Purging versus breakouts - Skinora
Feefo logo Free Shipping on all orders over £35 and up to 15% off

Purging versus breakouts

Suffering from bad skin? There is a chance it might be doing you good in the long run. In this blog, we look at purging, breakouts, and the difference between the two; something it can really help to know when trying different skin treatments.

Skin purging

Purging and breakouts can have similar outcomes, but that doesn’t mean they are the same thing. Purging can be characterised by pimples or spots, but it is not an ordinary acne. Purging is a fast outbreak which occurs when a new skincare regime is begun, causing pimple formation to speed up. What is happening? Your skin cells are turning over faster than previously, and this causes trapped debris and serum to become loose. If you already had clogged pores, they can come to the surface of the skin and also appear as a breakout.

There are skincare products which can sometimes cause purging. These active ingredients include vitamin C treatments, retinoids, exfoliating peels and some hydroxy acids. So is purging a good thing? We can say yes, because unless the process had started, the debris and hardened serum could still be inside the pores. This is certainly not desirable, because it can lead to clogging and inflammation. Think of purging like many other processes in life – sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better!

How long does purging last?

Our skin cells constantly regenerate and repair themselves. Old cells on the skin surface slough away and new cells rise from the deeper layers to the skin surface replacing the old cells. Over time this renewal process slows down but can be increased with chemical exfoliants such as hydroxy acids and retinols. Purging therefore lasts around 4-6 weeks the length of  skin cycle. If however your skin isn’t improving after 6-8 weeks this could be a sign your skin is not suited or reacting  to  the product.



As with purging, breakouts can occur when new skincare products are used for the first time. They can indicate that a product is not suitable for your skin, and is having the effect of clogging the pores. Breakouts can also be the result of skin irritation or an allergic reaction. Acne or blemishes are the result of inflammation, and because your skin becomes irritated, this can lead to a weakened skin barrier which is more exposed to impurities and acne causing bacteria.

How can I tell the difference between purging and breakouts?

So with the two sharing the same symptoms, how can you tell whether purging or a breakout is taking place.

If you’re using a new skincare product that doesn’t contain active ingredients which would encourage and increase skin cell turnover, the breakout is less likely to be skin purging.

Purging is likely if you have recently begun using a new skincare product which contain active ingredients that have the effect of increasing skin cell turnover, and you get breakout-type signs on your face; especially at the chin, nose and forehead. This is because these active ingredients will stimulate skin cell turnover and cause debris and build up to rise to the skin surface and trigger a breakout. Duration can also offer a clue; the purging period will typically up to  eight weeks. However, if the product you have started using is not conducive to cell turnover – such as a sunscreen or moisturiser – it could be a breakout. Look closely to see if acne appears on a part of your face where you don’t usually see it, as this can be another breakout indicator.

How to support skin when purging?

Dehydration is common during purging, so add in ingredients such as sodium hyaluronate or hyaluronic acid – its powerful 1 molecule of hyaluronic acid will attract 1000 molecules of water. In addition, humidifiers can help at night because you’ll draw in more water molecules and subsequently hydrate the skin. This helps to speed up recovery from any purging.

When introducing a new skincare product with active ingredient that stimulate skin cell turnover, introduce it slowly to minimise purging. Start with a small amount at the start and gradually increase use over time.

Here are some of our bestsellers which may cause purging but give impressive results once the purging settles!

ZO Skin Health Exfoliating Cleanser

Obagi Professional-C Serum 10%

Obagi Professional-C Serum 10%

Exuviance Brightening Eye Cream Plus

Skinceuticals Retinol 0.3


Skinceuticals Retinol 0.3%

ZO Skin Health Complexion Renewal Pads

ZO Skin Health Complexion Renewal Pads

SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense Serum

Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense Serum

To see which products will suit your skin type and address your skin concerns, take the skin quiz and connect with our Skinora Doctors for your personalised regime.

About the Author: Anna Puri

Dr Anna Puri is an Aesthetic doctor and GP with over 14 years experience in both the medical and aesthetic fields. She completed her undergraduate training at the University of St Andrews and University of Manchester. She continues to work both as an Aesthetic doctor at her clinics in Ascot and Kew and as a GP. Dr Anna brings her holistic approach to all aspects of the care she provides with a strong focus on advice and treatment that is specifically tailored to her patients expectations and needs. She has worked with cosmeceutical skin care brands and treated a wide range of skin concerns for over a decade. Dr Anna has a special interest in Antiaging skincare and procedures . Dr Anna's work has been featured in various magazines including Lux and The Aesthetics Journal. You can follow Dr Anna on the SkinoraUK instagram page and Skinora YouTube channel.

Learn More About Us

Last update: May 30th, 2021

No subscription required

Try Skinora once or request repeat deliveries and receive 10% off repeat orders.

How it works

Take our 3 minute quiz

Take our 3 minute quiz

Start with a skin quiz compiled by our doctors

This assesses many factors to allow us to customise your skincare for a £10 skin analysis fee

Receive your Customised Skin Programme

Receive your Customised Skin Programme

Our skin experts will determine the best products for YOU according to your profile

Choose your products

Choose your products

Pay only for the products you’d like to keep

Redeem the £10 against anything you purchase

Delivery to Your Door

Delivery to Your Door

We will customise your programme each time adjusting to changes in the seasons and lifestyle factors so your skincare is customised for you

Take Your Skin Type Quiz
  • No products in the cart.