Why does acne get worse before better?

Acne is the bane of existence for teenagers everywhere, and even many adults. With all its forms, from blackheads to cysts to pustules that threaten to take on a life of their own, it can be hard to remember that acne belongs nowhere in our face or skin.

And yet we have an interesting phenomenon when it comes to acne treatment- why does acne get worse before it gets better? To solve this mystery and finally get clear skin, let’s dive deeper into the science behind this pesky condition.

What Causes Acne?

Before understanding what causes worsened outbreaks during acne treatment, we need to understand what causes acne itself.

At its core (or more accurately at the pore), acne happens because of excessive oil production in pores coupled with dead skin cells. These cause bacteria buildup which ultimately leads to inflammation and infection – aka pimples on your face!

So if someone accidentally puts butter instead of cream cheese in their bagel and gets an oily chin from eating it (true story) then they’re at higher risk for developing acne due excess oil production!

Treatment Options

There are multiple treatments available for people who suffer from varying severities and types of acnes such as over-the-counter creams or cleansers, prescription-strength topical medications like retinoids or benzoyl peroxide gels/creams etc., oral antibiotics or Isotretinoin capsules (popularly known as Accutane).

While all these options seem promising/productive sometimes results may come slowly. Sometimes after consistent use users feel frustrated thinking “Why does my skin look hideous despite using these products?”

Let’s break down into some reasons why worsening can occur during early stages/treatments:

Reason 1: Time Takes Effect

The first reason why your outbreak could get worse when you start treatment is because your skin is changing. You may be unknowingly dealing with all the bacteria, dead skin cells, and trapped oil for quite some time.

When you start using an acne treatment product or pill, it’s natural that your skin will react because ingredients are now interacting/released upon activation which first creates bumps/redness/irritation initially before actually treating acne.

Unfortunately there’s no way to speed up this process – just like how Beyoncé says “The best revenge is your paper” (okay maybe not exactly what she meant), patience is the key here!

Reason 2: An Upgraded Skincare Routine

So we talk about how new skins products cause aggravation but what if instead of a particular skincare product it’s the actual treatment routine itself?

As opposed to random breakouts from using facial cleansers/masks/topical creams etc., some people might experience worsening due to their upgrade in skincare routines where they’re washing their face too frequently/thoroughly or over-exfoliating their already sensitive skin- can you say ouch!? This overtime dries out/irritates skin (sometimes resulting in cystic/painful breakout).

Therefore sometimes less-is-more gives better results rather than being harsh on our poor little faces!

Reason 3: Purging Is Good?

Weird…trying out a new method of clearing those pesky zits seems promising until milia/granules were seen developing few days later- I’m sure this sounds familiar! It happens when small white heads form after trying acidic/exfolicating substances leaving everyone perplexed as things go down hill pretty fast!!

It gets worse before better because purging needs to happen! Lots of products especially exfoliants dislodge built-up dirt/oil/bacteria that have been sitting clogged within pores holding hands since birth day (kidding).

This purified system could possible breakdown without supplements causing pimples/shallow whiteheads/clogged pores before the skin clears up.

Reason 4: Switching It Up

During this time if you’re still unsure about using any particular medicine or product, it might be worth identifying other ingredients to target your acne like Salicylic acid (oil dissolvers were seen in proactive). This could give you a next-level cleansing power with minimal side effects!

Also our bodies tend to get used to same products making them less effective over period of time so it’s important to switch things up wherever possible and experiment. And by ‘things’ we don’t mean relationships (although some change is good there too!)


In conclusion, when it comes down with type of reason for breakouts please remind yourself – everyone has their own individual experiences and reasons may vary from person-to-person which might become frustrating! However, patience truly is key while following treatment modalities- hold back those unnecessary tears plus remember that flawless glass-skinned idols on social media are also flesh-and-blood humans who went through breaks outs as well!

As disappointing as it may be that worse can occur before better during acne treatments/routines/methods,it’s undoubtedly great once those zits clear away giving way for more confidence /happier state mind overall.

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