Are Break Outs Normal When Using New Skin Care?

New skin care- is it supposed to break you out? What's the difference between purging and breakouts?

I'm a member of a couple of beauty groups on Facebook and the most common skin care- related questions I read are:

"I'm using this new moisturizer and I'm breaking out. Is it normal?"

"I'm using a new serum and I got zits the following day. Some said that my skin's adjusting to the product. Is this okay?"

At some point, I've experienced the same things too and I've always wondered:

Is breaking out normal when using new skin care?

I get a lot of mixed answers from people and the comments section so I reached out to a dermatologist. Let's put a seal on this once and for all.

According to Dr. Beatrice Pineda of BCP Dermatology Clinic, it's a NO.

NO because:

It is not normal to break out using a new skin care product. This means that the product contains ingredients that clog the pores and are called COMEDOGENIC or ACNEGENIC products. There is no such thing as the skin adjusting to the product.

BUT--for some skin care, it may cause PURGING:

However, some meds for acne will seemingly cause a "break out" (not a true flare- up) because it will push the pimple to the surface of the skin to extrude its content and hasten the process of clearing during the first few weeks of initial treatment especially Tretinoin or Retinol containing ones.

Apparently, there are ingredients/actives that can cause purging and here are some:

1. BHA and AHA
2. Tretinoin
3. Retinoid (Vitamin A)

If you have noticed, these are commonly found in acne treatment products. As Dr. Pineda said, these are meant to speed up cell turnover so your skin will heal and get rid of the bacteria and pimples faster. I also read that in the purging process, affected areas from the very beginning are the only ones that will exhibit purging; so that means if you're breaking out on the chin area, purging should happen on that area only. 

Take note, purging is NOT breaking out.

What's the diff between Purging and Breaking out?

PURGING (or flare up by dermatologists)- characterized by a sudden outburst of pimples on an area with pre-existing ones.

BREAKOUT- a negative skin reaction from skin care product usage usually in the form of zits, whiteheads, blackheads, cysts.

So how do I know if my new skin care is breaking me out?

Good question. If your skin care is in the basic category -meaning they don't contain aforementioned actives and are only meant to provide basic skin care benefits like moisture, hydration, cleansing, and toning- it should never cause a break out. And if you are getting pimples all over and in places that you don't usually get them, you, ma'm, ain't purging or adjusting to the products; you are breaking out.

What we can infer from Dr. Pineda's answer is purging and breaking out are two different things, and knowing very well the difference between the two will help us curate a smarter skin care routine and create better skin care habits.

You can find Dr. Beatrice Pineda at:

BCP Dermatology Clinic

Unit 104 Parc Chateau Condominium
Onyx cor. Sapphire sts.
Ortigas Center
(02) 633-5723 or 633-9219

Km141 Pineda Building
McArthur Highway
Dau, Mabalacat
(045) 332-1172

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13 Lovely Thoughts

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I had a fair share of experiences where I tried a new product and it just worsened my skin condition. I have always been acne prone. It all started when I tried different skin care products without consulting a derma. My acne worsen and there was a time I thought that the medicine was still adjusting. Now I realized, I should always consult a medical expert before using any meds. My derma prescribed Isotretinoin for a few months and now I'm happy that my face is clear of acne but of course there are still pimple marks that I need to get rid of. Thanks for sharing, Martha!

  2. I remember there is this newbie blogger who posts pictures on IG showing the flare ups she got from using Retinoid treatment. Now I get it! I thought she had adverse reaction from the treatment.
    I got a few zits after a few days of using aloevera gel. I thought maybe it's just coincidence. The zits came out because they are supposed to come out on that day and not because of the gel which was supposedly a cure for pimples. Now this post makes me analyze everything.

  3. Actually hindi po ako maka relate kasi hindi ko pa sya nai experience dahil wala ako nilalagay sa face ko like serum.
    Ponds lang po kasi ang kaya ng budget ko.. pero if ever na mag ka budget I want to try po kung abo epekto nila sa face ko.

  4. Thank you for this madam, actually ako nanonotice ko agad pag di okay sakin bgong product na ginagamit ko. Nagda dry ang skin ko, kaya mas prefer ko yung skincare na more on moisturizing tlga.

  5. Wow this is the answer ms martha! I have those questions din talaga since I super love skincare. Most of the products that I am using right now po is korean brand, which is before hinde po. Talagang binago ko po ng todo todo ung skincare ko.

  6. I am glad that this is cleared out. That is a pressing question for me as well. A product should not cause my face to breakout. I also remember you say to always hydrate yourself with water.

  7. Madam thank u po s pg share nito, now i know un kaibhn nilng dlwa. Usually po gnyn iniisip ko pg my bgong skin care aqng ginmit, at iniisip ko hndi aq hiyng dto. Kdlasn S Moisturizer aq ngtry2, kya pg hndi aq hiyng ang ginngwa ko pra hndi po msyang gingwa k n lng xang lotion s kmay or s neck ko n lng ginagmit. At babalik aq s dti kong gingmt. Kdlasn po kc pg my bgo o mgndang revw ng skin care nkakatuwa n mgtry din, lalo s Kbeauty. Npka laki po ng natutunan ko s blog niong eto, halos lhat po lalo n s skin care kc po xempe khit panu hndi biniyayaan ng kutis n mkinis, bawi n lng s routine pra mg age gracefully at s make up din.

  8. Thanks for sharing this informative post! I used to be so scared of trying new facial products because I'm afraid they'll just give me break-outs. And yes, some would say that it would be just normal, that the skin will be on "clearing stage" but still I didn't get convinced. :)
    This post clarified everything for me - that breaking out and purging are two different cases. Now I know how and when to say that a product is working for me and not making my skin condition worse. Will also share this information with my buddies :)

  9. This is very informative for me, whose breaking out so badly. I switch products which I notice that didn't help my breakout to calm or dry out.

  10. wow! thank you for your article madam! I know naman na d tlga sa ginagamit ko ung cause ng breakouts ko eh, sakin tlga po huhu! D tlga sapat ung may nilalagay ka sa mukha, we need to be cleaned inside our body din!

  11. Ayun na nga Ms. Martha. Very timely itong new post nyo po sa akin. Medyo troubled na po ako sa acne ko and acne marks so nagbabasa basa po ako about skin care. Then I stumbled upon the word "purging". Break out is fairly common naman na and can be easily understood. Pero yung sa purging kasi medyo malilito ka sa difference nila if hindi sya naexplain sayo dahil pareho ang result nila - pimples 😣 Thanks for this article Ms. Martha! May added info po sya samin 😘

  12. This is very informative. I thought purging and breakouts are the same! Turns out there really is a difference! I remember my skin was breaking out when I tried new skin care products all at one during the start of 2017. Man, I've suffered so long! I still have existing acne right now. Plus, the acne scars are still visible up to today. I was thinking of investing on skin care, which was good! But I ended up using too many all at once. My skin reacted badly after a week or so. Took me months to finally/slowly calm my skin and return it back to its normal state. Grabe magtampo. :( This post helps a lot. I now understand the better terms. Thanks, Ms. Martha!

  13. Thank you for this! I have read a lot too about this purging and breakouts and your post enlightened me more. Worth reading this post!


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