Do Acne Facials Work to Clear Pimples?

What Acne Facials Can and Can't Do for Your Skin

A woman getting an acne facial
Photo: Tim E White Collection/Photolibrary/Getty Images

That acne treatment facial on the salon menu looks so tempting.  But before you plunk down your cash on this treatment you want to know if a facial will help clear up your skin.

Do Acne Facials Work to Clear the Skin?

There really is no clear-cut answer to that question. The results you get from facial treatments depends on many factors.

You won't get amazing results, or clear skin, with just one treatment.

Just like with any other acne treatment medication or procedure, getting results from facial treatments takes time. To get the best results, you'll have to commit to a series of acne facials.

Typically, facials are scheduled every week to every other week. To keep the benefits going, you'll need to be consistent with your acne treatment and skin care routine 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 her experience with treating acne.

Successfully Treating Acne at the Salon

Mild inflammatory acne can be treated at the salon. So, if you have a few minor pimples or only break out occasionally, acne facials are OK.

For moderate acne to severe acne, you should see a dermatologist instead.

Salon facials aren't enough to clear more serious cases of acne such as these. A good esthetician will know when a case of acne is beyond her expertise and will refer you to a doctor.

This isn't to say that those with more advanced cases of acne 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 office.

Facials for Comedonal Acne (Blackheads and Whiteheads)

If you have predominately blackheads and other non-inflammatory blemishes, you'll find facials can indeed make your skin look better. During a facial treatment, the esthetician performs extractions by manually removing pore blockages or comedones.

So all those pesky blackheads and whiteheads? Your esthetician will remove them for you, giving you an immediate improvement in the look and feel of your skin. If you go in for facials regularly, you may notice an improvement of comedonal acne.

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.

What Happens During an Acne Treatment Facial?

During a facial, the esthetician begins by thoroughly cleansing the skin. Various masks, steam baths, and 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 they are 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 skin care routine, remember you will get the best results if they are done regularly. Be sure to tell your esthetician about all topical and oral medications you are currently using to avoid unwanted reactions.

For example, vigorous exfoliation should not be done if you're taking Accutane (isotretinoin) or using topical retinoids like Differin (adapalene) or Retin A (tretinoin).

These medications cause your skin to shed cells more quickly. If that's not taken into account, that powerful exfoliating salon treatment can cause minor to severe irritation.

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 are the best options for treating acne. You will 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. But instead of facials as your sole acne treatment, use them as an add-on to your daily acne treatment medication.

If a dermatologist is treating your acne you should always talk to him 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.

View Article Sources
  • Gerson, Joel, Janet DAngelo, Shelley Lotz, and Sallie S. Deitz. Miladys Standard Esthetics: Fundamentals. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar, 2009.
  • Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, Alikhan A, Baldwin HE, et. al. "Guidelines of Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2016; 74(5): 945-73.