How to tell if you're Purging or Breaking Out

November 25, 2020 7 min read 0 Comments

How to tell if you're Purging or Breaking Out

 By VeganAcneSufferers

Many people believe that skin purging is a myth, but this is simply not true. Your skin can – and does – purge. It can, however, be difficult to tell if this skin purge is good for your skin, or if it simply does not like the new product you are using.

A lot of companies that boast about their product being “all-natural” or “chemical-free” also like to claim that their products cause “skin purging” due to detox. This is false, plain and simple. These companies are using skin purging as a guise to mask the fact that their product has less than ideal ingredients, so they can encourage users to continue to use the product even when they begin breaking out.

Your skin will not “purge” unless there is an ingredient in the product which increases skin cell turnover. 

In this article, the team at Banish will discuss what skin purging is, several misconceptions about skin purging, and how to tell if you are purging or breaking out.

You will learn everything you need to know about skin purging and breakouts when trying new products, and what you should do if it turns out your skin is breaking out rather than purging.

What Is Skin Purging?

A skin purge is a reaction the skin has to certain ingredients that are considered chemical exfoliants. These ingredients, namely retinols and acids, take away the top layer of dead skin cells so the new cells underneath can regenerate sooner than they would on their own.

This process of exfoliation and regeneration is known as cell turnover, which is a natural process the body goes through. These chemical exfoliants simply speed up the cell turnover process.

Unfortunately, this can cause breakouts and blockages to come to the surface sooner, as the irritated skin is brought to the surface. Many things in life get worse before they get better, and our skincare is no different.

The good news, however, is that these spots are temporary, and the side effects are typically temporary in comparison to a standard breakout. This true skin purge should leave your skin feeling refreshed and looking healthy, which is a sign that the products you chose are working as intended.

How Long Does Skin Purging Last?

The skin’s average cycle lasts 30 days, meaning every month, a layer of your skin cells comes off and new cells are exposed on the surface. Everyone’s skin is a little different, so some people may find that their skin cells turn over every 28 days, or some may turn over every 31 days. The difference is minimal but can cause changes to how long skin purging lasts.

Skin purging lasts for 4-6 weeks depending on your skin’s typical cell turnover cycle and how heavily the pores are blocked underneath the surface of the skin. If your skin is purging, the irritation will stop after that, as the clogged pores have had time to rise to the surface and clear out, leaving you with healthy, unclogged pores.

If your skin has shown irritation for longer than 6 weeks after starting a new product with a chemical exfoliant, you are likely breaking out rather than purging.

Ingredients And Products That Can Cause Purging

There are several ingredients and products that can cause skin purging which are listed below. Many skin care treatments will advertise these ingredients, but others may hide it in their ingredients list, so it is important to look through the ingredients label to see if your product contains these chemical exfoliants.

Some ingredients and products that can cause skin purging are:

  • AHAs & BHAs (glycolic acid, malic acid, salicylic acid)
  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Vitamin C
  • Retinoids (tretinoin, isotretinoin, retinol)
  • Exfoliants

Anyone who has ever used tretinoin or isotretinoin can attest that your skin does go through a “purging” phase. The skin will break out, usually quite a lot, but often in the usual breakout zones. For example, if you never get pimples on your forehead, your pores are likely clean and healthy in that area, so the skin would not begin to purge on your forehead.  

purging skincare ingredients

What Do I Do If My Skin Is Purging?

Thankfully, skin purging should not last long. Most purges only last about a month, which is the amount of time that it takes for your skin to renew. Sometimes, it can take up to 6 weeks if pores are clogged enough.

If your skin is purging, you should stick with the new routine and/or product that initially caused the purge. Use the product as much as you are supposed to according to the directions on the bottle. Using a product improperly can exacerbate purging and breakouts and cause more damage than it heals. 

Remember that even if a product does have the potential ingredients to purge your skin, it does not mean that the skin is purging. These same ingredients still have the potential to cause irritation and breakouts. Because of this, it is important to only try one new product at a time and give it time to work, so you can determine which products your skin responds well to, and which cause breakouts.

What Is A Breakout?

A breakout occurs when the skin’s pores become clogged, irritated, or inflamed. Pores may become clogged due to products applied to the skin, such as makeup, or over-production of a natural moisturizing substance in the skin called sebum.

Irritated and inflamed pores may be responding to chemicals or products applied to the face or dry skin pores. When the skin is dirty, the small hair follicles may also clump together and plug pores as bacteria grows, resulting in the irritation of the pores.

A breakout occurs when these pores, now red and clogged, make their way to the surface of the skin and any plugs begin to breakdown. These spots appear in the form of zits, pimples, and acne spots.

What Do I Do If My Skin Is Breaking Out?

If your skin does not begin to improve after 6-8 weeks of using the new product, it is time to ditch that product immediately. For one reason or another, that product is just not right for your skin.

Once you stop using that product, go back to your normal, old skincare routine before trying a different product. This will give your skin time to return to normalcy and give you a baseline to start with a new product.

Because your skin is breaking out, now would also be a good time to up the ante on your normal routine, as well – cleansing in the morning and at night, avoiding overuse of spot treatments, using a good face mask like the Banish Pumpkin Enzyme Masque, and using a good moisturizer full of antioxidants is a great start.

How Can You Treat Breakouts?

Treating breakouts is a difficult battle that is unique to every individual. If you were using a new product before the breakout occurred, you should return to your normal skincare routine. If you did not have a skincare routine, you should wash your face twice a day – in the morning and at night – with a cleansing face wash.

Using a good face mask can also help reduce breakouts, as well as using a good moisturizer full of antioxidants that is right for your skin. If your breakouts are not getting any better, it is important to see a dermatologist to help decipher what your skin needs to see results.

When you are breaking out, it can be tempting to pop pimples and zits that show up, but it is important to resist this temptation. Popping these zits can worsen acne and leave behind “acne scars.”

How To Tell If Your Skin Is Purging Or Breaking Out

There are several ways you can tell if your skin is purging or if you are breaking out. Below is a checklist to help you determine which process your skin is going through right now:

  • If your skin breaks out more than normal, but in the usual places, and the breakout is getting progressively better, it is likely that your skin is purging.
  • If your skin breaks out more than normal, but not in the usual places, and it is not getting better, it is likely that your skin is breaking out.
  • If your skin breaks out more than normal in the usual places and it is not getting better, it is likely that your skin is breaking out.
  • If your skin is breaking out more than normal and you are using a new product that contains ingredients that stimulate cell turnover, it is likely that your skin is purging.
  • If your skin breaks out more than normal and you are using a new product without ingredients that stimulate cell turnover, your skin is likely breaking out.



It can take time to determine whether your skin is purging or if it is breaking out. If any breakouts last more than 6-8 weeks, you should see a dermatologist to discuss your skin type and what care routine may be best for you.

In general, you should only use skin care products that are dermatologist recommended and try to seek treatments that are right for your skin type. Dry skin types, for example, should use products that help soothe and moisturize the face, while oily skin types should use cleansing products without ingredients that increase sebum production.

Hopefully, now you're well-equipped to understand the difference between purging and breaking out.



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I first got acne in high school, and it came back in my early adulthood. I was able to struggle through those difficult times and come out of it a stronger, wiser, healthier person as a result. I'm here to help you do the same thing!

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