Did you buy a new skincare product (or maybe even a whole line…guilty) in hopes that you’d see softer, smoother, better skin and then wake up the next morning with a fresh new zit or two? There’s always a reason for a new breakout, and since I just went through this recently, here’s my advice.

If you added a new product that contains any kind of acid (should be labeled as an “active ingredient”), chances are your skin is purging. Yes, it is as gross as it sounds. Basically, acids are an exfoliator which take off dead skin cells and allow the fresh skin underneath to come through. Exfoliating is an absolutely critical step to getting great skin. 

Here’s the catch: even if your skin was more-or-less clear before using these products, chances are that underneath the top layer of dead skin there is some gunk and bacteria waiting to come out. (You can imagine, then, that if you already have congested/broken out skin – which probably prompted you to buy the new products in the first place – there is plenty of nastiness hanging out just below the surface.)

These little nasties will then be free to develop into full-fledged zits. They should disappear fairly quickly – assuming you don’t pick at them – and then there isn’t anything left to cause a pimple. The purging process should take about two to three weeks depending on how congested your skin is. It is completely normal and actually a very good sign that your product is powerful enough to change your skin! Something important to note is if you stop using the product before the purging process is over, you’ll be left with rough looking skin that won’t heal optimally. Stick it out – invest in a good concealer if need be – and I promise you’ll see the light at the end of a very beautiful tunnel soon!

That being said, sometimes we add basic products like moisturizers or a new primer to our routine that also cause breakouts If they don’t have active ingredients, I tend to discontinue use after about a week of continual negative side effects. Breakouts from products like this could have anything to do with an ingredient allergy, skin sensitivity, or just plain incompatibility. If you suspect a product is making you break out, do your best to isolate the product (i.e. don’t use a new foundation and blush as well), or else how do you know it’s actually the skincare making your skin react?

Bottom line: Expect to give any new skincare product with active ingredients at least two weeks before forming an opinion, and don’t be quick to ditch if you initially experience worse skin. By the end of week two, if you don’t notice any signs of improvement, consider making a change. If a product with inactive ingredients is reacting poorly with your skin (and you’re certain its the product itself and not hormones/diet/makeup/etc.), consider ditching sooner to avoid damaging your skin.

I hope you ladies found this helpful. Happy skincare hunting!