaholic sebaceous glands make more sebum than your skin needs
  2. This excess sebum gets stuck in the pores, trapping dead cells with it
  3. Overtime, this crappy mixture gets bigger and bigger
  4. Bacteria find the mixture and start eating it up (it’s their fave food)
  5. Your immune system kicks into gear and brings the pimples to the surface to get rid of all that bed stuff

Yep, that pimple that’s just sprung up out of nowhere was weeks in the making. Any skincare products that promotes cellular turnover (i.e. help skin exfoliate itself faster) can speed up the process and bring those pimples to the surface before their time.

In other words, those pimples would have appeared anyway. Purging made them show up faster.

If you’re experiencing purging, you need to keep going. Once the purge is over, breakouts will be a distant memory.

P.S. Some “skincare gurus” think purging is a fairytale made up by skincare companies to sell you stuff that doesn’t work. This scientific studies prove them wrong. Purging IS a thing.

P.P.S. Scientists refer to purging as “acne flareups”. They’re posh like that.

What The Heck Is A Breakout?

You get a breakout when one or more ingredients in the product don’t agree with your skin. Here are a few reasons:

  • Comedogenicity: the ingredients are clogging your pores
  • Allergies: your immune system thinks one of the ingredients is the enemy and is fighting it off
  • Irritation: one of the ingredients may just be too harsh for your skin

If you experience a breakout, you need to stop using the product immediately. Your skin will NEVER get better as long as you keep using it.

Related: Do Comedogenicity Ingredients Really Give You Pimples?

How Can You Tell The Difference Between Purging And Breaking Out?

Here’s where it gets tricky. The symptoms are the same – an ugly, red family of pimples on your face – so it’s tricky to say if you’re experiencing a purge or a breakout. But, there are a few questions you can ask to figure it out:

1. What Type Of Product Is It?

Any skincare products with active ingredients that can speed up cellular turnover can cause purging. 

Cellular turnover is code for natural exfoliation. Any ingredient that makes your skin exfoliates faster causes more dead cells to temporarily get trapped in your pores, bringing those pimples to the surface faster than they would have appeared on their own.

In the short term, this makes your face erupt in pimples. In the long term, it helps keep those pores clear so you won’t have to deal with them again anytime soon.

So what active ingredients can speed up cellular turnover? Here’s the full list:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Chemical peels
  • Hydroxy Acids (glycolicl, gluconolactone, lactic, lactobionic, malic, mandelic and salicylic)
  • Lasers
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Retinoids (adapalene, isotretinoin, retinol, retinyl palmitate, tazarotene, tretinoin)
  • Scrubs (Clarisonic, Foreo, enzyme exfoliants etc)

If your skincare product does NOT contain any of these, it’s definitely a breakout. Toss it!

If your skincare product DOES contain any of these, it may be a purge.I say may because there’s always the chance something else in the product is clogging your pores or irritating your skin even as these actives exfoliate it. To figure out whether you’re really dealing with a purge, you need to ask a couple more questions:

2. How Long Is The Purge?

A purge is short. It shouldn’t last more than a month. That’s how long skin takes to renew itself.

Sometimes, it can take a little longer but if after 6 weeks tops, your skin isn’t getting any better, it’s a breakout. Ditch that product like a hot potato.

3. Where Are You Breaking Out?

Your skin gives you another clue: location, location, location.

A purge brings to the surface pimples that would have appeared anyway. That’s why it happens on your most problematic spots.

If you usually breakout on your chin and, after using a product with actives that can speed up cellular turnover your chin erupts in pimples, it’s likely a purge.

But if those pimples appear on areas where you NEVER breakout, it’s clear there’s something in the product your skin can’t stand. Throw it away.

Let’s Recap! It’s A Purge If:

  • Your skincare product can accelerate cellular turnover
  • The pimples are gone within a month
  • The pimples appear on your usual breakout spots

If this is the case, keep using the product. It needs to get worse before it gets better.

It’s A Breakout If:

  • Your skincare products don’t contain anything that can speed up cellular turnover
  • Your pimples hang around for more than a month
  • Your pimples appear in places where you don’t usually breakout

If this is the case, stop using the product immediately. Your skin won’t get better if you keep annoying it.

benton aloe bha skin toner

Can You Minimize Purging?

So, you want to start using a skincare product that may cause purging but are worried they’ll make your face erupt in pimples. Isn’t there a way to minimise the purge, if not avoid it completely?

Yes, my smart friend, there is: you need to take the short path.

It’s like when you’re starting a new exercise regime. You can’t put your running shoes on and do a marathon. You need to start slowly.

One day you walk around your neighbourhood. The next, you make that walk a mile longer. After a couple of weeks, you start running for a mile. Then, two. Then, three. You get the point.

