Can Acne Facials Help Clear Pimples?

What Facials Can and Cannot Do for Your Skin

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That acne treatment facial on the salon menu looks so tempting, but is it worth plunking down your cash for a treatment? The answer depends a lot on your skin and the results you're looking for.

Woman getting an acne facial

Tim E White Collection / Photolibrary / Getty Images 

What to Expect

Do acne facials work? Unfortunately, there's no clear-cut answer. Most importantly, know that you won't clear your skin with just one treatment. As with any acne treatment medications and procedures, getting results from facials takes time and typically requires a series of acne facials.

Typically, facials are scheduled once a week to once every other week. But you can't rely on facials alone to get your skin clear. To keep the benefits going, you'll need to be consistent with your acne treatment and skincare routine at home during your "off days."

The skill of the esthetician performing your treatment also plays a huge role in the improvement you see. If your goal is to improve blemishes, you'll get the best results from a therapist who specializes in treating problem skin. Don't be afraid to ask the esthetician about their experience with treating acne.

Appropriate Uses

Mild inflammatory acne, characterized by localized areas of redness and swelling, can usually be successfully treated by an acne facial. So, if you have a few pimples or only break out occasionally, an acne facial may be right for you.

Acne facials work best for people with comedonal acne, the type characterized by blackheads and whiteheads. If you primarily have comedones or other non-inflammatory blemishes, facials can usually help improve the skin's appearance.

During a facial treatment, the esthetician will manually release pore blockages and comedones in a process called comedonal extractions. Although your esthetician won't be able to remove every pesky blackhead and whitehead during the first visit, enough should be done to give you an immediate improvement in the look and feel of your skin.

Although extractions remove existing non-inflammatory breakouts, they don't stop them from forming in the first place. Keep up with daily acne treatments between facials, whether over-the-counter acne products or prescription medications, to keep breakouts from coming back.


Not all cases of acne can (or should) be treated in the salon setting. Acne is more than an aesthetic problem; it's a dermatologic condition that often requires medical treatment that looks beyond the skin to the underlying cause.

As a rule, you should see a dermatologist if have moderate to severe acne, defined as anything from 20 to more than 100 comedones, 15 to more than 50 inflamed bumps, or 30 to more than 125 total lesions. For cases like these, prescription medications may be needed.

This isn't to say that that you can't enjoy or benefit from regular facials. An esthetician can offer treatments complementary to a doctor's care. Some dermatologists even employ estheticians to perform facials right in their offices.

If you're unsure whether your acne is moderate or severe, it's important to defer to a dermatologist's advice. An esthetician is not a medical professional, and a facial used inappropriately may end up causing more harm than good.

How a Facial Is Performed

During a facial, the esthetician begins by thoroughly cleansing the skin. Various masks, steam baths, and a facial massage may be incorporated into the treatment.

The esthetician will use products to reduce surface oil, remove dead skin cells, soothe, or hydrate. Your esthetician can also recommend products for at-home use, like cleansers and moisturizers, that won't aggravate your acne.

If the skin is at all inflamed, extractions should be held to a minimum if done at all. No one, not even an esthetician, should attempt to extract deep inflamed blemishes such as nodules and cysts.

If you decide to make facials a part of your skincare routine, remember that you'll get the best results if they're done regularly. Be sure to tell your esthetician about all topical and oral medications you're currently using to avoid unwanted reactions.

Vigorous exfoliation should be avoided if taking Accutane (isotretinoin) or using topical retinoids like Differin (adapalene) or Retin A (tretinoin), each of which accelerates skin shedding. Exfoliation may end up causing redness, swelling, and a raw, inflamed appearance.

A Word From Verywell

Although having a facial done at the salon is relaxing and in some cases may help with breakouts, acne facials aren't a necessity to get acne under control. In fact, facials aren't even the best way to get acne under control.

If you consistently break out, especially if your pimples are deep, widespread, and/or inflamed, prescription acne medications might be the best options for treating acne. You'll get far better results with these than with facials alone.

However, acne treatment facials can be helpful in removing blackheads and leaving your face feeling smoother and softer. Use them as an add-on to your daily acne treatment medication.

If a dermatologist is already treating your acne, you should always talk to them before having any facial treatment done at the salon. And always let your esthetician know you're under a dermatologist's care so that you'll get a treatment that's appropriate for your skin.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Acne: overview.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Pimple popping: why only a dermatologist should do it.

  3. Yang Z, Zhang Y, Lazic Mosler E, et al. Topical benzoyl peroxide for acne. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2014;6:CD011154 doi:10.1002/14651858.cd011154

  4. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 10 skin care habits that can worsen acne.

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.