Skin Purging vs Breakout | Learn the Differences



Skin purging vs Breakout - Is There a Silver Lining in Acne?


Yes, there is  - a glowing healthy skin after purging.


If you have started using a new skincare product, understanding skin purging vs breakout is very important. Let us say something like retinoid which decreases both non-inflammatory and inflammatory acne, or an exfoliant with acids, you may notice that after the first application your skin has started to break out.


Little bumps on your cheeks, forehead, and chin will start to appear. However, there is nothing to worry about. This may seem like a breakout, but what you are actually experiencing is called skin purging.


While they may look and seem the same, skin purging vs breakout is a topic for an everlasting debate and these are in fact two very different things. It is important to know the difference to be able to choose the right skincare for yourself.  Let us explain the differences.




What is skin purging?


Skin purging is a good thing. It can be described as “beneficial temporary breakouts” that occur when you start using a new product or ingredient that increases the natural skin cell turnover rate. Products that actively speed up the process of the skin cell turnover cycle help reveal healthier skin cells, but not without first “purging” all the impurities residing underneath your skin. This would include excess sebum (oil), bacteria, flakes of dry skin, dead skin cells, and present buildup that clogs pores.


After the first application of the product, all this gunk will quickly rise to the surface of your pores causing the appearance of pimples, and acne purging.


It may look different from person to person, but skin purging takes form in mostly a mix of blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, cysts, or tiny skin-colored bumps. However, it is important to acknowledge that not everyone will experience a purge after using an exfoliating product.


All skin types are different and while some might purge more than others, it usually depends on the sensitivity of the skin and how much build-up is present inside the pores ready to be pushed out. You might also notice increased purging takes place around the oily T-zone or common areas of your breakouts, such as the nose, chin, or forehead.


Albeit frustrating, there is a silver lining in skin purging - after one or two weeks your skin and acne will have noticeably improved and you will get a glowing healthy skin in the end.


What are the most common ingredients that cause purging?


  • Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), Glycolic acid and Lactic acid
  • Salicylic acid (Beta-hydroxy acid or BHAs)
  • Retinol, Retin-A and retinoids
  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • L-ascorbic acid (Acidic forms of Vitamin C)
  • Fruit acids and enzymes
  • Azelaic acid (more than 15% concentration)


What are breakouts?


Breakouts are something that almost anyone with any skin type is familiar with. They can be frustrating and annoying, but most importantly, they are, typically, a permanent reaction to using a new product.  A breakout is an indication of an allergic reaction or irritation from the product itself.


These “bad” breakouts often appear on new areas of the face where acne usually does not occur (which shows that it’s due to a reaction to a product). Acne breakouts cause skin inflammation and red, irritated pimples to form, and they will not get better unless you change your skincare routine.




Skin Purging vs Breakout: What is The Difference?


It is essential to understand the differences between skin purging and breakouts and what is considered "normal and good" and what is a signal to stop using a product or ingredient immediately.



Skin Purging



Appears in areas where breakouts frequently happen.

Appears on new areas of the face where you do not normally break out.


Depends on the individual, but on average, it lasts about 1-4 weeks 

Takes 8 to 10 days to appear and shrink.


As mentioned above, unlike reaction-based breakouts, purging is the first sign that a product will be beneficial to your skin long-term; purging is an indication that the product is speeding up that process of skin cell turnover and renewal.


On the other hand, if you’re experiencing breakouts or dryness in an area of your face where you do not normally break out,  it is probably due to a response to a new skincare product you are using. And, remember, breakouts occur in new areas of the face, while purging often occurs in areas where acne pops up frequently.


BelleCôte Esthetician Tip: Beware the skin expert or company who might want you to believe that you’re experiencing skin purging when you’re not. The majority of the time, your skin is breaking out because something in the product is irritating your skin. Stop using that new product for a week, if the breakouts go away,  most likely your skin is reacting to an ingredient, and it might not be the best option for your skin type.


How to deal with Skin Purging?


Understand the skin purging vs breakout debate carefully. Even if purging is a frustrating process, there are a few ways that you can make it tolerable for yourself and your skin.


Hands off! Try not to pick at the acne


You know and we know, as tempting as it may be, it is best for you to not pick at your acne while your skin is purging. This action will only extend the purging period and can also lead to permanent scarring.


Don’t touch!


When you peel off the skin, it can harm the new skin underneath and that’s a no-no.


Do not use drying skincare products


Skincare products that have ingredients such as exfoliating acids can further dry out your skin excessively during the purging period. Since your skin is already in the middle of a cell turnover, it is best to avoid any extra stimulation that can cause stress to the skin, especially on sensitive skin types.


Use the gradual method


If you wish to minimize the purging process, we suggest the “ease in” method. Make sure you’re only trying one new product at a time. For example, if you are introducing a retinoid to your skin, during the first week, apply the retinoid two times a week. Then during the second week, apply it three times that week.


