Is it normal to break out with new products?

skin care products

A reader, Pinkyski, left a comment in one of my earlier entries asking this: “I’m using the tea tree oil facial foam. After a day, a few pimples started to show up. Is it because it is not suitable for my skin or is it because my face is adjusting to it”?

How many of you have this experience when using new skin care products?  And what do you do and how long do you wait out for your skin to adjust or be acclimated to the products?  Do you think that the products are “purging” out the “bad toxins” to the surface as I often hear, especially when it comes to using natural or organic products?

Pushing out toxins and impurities to the surface?
For example, when Susan of True Beauty gave me some of her products to try, she told me that my combination skin might become oilier because the products will help to rid my skin of the bad sebum that are trapped beneath.  In fact, it is mentioned on their website that our skin needs to undergo a period of acclimation with the new products as the skin is working to balance itself naturally after years of harsh and chemically-laden product usage. Hence, their products, which is said to treat skin problems deep at their root, will push out all the toxins and impurities to the surface. As such, “those with highly-congested skin may experience the appearance of tiny pimples after using the products.”

What is an acceptable acclimation period?
In such cases, customers are mentally prepared because they are told in advance before they use the products and hence, would know what to expect.  However, if customers purchase products off the counter, they are not always told and may not know.  So what should they do and how long should they stick to the product before knowing if the product really suits them?

When should the transient problem go away?
My take would be about three days to a maximum of one week.  Any longer, the product may not be entirely suitable for the skin and even Cosmetic Cop Paula Begoun said so.

“The most likely explanation for these kinds of breakouts is that the skin can initially have a sensitizing or irritant reaction to products with active ingredients, which causes pimples to erupt. Generally, this is a transient problem that goes away in a week or so.”  (source)

So what do you think?  What is your threshold with regards to the adjustment period?  And what would you say to Pinkyski?


  1. loop says:

    I tend to developed rashes after using whitening or brightening products. I had ever checked with one beauty advisor & she says that these products contains ingredients that irritates sensitive skin. Guess whitening is not for me.

  2. Paris B says:

    Personally I don’t subscribe to the “breaking out before it gets better” theory. For me, if I try a new product and break out and it doesn’t heal within a day or two, I bin it. Its like shoes. A good pair of shoes shouldn’t pinch your feet even though everyone says you have to “break it in”. Thus far, products that break me out usually don’t continue to make things better but only make it worse.

  3. AtelierGal says:

    Speaking of True Beauty, I’m heading down this Sat for a workshop. Looking forward to the goodie bag ?

    How do we differenitate between allergic to the products and the adjustment period?

    Awhile when I bought a facial steamer, i had a minor breakout. my instinct was that the streaming purge out the impurities underneath my skin. (no better way to explain T.T)

  4. Nikki says:

    First time I use a product and I found breakouts or itch? I don’t use it anymore! I try maybe max of 2 days or 3 but I won’t let it go longer than that!! I am too scared for further damage! ?

  5. BT says:

    For me, it’s not necessary. If the product caused bump on face, I’ll test on neck. The neck will suffer the same problem if I’m really allergy to the product. I have this issue with L’oreal drugstore skincare product, never return again no matter how good they are.

  6. pf1123 says:

    I heard of this theory. I don’t really buy that.

    At this time and age with modern technologies, why do some products stop my acne without this purging process and then there are those which claims that there needs to be this purging process?

    Given a choice, which product would you choose? I will choose the ones which does not have the “purging process”.

    I might buy it if it is something to be taken internally as I believe that our body would detox itself. And one way of detox is thru the surfacing of waste.

    I have taken medication for acne which people (not the doc which prescribe the med for me) also say there would be a purging process, however, in my experience, the acne just stays there and then slowly disappear.

    So, all the more I don’t buy it if its a product that is used externally to claim that there will be a purging process.

  7. aichaku says:

    if i get any reactions – itch/bumps/peeling/rash/pimples – i just stop immediately. my skin is too “delicate” and “precious” at this age (i’m in my thirties) to suffer too much trials. i fear it will not recover if i continue to load it with the product that’s causing the reaction.

  8. sesame says:

    Hmm…using on the neck is interesting. I’ve never thought of that cos I always thought the texture is slightly different and it probably can withstand stronger ingredients.

