Skin purging vs breakouts: Understanding the difference

If you’re someone who is familiar with using actives for your skin, you may have heard of or even experienced skin purging.

Skin purging typically refers to a reaction towards an active ingredient that deliberately increases the turnover rate of skin cells. Dermatologists and skincare experts reveal that as the skin cell turnover speeds up, the skin starts shedding dead skin cells. And this procedure usually happens relatively faster than normal.

But what happens at the end of purging? It helps expose the fresh skin cells underneath, revealing clearer, radiant, and younger-looking skin. If only things were that easy, we would desperately want our skin to purge.

Sometimes, one may experience a bunch of pimples on your skin. The reason could either be purging or breakout. But how do you know whether it is skin purging or breakout?

In this article, we will make a difference between purging and breakout and discuss each individually. While you delve further, you will also learn about ‘what is skin purging’, ‘what is breakout on face’, and other things. Please keep reading until the end of the article to learn more about it.

Let’s get started.

What is Purging Skin?

If you are wondering what is purging skin, then hear this. Skin purging typically refers to the skin's reaction towards some active ingredients that efficiently trigger cell turnover.

Furthermore, skin purging might cause your skin to exfoliate and bring congestion to the surface. Dermatologists reveal that skin purging most commonly occurs when the skin reacts to retinoids and chemical exfoliants.

What is Skin Breakout?

And then you may wonder, ‘what is skin breakout’. Skin breakout, also known as acne, is a skin condition that causes outbreaks of pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and other blemishes. It is caused by the overproduction of oils in the skin that clogs pores and accumulates dead skin cells. Acne can occur on the face, chest, back, or shoulders. It usually affects adolescents and young adults but can also affect people of any age.

During a breakout, the hair follicles typically fill with dead skin cells, bacteria, and sebum. And this automatically leads to redness, swelling, and inflammation. Over time skin pores get clogged, pushing the contents towards the skin’s surface.

Also read: What your breakouts are trying to tell you

Purging vs Breakout

Even though skin purging and breakout might look similar, their causes are quite different. Breakouts are usually caused due to the following reasons:

  • Eating oily food
  • Stress
  • Clogged skin pores
  • Allergic reaction on the skin
  • Skin irritation, etc.

On the other hand, skin purging usually develops when you incorporate some new skincare product into your skincare regimen. The active ingredients in skincare products promote a rapid skin cell turnover.

In the following section, we will quickly compare skin purging vs breakout and draw out the significant differences.

Difference Between Purging and Breakout

Purging is the process of accelerated skin cell turnover. This can happen when new products or treatments are introduced to your skincare routine and cause a period of intense breakouts. Purging typically lasts for 4-6 weeks, during which time you may experience whiteheads, blackheads, and other blemishes.

On the other hand, breakouts are caused by hormones, clogged pores, diets, and lifestyle choices. They usually take longer to heal than purging does and tend not to last as long as purges do. Breakouts can also be more painful and potentially leave scars after healing.

What Does Skin Purging Look Like

Skin purging may look different for every individual and somewhat depends on their complexion. Generally, dead skin cells come to the surface and promote dry and peeling skin. The skin might also adjust to the increased skin cell turnover rate, becoming red and irritated.

But if you are still wondering ‘what does skin purging look like’, you should look out for blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, papules, etc.

How Many Days Does Purging Last

The duration of skin purging also varies from one individual to another. Usually, skin purging lasts for 4-6 weeks. By the end of the 6th week, your skin might begin responding to the medications. You might start noticing significant improvements.

The initial symptoms will automatically subside. Furthermore, you will notice brighter, smoother skin with a more even tone.

How Do I Know if My Skin is Purging or Reacting

The best way to tell whether your skin is purging or reacting is to pay attention to the location and type of blemish. Purging tends to show up in areas that were already prone to breakouts, such as the forehead, chin, and jawline. However, if you experience an increase in breakouts in other areas of your face or body after introducing a new product or treatment, it is more likely that your skin is reacting.

In addition, since purging usually happens with whiteheads or blackheads, if you experience large red bumps (such as cysts) immediately following a new skincare routine or product introduction, then it may be better to discontinue use until the skin has calmed down.


By now, you must have clearly understood the differences between skin purging and breakout. Certain ingredients, like retinol and exfoliating acids, promote skin exfoliation. Furthermore, it promotes new skin to form on the surface.

If skin purging doesn’t clear within six weeks and worsens, consult your dermatologist. You can also consider using the skincare products from The Pink Foundry. They are specifically designed to help remove excess oils, clean pores, and regulate oil production. This can make your skin look healthier and reduce breakouts.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will my skin become clear after purging?

After your skin purges, you get clearer, brighter, and smooth skin. In the end, purging is a good sign as you are one step closer to better skin. Make sure that you continue using skincare products to improve your skin health.

  • Can I wear makeup while my skin is purging?

Wearing makeup is not off the table. But you must try to give your skin a little chance to breathe whenever possible. So if you wish to wear makeup while your skin is purging, keep it limited. Also, make sure that you use oil-free products on your face.

  • What can worsen skin purging?

Skin purging usually occurs when your skin is introduced to new skincare ingredients. And if you keep applying those ingredients, your skin cell turnover rate will automatically increase. Therefore, it might cause you to shed more dead skin cells than usual.

  • What should you avoid while your skin is purging?

Whenever your skin is purging, you need to avoid popping those pimples. You must also avoid touching your face excessively and refrain from using harsh exfoliants and chemicals.

  • Does purging pave the way for whiteheads?

During skin purging, some people experience very small clusters of typical types of acne. They are usually whiteheads, pustular breakouts, or blackheads. Also, if you are prone to cystic acne or papules, you might experience a certain form of blemishes.

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