Does Acne Get Worse Before it Gets Better? How to Know

Does Acne Get Worse Before it Gets Better? How to Know

Liudmila Busch

Does acne get worse before it gets better? Sometimes. The answer depends on what type of acne you’re experiencing and what may be causing it.

When things aren’t going the way we’d like them too, we can take solace in knowing that it’s darkest before the dawn. This can apply to your skincare, too. Sometimes things have to get really bad--or in this case, really pimply-- before they get better. This is called an acne purge, and it’s a fairly common experience. 

What Is an Acne Purge? 

To understand why your skin might be breaking out as it’s clearing up, it’s important to know that acne forms long before you see it pop up on your face. In fact, bacteria, dead skin cells and other acne contributors can brew below the surface of your skin for months before you actually break out. 

When your skin is purging, new acne isn’t forming. Instead, all of that deeply-buried gunk is coming to the surface. Why does this happen? It’s all thanks to cell turnover, which is both friend and foe when it comes to eliminating acne. 

In the long term, cell turnover is what allows your skin to bring fresh new cells to the surface for a vibrant, acne-free complexion. But in the short term, it has to bring up those acneic parts of your skin so it can get rid of them. Hence the purge.

What Causes an Acne Purge?

Any change you make to your skin that encourages cell turnover can lead to an acne purge. This includes treatments you have done professionally, like chemical peels and microdermabrasion. 

Vitamin C promotes cell turnover, and so too do retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids, and physical and chemical exfoliants. If you’re prescribed antibiotics for acne, that can also cause purging. 

How Do I know if My Skin is Purging? 

This is the million dollar question! We have found that--especially in the holistic space--purging is sometimes used as a catchall phrase for breaking out. But sometimes a breakout is not a purge, so it’s important to know the difference. 

Woman examining her skin

Signs That it’s Not a Purge 

If you haven’t started using a new skincare product or treatment recently, then any breakouts you’re experiencing are likely not a purge. 

If you  have started using a new skincare product, but it’s not something that promotes cell turnover--like moisturizer or sunscreen--then you’re also not experiencing a purge. 

If you’re breaking out in new places on your face that you’ve never broken out before, it’s probably not your skin purging. 

If your skin looks generally more red or oily than it did before, you’re likely experiencing some kind of skin irritation or allergic reaction rather than a purge. 

And if your breakout lasts for more than a month or two, it’s likely not your skin purging. 

Finally, if you’ve noticed a breakout right after adding a new supplement to your routine or changing your diet in some way, you’re likely not experiencing a purge. 

Some folks will tell you that your skin is “detoxing” if you’ve changed your diet, but this is likely untrue. Your liver and kidneys are the organs in charge of detoxing. A detox doesn’t show up as pimples on your skin.

It’s more likely that you’re breaking out simply because a food you're consuming promotes acne in your body. 

Signs That it Is a Purge

On the other hand, if you  have started using a new skincare product that promotes cell turnover--like a vitamin C serum--you may be experiencing a purge. A good clue here is to look at your skin overall. If it looks generally healthy (aside from the blemishes), chances are you’re purging and not having a negative reaction to the product. 

If you’re purging, these breakouts will typically go away quickly: usually in a month or less. And they’ll probably be in the same spots you’ve already been breaking out. 

Woman touching face with hair wrapped in towel

What to Do if Your Skin is Purging 

If your skin is purging, congratulations! You’re well on your way to clear skin. Like getting nice and sweaty at the gym, this may not be the most glamorous part of your glow-up, but it will result in something great. 

To care for your purging skin while it does its thing, the key is to be gentle. This is not the time to use harsh chemical or physical exfoliants. Keep your skin hydrated with an acne safe moisturizer. And do not touch or pick at your blemishes--unless you’d like scars. 

To keep things in check, you may want to ease into any products that are promoting your purge. Use them once or twice per week at first. Then gradually progress from there. Also, don’t introduce two new products at once. Wait at least a month in between each product. 

This is also the time to support your skin with a healthy diet, regular exercise and lots of stress reduction. On the other end of your purge, you’ll come out with the glowiest skin yet. 

A Gentle Way to Clear Skin 

Skin purging may not be fun, but sometimes it’s necessary to get the skin results you’re craving. But even if you do experience a little bit of breaking out, it doesn’t have to be over the top. 

You can keep things under control by using a product that promotes cell turnover, but is gentle and nourishing at the same time. For this, our  Cryo-C Facial Glow Serum is an excellent choice. 

Cryo-C has high-quality Vitamin C that fights blemishes. At the same time, date seed extract and sea buckthorn bathe your skin in nourishing antioxidants and protective phytosterols. It’s an easy way to love on your skin as it goes through this transition.

We suggest you grab a bottle today to get your glow on! And remember--even through the purge phase--you’re beautiful exactly as you are. 

Mila Founder of Wild Ice Botanicals

Mila (pronounced 'mee-luh') is the founder of Wild Ice Botanicals, a clean & natural skincare company dedicated to using cold preservation to deliver fresh products free of chemical preservatives so that women of all ages and skin types can confidently look their natural best.