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Skin Purging vs. Breakouts: Is Your New Skincare Helping or Hurting?

Jocelyn Langford
Written by
Jocelyn Langford

Imagine this: you just started using a new skincare line that promises clear, glowing skin, and you are PUMPED. You can finally say goodbye to breakouts.

Two days in and not only is there no improvement, but your skin looks worse. Did you just waste the better part of your paycheck on products that are only provoking your skin, or are these heightened breakouts the light at the end of the tunnel?

It's common for new skincare to cause more breakouts than usual. The key is to figure out whether the deluge of new acne is your skin purging or crying out for help. 

The Science Behind Your Breakout

There's a solid chance that at this point in your acne-filled adventure, you're more concerned with clearing your complexion than mentally ingesting med school worthy explanations.

But understanding what your skin is doing when you end up with a face full of bothersome bumps can give you insight into achieving the smooth skin that dreams are made of.

If you've had acne for more than twelve seconds, you've probably heard the term 'clogged pore,' but do you know what it really means?

It all starts with skin. Everybody has it, but for some of us, it's a tad temperamental. Everyone's skin cells shed and regenerate over time. For people with normal skin, it takes about a month for a skin cell to complete a full cycle, called "Cell Turnover." 

Cell regeneration for acne-prone individuals is ultra-fast, so fast that the body has a hard time keeping up.

Imagine pouring rice into a funnel. If you go slow, the rice will pour through just fine. But when you dump in too much rice at once, the rice gets clogged in the funnel, and nothing gets through.

Your pores are like the funnel that can only take so much of the rice, or your skin cells, at once. If you’re prone to acne, your skin cells are regenerating too quickly and clogging your pores from the start.

As if the rapid skin cell production isn't enough, folks with acne are also dealing with a surplus of natural oil, called sebum. Under normal circumstances, this oil hydrates and provides nutrients to the skin, but when the skin produces too much sebum, it ends up as a tasty treat for all the harmful bacteria living on your skin.

That's right, the extra oil your skin produces is a breeding ground for bad bacteria. Care to guess how pores get clogged?

Yep, those skin cells that are trying to go through your pores in mass quantities get stuck together with the excess sebum, effectively clogging your pores.

Let’s not forget the bacteria that are feeding on this sebum feast, and now you have a fiesta party for breakouts. As the rapid cell turnover cycle continues, more bacteria-filled dead skin cells clog your tender pores until you have weeks worth of breakouts living under your skin. 

Your skin cells continue to regenerate and push to the surface, but instead of presenting as glowy skin-cell-goodness, it's a big, fat pimple.

Breakouts start so deep in the skin that it could be 8 weeks before a blemish works its way into visibility. 

But don't resign yourself to a paper bag mask for the rest of eternity, there is still hope for clear skin!

With the addition of the right skincare routine, you can take care of the 3 big problems. A good routine will gently exfoliate dead skin cells, kill bad bacteria, and balance sebum production.

This is where acne purging comes in.

When is a Breakout an Acne Purge?

So here you are, pores full of gunk and a steady cycle of breakouts so regular you can almost set your watch to it.

Once you introduce a promising system of skincare products, your skin still has to get rid of all the dead cells and bacteria that are already packed into your pores.

This part is important: skincare does not cause breakouts. Stop. Read that again.

Even the skincare that isn't necessarily right for your skin will not cause you to break out. When you experience increased breakouts after starting a new skincare routine, you are experiencing an acne purge. 

Gentle exfoliation removes dead skin cells before they clog your pores and paves the way for all the backed up bacteria and sebum to rapidly work its way up to the surface of your skin.

This means your skin will get worse before it gets better, but you need to focus on the positive: it will get better.

Once the acne purge is complete, and you're keeping your acne-prone skin healthy with a steady system of exfoliation, sebum control, and bacteria minimization, it should be clear skies and clear skin from here on out.

So, when you start a new skincare routine, and your face gets angrier than ever, it means it's working, right?

Not always. An inflamed complexion likely means that your skincare is causing unneeded irritation.

Is Your Skin Purging or Showing Signs of Irritation?

Simply put, a skin purge is a breakout that occurs when you start a new skincare routine. Irritation is more than your typical breakout and much worse. By identifying a few defining factors, you can differentiate between the two.

Consult a Calendar

It takes about a month for your skin to completely renew. Most of the time, you'll start to see progress in your complexion within those 30 days. But remember, your pimples begin deep below the surface of your skin and could take up to 8 weeks to surface. If you don't see significant improvement past that 8-week mark, it's time to reevaluate your products.

Examine for Overall Improvement


Take a step back from the mirror for a minute; you don't need to keep a running total of each new blemish.