It’s the same with skincare. Start small. Instead of going in from the beginning with 10% Glycolic Acid, start with 5%. Instead than using it every day, start with twice a week.

Start small and work your way up. You’ll reap their benefits more slowly but won’t have to deal with too many pimples at once. Isn’t that worth the trade off?

The Bottom Line

Purging IS a thing. Certain skincare products need to make your skin worse before they make it better. But most of the time,  they’ll only give you a breakout. Learn to tell the difference so you ditch the culprit without suffering in vain for weeks.

Have you ever experienced purging? Share your experience in the comments below.



JD October 24, 2017 - 9:41 am

This is a very good and useful guide. I never thought that our skins can purge; I’ve never read about or heard of this phenomenon before. I don’t think I’ve experienced purging. I think what I had in the past were breakouts from products that did not suit my skin.

Gio October 28, 2017 - 2:22 pm

JD, I’m glad you found it helpful. Breakouts are more common than purges unfortunately!

Amy October 27, 2017 - 12:47 am

Great post! Thanks!

Gio October 28, 2017 - 2:19 pm

Amy, glad you liked it!

Juliet Humphreys October 27, 2017 - 9:01 am

If the redness is only on one cheek is that a purge or a breakout?

Gio October 28, 2017 - 2:22 pm

Juliet, when you say redness, you mean you have pimples too? If it’s only redness it may be your skin is more sensitive there. If it’s a breakout, then you need to ask the three questions in the post. For example, if that cheeks is prone to pimples, it’s likely a pimple. If it isn’t, it’s likely a breakout.

Ruby December 16, 2017 - 1:40 pm

I started using grape seed oil that contains olive oil and lavander. I started having pimples everywhere after about 20 days of using it. I read that those like are non commedogenic. I’m having doubts.

Gio December 16, 2017 - 10:52 pm

Ruby, olive oil could be the problem. Extra virgin olive oil is usually non comedogenic, but other types of olive oil are less pure and have added compounds that could be problematic for skin.

kiandra December 17, 2017 - 2:09 pm

Now it makes sense , notice that i just started the Mario Badescu Vitamin C serum and i had breakouts along my jawline (cystic acne and small bumps ) and around my hairline as i sweat because i go to the gym almost everyday . I thought it was my hormones and took evening primose oil capsules but the breakouts did not stop.

Gio December 23, 2017 - 7:34 pm

Kiandra, I’m sorry to hear that serum broke you out. But at least now you know what the problem is.

Samuel November 22, 2018 - 4:47 am

I have just tried out vitamin c serum for the first day. I notice a lot of small pimples appear at the area where I am prone to breakout. The effect is exactly same as when I used dermaroller on my face. I guess it’s just doing its work drawing out the impurities from beneath the skin. So, don’t worry a thing. U will heal up and have better skin. Cheers! 😉

Marie December 31, 2017 - 2:47 am

Thanks for the great information. I am currently experiencing a nasty purge.

Gio January 19, 2018 - 4:19 pm

Marie, you’re welcome. I hope it’ll be over soon.

Gopz February 24, 2018 - 9:25 pm

Thanks for the information.My acne is cystic on my cheeke alone. Those big deep rooted nasty acne which doesnt even come to a head but keeps my cheeks all bumpy and painful. I have tried many products and it just dint do anything to my acne. I could still see the acne building under my skin. The thing with my acne is that they are only on cheeks. Rest of my skin is so clear and i always am researching about the reason behind it. But in no way im getting why. Anyway, last week i read about apple cider vinegar and thought to give it a try. I had these about-to-get-bigger cysts on both of my cheeks. But since i thought i had nothing to lose and reading a lot about ACV i thought to give it a try. I use it as 50/50 toner with water after cleansing my face in the morning and night followed by a non comedogenic moisturizer for the past one week. But i could see that, those cysts which were already there had become so nasty in a week. They are huge and i could literally feel deep rooted inflammation under my skin which is worser than last week. The places where the small cycts were there, they have become so huge and into a head with puss inside. But the rest of my skin is the same or even better because i think i got a shine on the rest of the face and the face tone is even now. Even my huge cyst is pinkish rather than those brownish ones. I am having a tendency to pick those up coz i could literally feel all puss on the surface. The cyst is having that head too. But i am controlling coz i had read about the initial purging stage. I dint get any new pimples on the rest of the face. Its just breaking out or getting inflammed on where it was there before.what shall i do? Is it normal purging?

Gio March 2, 2018 - 5:14 pm

Gozp, sorry to hear about what you’re going through. ACV doesn’t really cause purging. It may have dried out/irritated your skin, which worsened the acne but not purging. You probably won’t like what I have to say but if you have cystic acne you need to see a dermatologist. Really severe acne can’t be treated OTC. 🙁

Jessica March 8, 2018 - 4:47 pm

I’ve always been suspicious of “purging” claims because they so often sound like marketing ploys (and not grounded in a strong understanding of the body’s waste elimination organs – of which the skin is one, of course). But the way you broke this down made good sense. Thank you for this enlightening (and encouraging) post. So glad to have found your blog.