  9. sesame says:

    I really can’t say for sure. I would buy the theory if the product works at the deepest layer of our skin. But generally for other products, no, I think it could be a reaction to the ingredients.

  10. sesame says:

    So far, I’ve used one natural mask from Zia which was like that. Gave me bumps everytime I used it. So I stopped but I resumed again after some time and hey, it worked. Very funny! But yes, like you, I’ll be very hesistant and probably bin the product if the breakout is bad!

  11. sesame says:

    They’re probably too harsh for your delicate skin.

  12. sesame says:

    I guess it’s normal. Many people will probably not want to continue to use the products if they have breakouts from using them.

  13. sesame says:

    So did you continue with the steamer and did it give you more problems?

    Glad you got a place for the workshop. Heard it’s quite packed and they may change venue. The goodie bag sounds good – not that I know the items but I hope you’ll get some of their samples!

  14. sesame says:

    I understand how you feel – very normal. I would freak out if the breakout is bad!

  15. sesame says:

    I forgot to answer your question – it’s hard to determine if the breakout is due to allergy or purging. But I imagine an allergy would be accompanied by redness and sensitivity.

  16. pf1123 says:

    I’m not sure currently if there are many skincare products that work beyond the epidermis layer of the skin.

    I am just quite skeptical.

  17. sesame says:

    You’re right – not many products. I often read that retinols are able to penetrate but it seems it all depends. Their molecules are said to be large. Speaking of which, did you see the slogan for the new Lancaster Retinology – that we can be 15 years younger? I really ROLLED my eyes bigtime reading that!

  18. AtelierGal says:

    I got lazy taking the steamer out lol

    I used it couple of days ago, the breakouts weren’t that bad, but at least I know that its working for my skin.

  19. sesame says:

    Haha…I can emphatize with the lazy part. ?

  20. pf1123 says:

    They should have laws in all countries against such cosmetic/skincare claims!

    Its incredible. I see cheap mask sheets claiming that they use nanotechnology or just have the word nano there to make people think that their product can penetrate beyond the epidermis. I don’t think the technology is so common yet.

    Moreover, my salon skin care which works for me has a disclaimer that says it only works on the epidermis layer.

  21. alixana says:

    If anything makes me break out, I ditch it. I don’t buy the “skin is purging” theory.

    BTW, Phyto Organics is having a moving out sale of 70%, store-wide. You might want to head down to see what’s available. I just got myself a bottle of Lavera body oil ?

  22. sesame says:

    Oh they’re having another sale? Wow, got to check it out! Thanks for the highlight!

  23. sesame says:

    I’m actually surprised that in this day, we still have companies making such claims! Even dermatologists are saying that realistically, we can only hope to look 5 years younger so if they say 10, maybe that’s still believable.

  24. Dee says:

    Usually when I use something and it breaks me out right after I use it, I trash it. But my skin’s a bit different now and I tend to give products 2nd chances. I had a light breakout after using a new skincare I bought, and I kept using it, after a few days my skin cleared up and was back to normal. I know someone who’s skin took about a month to get to its normal state when she tried a new product. So I guess it’s different with everyone.

  25. Ms. Blacklace says:

    Usually, if you’re allergic to a product, the breakout itches like mad!!!

    Like what happened to me when I used the L’Oreal true match two way foundation. It was fine for like… about a month, after that, my skin started breaking out and itching like crazy. Then I stopped using it and it subsided.

  26. sesame says:

    I’ve had someone told me her skin broke out red and all for 3 days after using a product and then afterwards, it was great. So I agree with you – it really depends.

  27. sesame says:

    Oh ya…I forgot about the itchy part! I remember when I broke out from using a mineral foundation, my forehead was itching badly and then subsequently turned red with bumps.

  28. pf1123 says:

    Itching is the worst. Makes you scratch and then break skin.

    I think my skin is rather thin and sensitive now. Sometimes it itches even though I’m not trying anything new.

    So scared of trying new things or overdoing skincare.

  29. knockingknees says:

    I don’t believe in this purging thing for any product except AHAs and BHAs.

    I think for organic products to say that the purging is caused by getting rid of the toxins from the chemically laden products used before is really nonesense.

    I have been using organic products for about a year now, and some organic products I use still cause me to breakout. Therefore the above claim can’t be true.

    Btw, where did you get this picture above? Looks like an interesting shop!

