A lot of you are aware that CeraVe is known for how gentle and safe their products are. People love and religiously use their skincare range for different reasons.

However, there’s also the other side of the coin.

If you browse online to find reviews and feedback, you may come across complaints like CeraVe causing cystic acne, the popular CeraVe purge discussion, and even comments about CeraVe and allergic reactions.

So does CeraVe cause skin purging? Is it true that CeraVe SA cleanser causes breakouts? And what should you do if you experience any negative reactions to their products?

Today we answer all of these questions and more.

What is purging vs. breaking out?

Let’s start with the basics. Before we can dive into answering whether CeraVe causes purging, we first need to know the difference between purging and breaking out.

Purging is best described as a temporary skin reaction to a specific chemical in your skincare routine or a new product that you’ve recently started using. It’s a short-term condition that typically lasts for a few weeks (up to two months tops), after which it fades until it eventually disappears.

During purging, the skin’s cell rate turnover is increased. This pushes out the clogged pores underneath the skin and makes the skin flare with acne that has already developed in the deeper layers of your skin.

On the other hand, a breakout is a long-term condition and is not necessarily associated with an introduction to a new product or ingredient.

If you notice that the reaction happens in new places on your face rather than the standard areas, you’re most likely dealing with a breakout instead of a purge.

Breakouts can also be a result of specific products (mostly comedogenic ingredients), but they can also be a reaction to nutritional habits, health conditions, hormones, and a plethora of other factors.

When it comes to CeraVe, if you’re using a product without comedogenic ingredients but you still get a reaction, it could be a result of an ingredient that you are sensitive to.

A lot of CeraVe products contain compounds that can act in a similar way to comedogenic ingredients and block the pores. This prevents the skin’s natural exfoliation activities and inevitably leads to undesirable breakouts.

Why am I breaking out after using CeraVe?

Because of the active ingredients

The main suspect to consider when it comes to breaking out after using CeraVe products is the active ingredients.

Compounds such as retinoids, AHAs, BHAs, and niacinamide stimulate cell turnover, meaning that they naturally lead to skin purging.

This is not necessarily something bad as it promotes healthier skin in the long run. After the dirt and dead skin cells have been pushed toward the surface of the skin, they can easily be removed, opening up room for new, regenerated skin cells. It’s only a matter of being patient throughout this phase and letting the process take place.

Purging usually lasts for a few weeks, but then you’ll be rewarded with the best skin!

When it comes to CeraVe, some of the products that are commonly associated with purging include CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum, CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser, CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser, and others.

Reactions to wash-off CeraVe products

Sometimes, purging is caused by a CeraVe product that isn’t designed to stay on the skin and is washed off.

In this case, the reaction is usually a result of something in the product that’s triggering this side effect. If you’ve experienced this, I’d recommend avoiding the product rather than putting your skin to the test. Of course, this isn’t a rule, it’s just a suggestion on how to avoid the problem.

If you want to check whether your reaction is a simple purge or rather a long-term breakout, you can always keep using the product for at least a month to see how your skin handles it.

Once the skin is used to the product, if the reaction was purging, it should go away. However, if it’s a breakout, it will continue to reappear. This will give you a clear indication that you’re dealing with a permanent breakout and you should take measures to treat it.

Reactions to leave-in CeraVe products

However, skin reactions can also take place when using leave-in CeraVe products, even those that don’t contain active ingredients like the ones I mentioned in a previous section.

In this case, perhaps there are other irritating substances in the product, like fatty alcohols.

Fatty alcohols are high molecular weight alcohols that are stable at room temperature. There are many different types of fatty alcohols out there and the majority of them are derived from plant-based fatty acids and are used as emulsifiers in skin care products.

They’re considered non-irritating for the skin but are easily changed at different temperatures and when mixed with different ingredients.

This makes them hard to predict.

Some of the most popularly used fatty alcohols that can cause breakouts include cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, and isostearyl alcohol.