Gio March 16, 2018 - 6:56 pm

Jessica, my pleasure! A lot of the time it is nonsense. If there’s nothing in the product that can speed up cellular turnover, then purging is just a cheap excuse.

Shara April 3, 2018 - 11:22 am

Thank you so much for this article! Rodan and Fields Unblemish has been the first product to work on my acne and I have tons of clients that say the same thing :). There is oftentimes a period of purging and now I have a very informative article to pass along to them to explain it all. Thank you!!!

Gio April 8, 2018 - 11:40 am

Shara, my pleasure. Glad to help! It’s awful when good products get a bad rep because of purging, isn’t it? Wait it out and you’ll be rewarded with clearer skin. 🙂

Lisa April 5, 2018 - 2:46 pm

I’m 54 years old and recently started using ROC products, containing retinol, to help minimize fine lines and wrinkles. I’m about 6 weeks into using retinol, and my face is LOADED with acne. My face resembles a 14 year old vs. 54!! Now I’m treating wrinkles AND acne! That’s just not even fair in the natural scheme of things!! LOL! I’ve been wondering for weeks what might be causing the acne to flare up like it has. I’ve always had acne prone skin, but it literally has not looked this bad in over 30 years. I work out at the gym a lot and I run routinely. I had even started worrying that my workouts might be causing the breakouts. I was making sure to wash my face and remove make up before working out in case the sweat was clogging my pores. But I also knew that my workouts have been part of my life for many many years, so why would my face be breaking out all of a sudden? I stumbled on your article, and now I’m hopeful this is just a purge and will clear up SOON! I was going to ditch the retinol, but I will continue using it in hopes the acne will disappear! This has been very frustrating, however I’ll keep my fingers crossed it’s only temporary. Thank you for putting this information out there!

Gio April 14, 2018 - 8:21 am

Lisa, glad this article helped. Unfortunately, retinol can make your skin worse before it makes it better. But if you’re into your six week, the purge should end soon. Hang in there! If not, there may be some other ingredient in the product that’s behind the breakouts. Anything with Myristate or Pamitate is one of the biggest culprits.

Erica April 30, 2018 - 5:12 am

Great post and exactly what I needed to read! I am in the middle of a vitamin C purge. I started using Peter Thomas Roth’s Vitamin C Camu Camu serum and it is definitely working. I just started incorporating Mario Badescue’s Glycolic foaming washing twice a week and using the healing powder in my regiment. Also, moisturizing! Thanks so much!

Gio May 4, 2018 - 6:56 pm

Erica, my pleasure. Glad you found it helpful.

Michelle Lynch May 6, 2018 - 3:48 pm

I have been using my regime for about 6 weeks now and am still breaking out. It’s lessened a bit by they are still coming. I did have a lot of underground acne and millea so I expected the purge would be pretty heavy. I am wondering if I should stop or keep up for another two weeks or if there is something in my products that’s clogging me up.
Currently using:
Skincueticals phloretin cf
Skincueticals HA Intensifier
PCA clearskin moisturizer
Skinmedica total defense and repair SPF 34
LA roche-posay active c eyes

nighttime alternating:
Night one:
Skincueticals HA intensifier
Skincueticals overnight renew
Skinmedica TNS eye repair
Sometimes aura cacia restoring rosehip oil

Night two:
Skincueticals HA intensifier
Skinmedica retinol complex 0.5 (maybe expired)
Sometimes Juice beauty stem cellular anti wrinkle moisturizer
Skinmedica TNS eye repair
Sometimes Tammy fender intensive repair balm
Sometimes aura cacia rosehip oil

Could you please tell me if anything jumps out to you that may be causing a breakout rather than purging? I can tell that some of the acne is from purging cause it’s where I know I had stuff stuck way down there, but some of it seems like fresh pimples.
I know this is a lot of cell turnovers products. Do you think it’s too harsh?
I really appreciate you giving advice to people. I was so happy I found your website. It’s much more educational than a lot of what’s out there.

Gio May 19, 2018 - 10:33 am

Michelle, the first thing that stood out to me is the Juice Beauty Moisturiser. If you have acne prone skin, you need oils high in linoleic acid, not oleic acid. Some of those oils in that cream don’t have the right acid and could cause problems. I’ve written more about oils for acne here: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/linoleic-acid-oils-fight-acne/

Tammy Fender is a balm and the consistency of balms can sometimes exacerbate acne. I’d say stop using these two for a while and see if things improve.

Michelle Lynch May 6, 2018 - 3:58 pm

On a side note, I have been wearing more makeup and even a this layer of foundation at the gym because my acne is so red. Probably making it worse

Gio May 19, 2018 - 10:36 am

Michelle, that depends. Are the products you’re using oil-free?

