Can Acne Facials Help Clear Pimples?

What Facials Can and Cannot Do for Your Skin

A woman getting an acne facial

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

What to Expect

What you really want to know is, do acne facials really work? There really is no clear-cut answer to that question. The results you get from facial treatments depends on many factors.

Understand that you won't get amazing results, or clear skin, with just one treatment. As with any acne treatment medications and procedures, 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 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 skin care 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 her 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 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.

Considerations

Not all cases of acne can (or should) be treated n the salon setting. Acne is more than an aesthetic problem; it is 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 more than 20 to 100 comedones, 15 to 50 inflamed bumps, or 30 to 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 unsure whether your acne is moderate or severe, it is 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 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.

Vigorous exfoliation should be avoided if taking Accutane (isotretinoin) or using topical retinoids like Differin (adapalene) or Retin A (tretinoin), each of which accelerate 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 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.

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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.