Instead, look at your skin as a whole. You might notice that your complexion is a little brighter and less oily. Perhaps your face feels softer despite the extra bumps. Maybe you even see an improvement in the blemishes; are they smaller and less irritated than usual?

If so, you're experiencing a skin purge that won't last forever and will culminate in the best skin you've ever had.

On the other hand, irritation will present itself as inflamed, itchy, burning, or just painful in general. If your skincare is contributing to any of these symptoms, it's not the routine for you.

Identify Possible Irritation


If you could prevent irritation before you start using a product, would you? Of course! The key is checking out the ingredient list before you dive in.

Harmful chemicals, like these Top 10 Offenders, might appear to help at first, but they cause more harm than good in the long run. These synthetic substances aren't good for your skin or your overall health.

Foaming agents like SLS and SLES, found in many cleansers strip away the natural oils in your skin, making your skin produce excess oil. Weren't we trying to balance that out?

Aim for products with natural ingredients that promote healthy skin and encourage cell turnover. Our Radiant Cleansing Nectar, for instance, is full of clean ingredients that are formulated to clear up your skin and keep it healthy.

Manuka oil is naturally antimicrobial, meaning it stops the growth of harmful bacteria. Score!

Hawthorne Berry is full of Vitamin C, a key ingredient in increased cell turnover (i.e., get all the rice through the funnel). And remember, the faster those cells are regenerating, the faster you can express your clogged pores. 

Apple seed oil is another beneficial natural ingredient. Like vitamin C, it helps regenerate new skin and also aids in preventing breakouts in the first place.

We use all three in our radiant cleansing nectar for an effective clean that's gentle on your sensitive skin.

Things That Don't Help Your Acne Purging

The purge might not be pretty, but boy, will it be worth it. The bacteria have to get out eventually, and the sooner you clear your pores, the faster you'll reap the benefits.

Just be sure not to fall into one of these acne purging mistakes that won't help the process and could actually make it worse.

Popping Your Zits

If the barrage of pimple popping videos on YouTube is any indication, people just love to squeeze those little pus-filled pustules. You need to fight that urge. More often than not, popping your blemishes only causes additional irritation and even acne scars. No, thank you.


Further Irritation with Harsh Products

You can continue to treat your breakouts with your go-to spot treatments but stay away from anything with harsh chemicals. It might help initially, but it will end up causing even more irritation, which is a risk we're not willing to take.
If you need a spot treatment that will clear up breakouts quickly without drying you out, try our Clear Skin Elixir. This overnight mask draws out impurities in your skin all night long, bringing a whole new meaning to beauty sleep.

Easing Into It

The internet is full of advice for managing the severity of your acne purge by slowly introducing new products. It's true that starting with a twice-a-week application schedule might keep your breakouts from getting too crazy, but the slower you go, the longer the overall purge will take. And let's be honest, who wants to extend that process?



How To Manage Skin Purging and Even Speed it Up

A skin purge is a delicate time. It's paramount that you are extra attentive to your face while it's going through this process. The right attention can even speed up the purge and land you with clear skin before you know it.

Keep Going

The most important thing to remember during a skin purge is to continue to use the products. It may seem counterintuitive, but you need your skin to purge completely. Stick with it for at least 30 days, or you won't know whether it's helping or hurting.


Get a Facial

A good facial will remove the backed up bacteria more effectively than merely exfoliating. Your esthetician will be able to express your existing blemishes and give you a nice deep clean to open clogged pores and encourage the bacteria hiding deep down to come out even faster.

Clean Up Your Diet

It's not imperative to eat clean while you're going through a skin purge, but it can help speed up the process. Sugars in your diet from junk food, fast food, and complex carbs can exacerbate your acne while cutting them out, even temporarily, can help balance your hormones and clear up your face.

Lean On Your Support System 

It might seem silly, but when acne is involved, it can directly impact your self-esteem. A team of people who are there to encourage and support you will be essential. Our Facebook group is full of those exact folks who are dealing with the same issues and holding each other up when things get rough. Head on over for an emotional boost or piece of advice as you engage in the fight for clear skin.










Banish Breakouts Forever

It might seem cruel that your problem skin has to get worse before it gets better, but acne purging is a necessary evil to rid your skin of blemishes once and for all. Start your journey to a clear complexion today with our Clean Skin Kit and join the 20,000+ women who have improved their skin and rebuilt their confidence.

Jocelyn Langford
Written by
Jocelyn Langford
Jocelyn is an Editor and Copywriter at Averr Aglow. While she spends the weekdays wrapped up in words, weekends are reserved for everything beauty-related. When she’s not crafting a blog post or trying out a glitter-based makeup look, you’ll find her planning an exotic vacation, hunkered down with a good book, or bingeing The Office. Again.