Priscila June 13, 2018 - 5:56 pm

Hi Gio, I recently switched my skincare routine from using the acne.org regimen for 2 years.
I don’t use all the products below at the same time, just alternating/testing to see what’s the perfect fit.
I did start purging and recently went to an esthetician who suggested that it may be hormonal? Or due to the usage of trying/introducing new products to my skin. The esthetician suggested to stick to one product for the week for my skin to adjust.
Anything here you see alarming for my Combo + Acne Prone skin? Really value your blog and opinion. Any feedback is greatly appreciated xoxo!

Acne Org Cleanser
Image Skincare- Ormedic Balancing Facial Cleanser
OLEHENRIKSEN -The Clean Truth™ Foaming Cleanser

Heritage- rose water + glycerin toner

OLEHENRIKSEN Counter Balance™ Oil Control Hydrator
Peter Thomas Roth -Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream
Bioderma Sensibio Tolerance+ Soothing Moisturizer for Hyperactive Skin

Paula’s Choice RESIST Ultra-Light Antioxidant Serum with Pure Hyaluronic Acid & Vitamins
Peter Thomas Roth potent-c power serum

Dr. Brandt Skincare pores no more® Vacuum Cleaner® Pore Purifying Mask

Fresh – Sugar Face Exfoliator
Fresh – Umbrian Clay Pore Purifying Face Exfoliator
Peter Thomas Roth – Acne Face & Body Scrub

Gio June 16, 2018 - 9:58 am

Priscilla, my guess is that the Eight Greens Whip Moisturiser is too rich for your skin type. It has corn germ oil and shea butter, which can be problematic for your skin type. Discard that and see if things improve.

But I do agree with your aesthetician. It’s always best to introduce one your product at a time into your skincare routine. That way, if something makes your skin breakout, you’ll know for sure what it is.

Lucia July 2, 2018 - 11:09 pm

Last week I had a chemical peel and a day after that the pimples start to come out (white pimples) the doctor said it is normal and now (a week later) the pimples are just red, BUT I am afraid that they will leave a mark :(((( do you think that my skin will be back to normal or the mark will be there?

Gio July 5, 2018 - 6:16 pm

Lucia, if you don’t pop/squeeze, your skin should go back to normal without leaving a mark.

Sascha July 4, 2018 - 12:13 pm

Hi Gio,

Thank you so much for this guide. I still can’t seem to figure out weither my skin is just purging or if it’s purging AND breaking out. I really hope you will help me with this.

I started using salicylic acid almost two weeks ago, and just as I expected my skin started purging shortly after, with lots of breakouts mainly on my jaw area (my usual problem area). I planned on keeping my skincare routine really simple while introducing the salicylic acid, only using my usual cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen – that way I could easily monitize the effects of the SA on my skin. But then a little over a week into using SA, I ran out of my usual sunscreen, and it being out of stock, I bought another from the same brand, only with a higher SPF. Then, after using the new sunscreen for only a day, my skin, mainly on my forehead there I don’t usually get a lot of breakouts, started erupting in pimples. I decided to continue using it for another couple of days, because it could just be part of the purging from SA, and I didn’t have any other sunscreen, so I didn’t really have a choice. My forehead now looks like a war zone, and my jaw area really isn’t pretty either, and I don’t know if it’s due to ‘just’ purging, or if it’s also my new sunscreen breaking me out. I stopped using the sunscreen yesterday, but I can’t really determin if my forehead looks any better. The only diffence in the new sunscreen and the old one that didn’t break me out, is that the new one contains diethhylhexyl polymethyl methacrylate and acrylates/c10-30 alkyl arylate prpanol whereas the old one contains polymethyl methacrylate and acrylates/c10-30 alkyl arylate prpanol – is the difference between these ingredients really that big? They sound almost identical. A part from that the old one contains the following that the new one doesn’t: glyyceryl stearate, glycerin, ceteareth-20, xanthan gum, sodium laureth sulfate and aminomethyl prppanol. So what I really want to ask you, Gio, is if you think that it’s my new sunscreen who’s the sinner, or if it’s simply just purging?

Gio July 5, 2018 - 8:05 pm

Sascha, seems to me like the sunscreen is the culprit. Stop using it for a few days and see if your skin gets better.

It may not necessarily be the new ingredients that are breaking your out. Maybe this new sunscreen has a higher concentration of an ingredient or a richer texture that’s clogging your pores.