Gradually work your way up to daily use. This way, your skin will have time to adjust to the new ingredient and thus minimize the purging process. 


You can follow the same pattern with exfoliating acids; just be sure to start with a once-a-week application, and don’t exceed two to three times per week at the most. (Any more than that could lead to over-exfoliating.)


This technique doesn’t apply to chemical peels as they shouldn’t be used more than once a month, tops.


You could also do a patch test on your inner forearm; wait at least 24-48 hours to make sure your skin doesn’t react to it. While this is not a 100% guarantee that your skin won’t purge once you put it on your face, it’s a good way to make sure you’re not allergic to the product.


BelleCôte Esthetician Tip: Before considering a harsh treatment (retinoids, chemical peel, etc), try our deep exfoliator with mixed acids like our 3-Acid Organic Seaweed Exfoliator (Mandelic, Salicylic, and Lactic) with “ZERO” downtime.


Easy is good!


Until you’re healed, switch to a gentle skincare product that will avoid inflammation.  We recommend a mild cleanser, moisturizer, and hydrating mist. Avoid the sun, if possible, or slather on your sunscreen with lots of SPF. 


We suggest using a very mild cleanser preferably with Marine collagen. It’s never irritating and heals and calms your skin. A healing hydrating mask like our Triple Stem Cell Mask will help remove impurities and will replace damaged cells.


Change your pillowcase and face towel twice a week.


You can try a few home remedies to heal and hydrate your skin:


There are some home remedies for your skin are:


Oatmeal mask


Grind oatmeal to a powder and mix it with boiled but room temperature water, apply to your face for 10 minutes, and remove with cool or room temperature water.


Aloe Vera Mask


Aloe Vera can prevent inflammation and reduce acne caused by skin purging. Apply raw Aloe Vera gel (directly extracted from the plant) onto your skin.


Most Frequently Asked Questions:


How long does the acne purge last?


Depending on the skin type and skin condition, it usually takes one skin cycle, 28 days, for the most visible purging to be done.  Although some individual acne might heal quickly, the whole purging process could take between four to six weeks.


Does Salicylic Acid (SA) cause skin purging?


It’s an acid that’s used to treat acne purge but take it easy on it.  You need small amounts of it with low concentrations as higher concentrations of salicylic acid will cause purging.


What is the most common procedure after which you will be purging?


One of the most common procedures after which you will get purging is a chemical peel. Be patient for one skin cycle ( about 28 days). Everyone’s skin is unique, so that time frame can differ from person to person.


BelleCôte Skin Care Routine During Purging


  1. Anti-Aging Marine Collagen Cleanser- gently removes impurities from the skin.
  2. Anti-Aging Marine Collagen Toner aka Fermented Hydrating Mist, cools your skin.
  3. Day Light Moisturizer with Stem Cells to replace damaged skin cells.
  4. Double Sun Protection Cream with Marine Peptides to protect your new skin from UVA/UVB rays.

Twice a week,  apply Triple Stem Cell Mask - Cell Energizer to heal and hydrate your skin and replace damaged skin cells.


BelleCôte Paris’ gentle Exfoliants


At BelleCôte, we offer skincare products with exfoliating agents that help vitalize and clear out your skin, while also reducing breakouts, leaving behind a smooth, youthful, glowing complexion.


Organic Seaweed Exfoliator


Powered with Mandelic, Lactic, and Salicylic acids, this exfoliator is best in effectively removing dead skin cells, reducing wrinkles, and unclogging as well as refining pores. Provides hydration and stimulates blood circulation. With Laminaria extract, our exfoliator will never overdry or over-exfoliate your skin but instead gives it an instant glow by refreshing dull and dehydrated skin.


Gentle on all skin types. Suitable for sensitive skin.




With wet hands, massage gently into the skin using circular motions. For best results, rinse off with lukewarm water or with a warm towel.



Azelaic Toner


Also known as a miracle healer for breakouts, our Azelaic Toner reduces oiliness, shrinks pores, and reduces the redness of irritated skin. This toner is a gentle exfoliant that heals acne, reduces blackheads, and lightens dark spots. Concentrated with Azelaic and Salicylic acid, it clears breakouts almost overnight.


Perfect for normal and oily/combination skin types.




Use after cleansing in the morning and evening. Generously moisten a cotton pad and pat on the face, concentrating on problem areas. Avoid the eye area.


The Takeaway


Know why skin purging vs breakout is an everlasting argument. As annoying as purging may be, having smooth, youthful, glowing skin popping up from underneath the surface is definitely worth it! However, skin purging does require patience. Everyone’s skin is unique and the time frame of the healing process can take up to a month, so decide wisely.

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