Because they’re comedogenic and can clog the pores.

The CeraVe products that you should be cautious about as they contain fatty alcohols include CeraVe PM Moisturizer, CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion, and more.

Fungal acne and CeraVe products

Another reason for breaking out is the presence of fungal acne on the surface of the skin.

Unlike typical acne, fungal acne doesn’t result only from the overproduction of sebum and bacteria in pores. However, these two factors play a significant role as they act as food for the bacteria that leads to the production of fungal acne. The major factor behind fungal acne is the overgrowth of yeast, which is a form of fungus, which leads to bumps on the skin that are very similar to pimples.

Some CeraVe products could cause fungal acne as they contain Cetearyl alcohol or cetyl stearyl alcohol, which is a thriving ingredient for Malassezia (a type of fungus causing fungal acne). This is not a guaranteed thing to happen but is something to have in mind.

How long does CeraVe purging last?

As I mentioned earlier, purging doesn’t last for long.

In regards to the typical CeraVe SA Cleanser purge or the CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum purge, I’d say that you can expect the reaction to pass in a few weeks, usually between four and six.

If you notice that your CeraVe purging lasts more than six weeks, I’d definitely recommend seeing a dermatologist or changing something in your skincare routine.

This brings me to the next point.

What can you do to get rid of purging or breakouts faster?

What to do to help me get rid of the breakouts faster?

CeraVe purging - how to deal with it

If you’ve experienced a CeraVe breakout, what can you do to get rid of the problem quickly and efficiently? You certainly don’t want to suffer from acne for ages.

Here are my suggestions:

Start using a benzoyl peroxide face wash

Products that contain 10% BPO are extremely effective in helping eliminate breakouts (5% can also do the job but it will take more time). Introduce such a product in your skincare regime and apply it after the skin has been cleaned.

Give the product a few minutes to work its magic and remove it with lukewarm water.

Benzoyl peroxide is often used to treat mild to moderate acne as it successfully eliminates the acne-causing bacteria on the skin’s surface. It also helps clean the pores of dirt and residue. This makes it a perfect solution for cystic acne.

Minimalize your skincare routine

A complex and multi-layered skincare routine is not always a good thing, especially when introducing new products.

The more diverse products you use, the higher the chances of certain ingredients causing breakouts and sensitizing your skin.

To avoid making acne worse or triggering it in the first place, simplify your current routine. Pay attention to the active treatments that you use and if possible reduce them. This will allow the skin to heal and calm down, which will help it recover its protective moisture barrier.

Moreover, if you want to be completely sure that the cause of your skin troubles is a CeraVe product and not something else, you must use a process of elimination to arrive at this conclusion.

Choose simple products that soothe and hydrate the skin and focus on the essentials – cleansers, moisturizers, and SPF.

Wait for the purging to pass

As mentioned, a reaction in the form of an acne breakout could simply be purging in disguise.

Wait for a while (a couple of weeks) to see if the breakout fades away before taking any further steps to solve the problem.

Choose other products

If using CeraVe products makes your skin react, I’d recommend staying away from them and substituting them for alternatives that your skin can handle.

The skincare world is wide and diverse, you’ll definitely be able to find something that works for you.

If you’re unsure where to look, you can always use the search bar in this blog to find reviews and suggested dupes of popular products. My task here is to help my readers find the skincare that works best for them.

See a dermatologist

If your acne breakout has lasted for a while and there are no signs of improvement, perhaps it’s best to see a professional to check your condition and offer expert advice on how to best deal with the problem.

There is no need to invest your time and money to solve a headbanging dilemma when professionals can pinpoint the cause correctly and give you the proper steps to deal with it quickly.

I hope this article will help you answer some of the key questions related to CeraVe and purging or breakouts.

Do you have any experience with any CeraVe products that have caused such reactions? I’d love to hear about your skincare experiences.

Share your stories with me and my readers in the comments section below!

Tags: acne, cerave
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