  30. sesame says:

    Yes, simplicity is good but there’s always the marketing temptations!

  31. sesame says:

    I can’t say for sure but I did meet someone who broke out using the products and then recovering to better skin afterwards. But yes, not all organic products are the best – some ingredients can cause allergy too plus some of them are not totally organic in the first place.

    Oh, the pic was taken while window shopping. Maybe a shop at Suntec – ground level – can’t quite remember.

  32. prettybeautiful says:

    hmm i am quite the oppo. after switching to new range, for the first 2 weeks my face would be blasting with shine, then slowly i dont know why somehow the products just dont work for me anymore, n will start breaking my skin out!

    p/s: i do experience with product that breaks me out like mad on the first time itself, usually, i will just say bb to it

  33. sesame says:

    Sounds like it’s probably the ingredients taking effect after a few days.

  34. Angel says:

    I always wondered about that too. It makes sense for your skin to have to ajust. I usually have a bunch of pimples when I try acne products.

  35. sesame says:

    And I presume they go away after a few days?

  36. Tine says:

    For me, it depends on the product, and if I really really want to make it work for me (read: I spent too much money on it, thus it MUST work). Most of the time, if it breaks me out initially, I tend to not use it anymore.

  37. sesame says:

    Haha…I know what you mean! ?

  38. joee says:

    I started using the tea tree oil line from the body shop and it really caused me to have breakouts after 3 weeks of using it. I really want to stop since the breakout is embarassing me, somehow my conscience tells me to try atleast a month.

    what do you think? did you also experience purging from using TTO?

  39. sesame says:

    It shouldn’t be that long. TBS tea tree oil is not pure though. It has other ingredients and if it’s breaking out your entire face, then it’s not purging but more like it’s not suitable for your skin.

  40. Danigrl says:

    I believe that skin purges. The pure the product, meaning working with true essential oils vs. a product loaded with synthetics and harsh chemicals that will start your car’s engine is what matters. Pure essential oils have miraculous healing ability at a cellular level, they will quickly absorb molecularly through the skin and be flushed from your kidneys and liver within two hours. They dissolve and push the poor sebum up to the front and hence a breakout, some people have it bad others it’s light and i think a one week waiting period is necessary to ascertain what condition your skin is in. I’ve worked with commercial and non commercial facial products and i think the purer the product the better the results but you will have a purging period.

  41. WalnutGirl says:

    I’ve been using this Clariderm Astingent for three days and my face is starting to get red and skin is peeling off. Is this normal or should I stop? The skin doesn’t feel itchy but has just a painful feeling when I apply the products onto my face. Help!

  42. sesame says:

    What are you using the astringent for…it doesn’t sound normal to me and I found this article:

    Suggest you stop using it.

  43. winawalnut says:

    it is for whitening the skin. my friend told me that it was a normal reaction as she has used it and it work better for her. is the astringent poison?

  44. sesame says:

    I think it’s too strong for your skin.

  45. Rachelle says:

    I have started to use DIY natural products. For the first month, my skin was amazing, but I have recently started breaking out more than ever. I’ve never had to worry about acne except for a few around menstruation. I’m not sure what to do now….

  46. Sesame says:

    Then you should stop the DIY stuff and see if that’s what’s causing the breakout.

  47. Ali says:

    what do you think? i tried a sample tester at home and seemed to be okay, but a week later i bought the product and now i’ve had 3 new cystic acne! i take oral medication for cystic acne (started getting in my 30s). i think i should return this sunscreen, but i need a sunscreen and wanted a chemical-free one, but perhaps my face can’t handle natural products. ?

  48. Yeymi says:

    On Monday I started the toner and cream from shiseido bio-performance advanced super restoring and it’s making me break out. I am not sure if I can wait a whole week to see results. I just hope the results really pay off.

  49. San says:

    I recently bought just herbs products and after a week of using it , I have so many pimples on my face.I preferred justherbs since it is a very good organic brand but I am doubting that now.Please help

  50. Amanda George says:

    When it comes to skincare I would never take the risk. I always recommend everyone to adopt a healthy skincare routine. One among them is facial steaming with the facial steamer from

  51. Amanda George says:

    OMG Such a great blog and really helpful in adopting skincare routine.

  52. Amanda George says:

    Happy to read this kinda amazing blog.

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