Stefanie July 30, 2018 - 3:00 am

Hi!! Awesome post. I wasn’t aware of purging before I started doing research why I was all of a sudden breaking out BAD after starting a new skincare regimen. I’ve always had some cystic acne but usually was just one or two here and there. I do think I’m probably purging since it’s all along my chin and around my mouth which are my usually acne spots.
Should I be leaving these cysts alone or extracting?
I use:
AM: wash face with water unless working out, vitamin c serum mad hippie, mangosteen daily concentrate mixed with eminence neroli age corrective mist and then eminence red currant moisturizer for spf.
Pm: eminence probiotic cleanser (sometimes with strawberry rhubarb dermafoliant), DIFFERIN, mad hippie vitamin c serum, eminence mangosteeen daily concentrate, eminence facial recovery oil mixed with neroli age corrective hydrating mist

I changed too many things at once and my skin is freaking out. My skin hasn’t been this bad for a couple of years. I have maybe 6 painful cystic acne pimples on my chin. Tough it out or nix something? Please let me know!!!
The new products are differin, mangosteen, neroli spray and the oil.

Gio August 5, 2018 - 10:26 am

Stefanie, this is a tough call. Differin can indeed cause purging so I’d recommend you stick with that for 6 weeks and see if the situation improves.

But oils can clog pores so, for the time being, I’d leave them out of your skincare routine. Let’s see if the purge ends quicker without the oils aggravating your acne.

I’d also recommend a salicylic acid exfoliant in the morning. It’ll help the pimples go away faster.

Vanessa August 15, 2018 - 3:16 am

Hi there! I have a question about the glossier super pure serum. I’ve been using it for a week and have been noticing more cystic breakouts then I’m used to. I’ve read mixed things about zinc being increased cell turnover. Could this have been affecting my cell turnover? Or is it just a breakout

Gio August 16, 2018 - 11:59 am

Vanessa, zinc isn’t the kind of ingredient that causes purging. There must be something else in the product that’s giving you a breakout. 🙁

Sarah September 25, 2018 - 3:57 am

I have been using these new products (Madeca Derma Centellian Cream and Sheet Mask from Korea plus diluted ACV as my toner) for a month now. I was advised that I would experience purging for using the cream but what I’m scared about is that I’m still getting huge pimples on my forehead and cheeks until now and when one pimple goes away, another one develops or sometimes two. They leave dark spots as well. My face is worse than what it was before I used the product. I started having acne in February 2017 and tried so many products as well (also once consulted a derma but the treatment just broke me out even more) so I was thinking that probably my skin was too dirty inside due to the products that I’ve used before so it takes time for the purging to subside. but at the back of my mind, I feel like I’m already breaking out due to this cream but I’m praying that this is still purging and Madeca would work for me. I’d like to hear your opinion coz I already feel like crying. 🙁

Gio September 29, 2018 - 8:54 pm

Sarah, I’d love to help but I don’t know what’s in these products. I coudn’t find the ingredient lists online. Could you share them with me please so I can help you determine if it’s a purge or a breakout?

Maryjoy Calip December 2, 2018 - 1:48 pm

Hi, may I ask if it’s acwell no. 5.5 micro balancing foam cleanser and acwell licorice toner has a purging effect?

Gio December 7, 2018 - 11:50 am

Maryjoy, no, they don’t exfoliate skin so they don’t have any purging effect.

Danielle December 14, 2018 - 12:29 am

Hi Gio. Thanks for suck an insightful article. I must say that I have never really believed that purging is a ‘thing’, but reading this has given me a whole new perspective.

I am 42 year of age an have had super-temperamental skin since my late teens. I feel like I am on a constant learning curve when it comes to knowing which ingredients (and in what strength) cause me breakouts. When I start a new product and see the beginnings of a breakout I must admit to being far too self-conscious about my skin to have to deal with it so I always discontinue the product immediately.

I do have a question for you regarding the timing of breakouts. Is the amount of time it takes for comedomes to appear after commencing a new product any indication as to whether it’s a purge or a breakout? For instance, if I experience problems one or two days after commencement rather than a week later is the former more likely to be a purge and the latter a breakout? What are your thoughts?

Many thanks,

Gio January 19, 2019 - 11:38 am

Danielle, I hear ya! Good skincare is a process of trial and error, unfortunately! I wouldn’t say the timing has anything to do with whether it’s a breakout or a purge. The biggest indicator is what product you’re using. If the product has nothing that exfoliates skin or speeds up cellular turnover, it’s a breakout for sure.

ANNNE December 31, 2018 - 4:41 pm

hi i just started using a product that contains AHA and BHA and after a few days pimples started to form everywhere. im prone on having pimples on the my forehead but not on my cheeks. Pimples started to form on my chin and then on the side of my face. On my right side, small bumps suddenly formed with one pimple. Those bumps are like the bumps I have on my forehead. i still dont know if its breakout or purging. The product I use is MAXIPEEL Zero.

Gio January 24, 2019 - 6:32 pm

Annne, unfortunately I couldn’t find the ingredient list for Maxipeel Zero so I don’t know if it contains ingredients like coconut oil or isopropyl palmitate that could give you a breakout. I’d say wait a month. If after that, the breakouts disappear, it was a purge. If you still have then, it’s a breakouts so ditch Maxipeel.

Petya February 1, 2019 - 9:09 pm

Hi, I started using Klairs Pure Vitamin C drops almost 2 weeks ago and around 5 days ago I started having whiteheads around my nose that just pop out of nowhere. They are not painful and last roughly for about 24 hours (for example pop out in the morning and by the next morning have already developed and are even gone by just washing my face). I haven’t had a pimple or whitehead in such a long time and it’s obvious that something is causing it but I’m not sure if vitamin c is actually considered an active ingredient. On the other part of my face- forehead and cheeks my skin has really become brighter and more glowy and my skin has evened out so I really can’t tell if this is actually working or clogging up my pores around my nose. Moreover everyone has been giving this product positive reviews and haven’t reported such a problem so I find it strange that I’m experiencing this.

Gio February 7, 2019 - 5:51 pm

Petya, I understand your confusion. But that’s the problem with skin. Everyone’s skin is different. 1000 people can use the same product without problem and then the 1001 gets a bad rash! It may not be the vitamin C itself that’s causing the problem, but another ingredient or combination of ingredients in the product. Why don’t you try a different vitamin C product and see what happens?

Ashley February 5, 2019 - 3:18 am

Hi! Great article! I just started using Image Vital C serum. My skin is read and broken out in my forehead and cheeks and chin! My entire face actually. Is this a purge? I’ve only used it about 5 days now.

Gio February 8, 2019 - 6:02 pm

Ashley, vitamin C can’t purge skin. I’m afraid you’re esperiencing a breakout. There must be something in the product your skin doesn’t agree with,

Rajdeep May 13, 2019 - 5:43 pm

Well, thanks for this post. Very grateful to you guys. To tell you guys, about me. I always had acne prone skin, but it was mild always nonetheless. Recently 3-4 months back, I started taking some protein shake which imo reacted badly with my face. It took me a while like 2 months to realise, that it was this protein shake that was causing me an increase in my no. of microcomedones all over the face.
With time, my face got screwed real bad. My old dermo had no idea, about these. I changed my dermo, he gave me adapalene + benzoyl peroxide with minocyclinone tablets, non comodegenic moisturiser and water soluble face wash.
Initially with this treatment, my face bursted up with pimples. I researched my arse off day and night, about acne. I realized that the zits which is appearing in your face were already there 6-8 weeks ago. You can’t go back in time and heal them. And also, they have a life span of around 12 weeks. So, thing is you have to hold up there, waiting for the microcomedones to grow, inflame, heal or live their life In other words. Also, I guess, it will make sure all of your skin gets rid of all the upcoming pimples as soon as possible, which makes our skin worst, and then heals them slowly for recovery. As treatment, doesn’t help cure acne but helps in controlling them. So, it takes around 2 months for skin turnover and the antibiotics and treatment , to start working and show improvement if am not wrong.
I am in my 5th week. And my face is worse than ever. Hope this gets better. Wish me luck mates

Gio June 4, 2019 - 6:07 pm

Rajdeep, good luck! I know it’s hard, but like you said, it has to run its course. Hang in there. It’ll get better.

Rosa August 6, 2019 - 4:37 pm

I’ll use this for future reference, but I’m still wondering about something. I recently started using niacinamide 10%+ zinc 1% and my face broke out were my pores are biggest. Is it a purge even though it isn’t on that list?

Gio August 8, 2019 - 2:39 pm

Rosa, if it is NOT on that list, it’s NOT a purge. Ditch it.

Yaolin September 15, 2019 - 11:15 pm

Hi, I’ve been reading the comments and you mentioned in the article that vitamin C does purge skin but in a comment you said that it doesn’t. Other articles say vitamin C does purge skin too, so I’m confused.
Another thing I’d like to ask is I’m still not sure whether I’m purging or not. I’ve been using Paula’s choice salicylic acid for 2 months and never purged. Then I started using Paula’s choice vitamin C boost and it was fine for the first 3 weeks: skin got brighter and looked better in general. During this period I did get a lot of black heads and small bumps on my skin (I read on my first purging site that these were purging symptoms as well), but now it is worse than it has been in months. Although another article said that the increased amount of blackheads was a symptom of purging, the way my skin is breaking out makes me question whether this will actually be over within 4-6 weeks 🙁

Gio October 5, 2019 - 5:20 pm

Yaolin, thanks for catching the mistake. No, Vitamin C doesn’t cause purging. But there must be something else in the product that causes breakouts. Ditch it.

Lauren September 17, 2019 - 3:17 am

Hi Gio,

I’m pretty sure my skin is purging at the moment. I just used Dr. Brandt’s microdermabrasion age defying exfoliator. I used it twice last week and my chin, where I always break out, immediately broke out. My chin is filled with pimples of all types, white heads, little red pimples, some under the skin painful/cystic pimples. I put The Ordinary’s Salicylic Acid on top of these pimples, and that seemed to do more harm than good…causing some tiny little bumps to come up around one of the pimples, which looked like very little puss filled scabs. That has never happened to me before with the Salicylic acid. So I stopped the Salicylic Acid and have just been moisturizing my skin. My chin still has acne, no more scabs though, but it is very dry. The dry skin is beginning to peel off, which is great, but I don’t know whether or not I should use this Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion again. I haven’t used it in about a week now. What would you recommend in this situation? Also, what do you recommend in general when skin is purging, should you continue to use the product that caused the purging or wait until the acne clears up?

Gio October 5, 2019 - 5:11 pm

Lauren, I usually recommend sticking to products that cause purging. But this reaction seems a bit excessive. I personally wouldn’t use it anymore.

Lstar October 7, 2019 - 6:30 pm

Does Azelaic acid & Clindamycin cause purging?

Gio November 8, 2019 - 7:28 am

Lstar, yes they can.

dana October 15, 2019 - 4:23 am

I took glutathione capsules and detox tea 2-3 weeks prior to getting a lot of pimples. I am not sure if it’s purging. Then, I decided to of course treat them with new skincare products including salicylic acid cleanser, vitamin c serum and niacinamide essence. Does it mean that I will go through the same process again? That I will go through purging again? I am scared now coz I don’t know if I should continue or not as I don’t want another purge. Just started vitamin c 5% from dear klairs a week ago and wanted to get higher a concentration coz of a lot of hyperpigmentation. Please help. 🙁

Gio November 8, 2019 - 11:42 am

Dana, unfortunately it’s hard to tell. Purging happens when there are pimples forming underneath your skin. These pimples will come to the surface anyway. Purging just speeds up the process, so you deal with it only once. Unless you use comedogenic ingredients in your skincare products. In this case, you’ll keep breaking out until you get rid of them.

Catherine October 17, 2019 - 7:18 am

Started using gopure toner that has a ton of ingredients listed online on the website. Not sure if any should be causing a purge but want to make sure before I stop. Could you help? Thanks!

Gio November 8, 2019 - 11:36 am

Catherine, no, this toner can’t cause purging. But it has plenty of oils that could cause a breakout in oilier skin types.

Lindsey February 16, 2020 - 2:53 pm

I just started using Skinceuticals CE ferulic about 2 weeks ago. My face is breaking out like crazy in all the spots I usually break out in (so from the questions you mentioned above – I thought it may be a purge). But I’m getting married in 3 months and I’m scared that the breakouts won’t stop! I have a Hydrafacial scheduled this week. Should I stop using the CE ferulic? Or is this normal? Help please!

Gio March 6, 2020 - 10:26 am

Lindsey, I personally would stop using it for the time being. You can also give it another go after the wedding.

Sarah Knutson March 4, 2020 - 10:37 pm

Hi Gio, I love your blog! Thank you for all of the great info! I just started my 13 year old daughter on a skin care regimen after I saw she had a blackhead on her upper lip. I bought her the Caudalie Vinopure Clear Pores set and she only used the Vinopure Skin Perfecting Serum, Vinopure Purifying Toner, and the Vinopure Purifying Gel Cleanser just the one time before I had her stop. We didn’t even get to the very last step, the moisturizer, when her chin broke out into a lot of little red pimples. Could a purge happen in just minutes or is this a breakout? And she has never used salicylic acid before, only bar soap. I want to teach her, while she’s young, that skin care is important. Did I start her out with products that were too harsh? I picked it because of the Clean at Sephora stamp. She has combination skin. What would you suggest?

Vinopure Skin Perfecting Serum 30ml – Concentrated in natural salicylic acid: atural Salicylic Acid (Derived from Wintergreen):
-Grape Seed Polyphenols: Provide antioxidant protection and prevent blackheads.
-Complex of Essential Oils Formulated with Carrier Oils (Spearmint, Geranium, Lemongrass, Lavender, Rosemary, and Lemon Balm): 100 percent natural, non-photo-sensitizing, noncomedogenic, and antibacterial

Aqua/Water/Eau, Rosa Damascena Flower Water*, Alcohol*, Niacinamide, Butylene Glycol*, Salicylic Acid*, Sodium Hyaluronate, Cymbopogon Citratus Leaf Oil*, Lavandula Hybrida Oil*, Melissa Officinalis Leaf Oil*, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil*, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil*, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil*, Palmitoyl Grape Seed Extract*, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Phytate*, Tocopherol*, Xanthan Gum, Citral*, Citronellol*, Geraniol*, Limonene*, Linalool* (184/123). *Plant Origin.

Vinopure Purifying Toner (50ml) –
Natural Salicylic Acid (derived from Wintergreen): Decongests and tightens the look of clogged pores, draws out excess oil and bacteria, refines the look of skin texture.
-Grape Seed Polyphenols: Provides antioxidant protection, and prevents oil from oxidating, preventing blackheads.
-Complex of Essential Oils Formulated With Carrier Oils (Spearmint, Geranium, Lemongrass, Lavender, Rosemary, Lemon Balm): 100 percent natural, non-photo-sensitizing, noncomedogenic, and antibacterial. Provides antiseptic and calming properties to skin that will diminish the appearance of blemishes and prevent new ones from occurring.
-Grape Water: Calms redness and supports natural hydration.

Water, Alcohol Denat.*, Rosa Damascena Flower Water*, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Water*, Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside*, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice*, Salicylic Acid*, Cymbopogon Citratus Leaf Oil*, Lavandula Hybrida Oil*, Melissa Officinalis Leaf Oil*, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil*, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil*, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil*, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Phytate, Arginine, Citric Acid, Citral*, Citronellol*, Geraniol*, Limonene*, Linalool* (182/035

Vinopure Purifying Gel Cleanser (30ml) –
-Natural Salicylic Acid: Unclogs and tightens the appearance of pores.
-Organic Essential Oil Complex and Grape Seed Polyphenols: Antibacterial, antioxidant; reduces the look of blemishes.
-Grape Water: Soothes and visibly reduces redness.

Water, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Water, Decyl Glucoside, Glycerin, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Sucrose Cocoate, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Propanediol, Sodium Glutamate, Sodium Chloride, Caprylyl Glycol, Coconut Acid, Salicylic Acid, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice, Cymbopogon Citratus Leaf Oil, Lavandula Hybrida Oil, Melissa Officinalis Leaf Oil, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Citral, Citronellol, Geraniol, Linalool

Thank you!!

Gio March 6, 2020 - 3:40 pm

Sarah, well done for wanting to introduce your daughter to a good skincare regime early on. 🙂

Unfortunately, the products you picked are loaded with essential oils (they’re very common in natural products). A purge can’t happen in minutes, but an allergic reaction or bad rash can. I recommend you look for fragrance-free products instead.

Brianna May 2, 2020 - 12:01 pm

Hiii, Hope you’re well and safe. I just discovered your blog from the Beauty Within YouTube channel and I love the info you’re putting out. So, I suspect I’m going through a purge because I have been breaking out a lot since I started really paying attention to my skin care again and using AHAs. However, I’m not new to them. Long story short, I suffered with acne pretty much my whole life but after I had my first son it got a lot worse. I used acne.org, cleared it up in a couple months. But then I got really neglectful with my skin care, wasn’t wearing sunscreen, sleeping in makeup. Baby #2 rolls around and I got very bad melasma during the pregnancy and afterwards, more acne. Hence, why I’m getting back into skincare but being more intricate with my skin than acne.org. But I have a few questions:
1. Can another sign of purging Be dryness? I get flaky and dry around my melasma areas and I’m wondering if my skin is shedding to renew itself. I usually have oily skin so this dryness is a shock to my system.
2. I recently bought a ton of products with fragrance, well just 2 from Belif (toner and moisturizer) and 2 from Glow recipe (Moisturizers), I did the awful thing of using them all at once (because I’m starting a whole new regimen so I kind of had to) but after learning about fragrance in skincare, I stopped using them and invested in fragrance free products, aside from my cleansers since they’re wash-off treatments so I’m assuming they’re harmless. Would you recommend I toss the products or work them in one at a time to see how my skin reacts? I’d hate to waste the money but I don’t want to harm my skin just tho safe money. This brings me to my next question…
3. Can a product be irritating or cause damage to the skin and not FEEL irritating?
4. Are there any products/ingredients you recommend avoiding while nursing?
*so sorry that was so long but if you answer that’ll be much appreciated!!

Gio May 15, 2020 - 5:51 pm

Brianna, thank you for your kind words. So glad you like my content. To answer your questions:

1. Dryness isn’t usually a sign of purging, but it’s a sign of overexfoliation. You’re not supposed to exfoliate daily.
2. Fragrance is bad only if it irritates your skin. If it doesn’t, you can use the products safely. Work them in one at a time and see how your skin reacts.
3. In theory, using too many irritants like citrus oils could cause unseen damage. But again, it all depends on the dose. In tiny amounts, very few things cause real harm.
4. I’d stay away from all retinoids during nursing, just to be on the safe side.

Avni May 31, 2020 - 10:20 am

I have been using 10 % niacinamide with zinc and i’m getting small bumps on my face . Not pimples just bumps . Can it be purging ?

Gio June 12, 2020 - 10:17 am

Avni, no. This doesn’t cause purging.


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