Will a Facial Steam Treatment Clear Acne?

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

You love facial steams—who doesn't? They feel amazing and leave your skin looking bright and glowing. You've also heard that facial steams cleanse out the pores, so can a facial steam clear up acne? Should you be steaming your face more often?

Woman receiving steam treatment
subman / Getty Images

Steams Don't "Clean Out" Pores

You're not alone in loving the facial steam. It's a favorite feature of any salon facial, and personal facial steamers for at-home use are extremely popular. Many people use the old-fashioned method, leaning over a bowl of warm water covered by a towel.

Too bad all this steaming doesn't actually cleanse out the pores!

Pore blockages (called comedones) occur when oil and dead skin cells become lodged within the pore. This thick, sticky substance is the basis of every blackhead, whitehead, or pimple.

Even hours of steaming won't clear this plug from the pore or stop new ones from forming, because they develop deeper within the pore. The steam, however lovely it feels, just billows around the surface of your skin. It never penetrates the pore where comedones form.

Pore Blockages

That's not to say facial steaming doesn't have a place in skin care. Facial steaming can soften blackheads and non-inflamed breakouts so these blockages can be more easily removed from the pores.

This is why during an acne treatment facial the esthetician treats you to a thorough steaming before starting with the extractions. Once the comedonal plug is softened, it can be coaxed from the pore with gentle pressure.

Your skin care therapist should never try to extract an inflamed blemish. It will damage the skin.

If you're super gentle and careful, you can extract some blemishes on your own at home. You can do so safely, without damaging your skin.

Besides prepping the skin for extractions, steaming also increases circulation, makes your skin look brighter and gives your complexion a rosy glow (temporarily, at least). And no one can argue that it just plain feels nice.

Steaming and Acne

While facial steams soften blemishes and make them easier to extract, steaming alone won't clear up acne.

Steaming and extracting helps remove existing pore blockages but, no matter how often you steam your face, it won't stop new breakouts from forming. So you'll always be playing catch up if you're using facial steams as your sole source of acne treatment.

As for inflamed pimples, and especially larger blemishes like nodules and cysts, steaming won't have any clearing effect. You can't extract these large, deep blemishes, no matter how much you steam your face.

Steaming too often or using steam that is too hot can actually make inflammatory acne look worse because it increases redness and inflammation.

Acne Treatments

If you love steaming your face, and it doesn't leave your skin too red or irritated, then enjoy it. But know steaming is not a cure for acne. You'll be better off using a topical treatment or oral medication to get those breakouts under control.

For mild acne and blackheads, over-the-counter acne products may be enough to get your blemishes under control. For moderate breakouts to severe acne you'll need a prescription acne medication, so give your dermatologist a call.

A Word From Verywell

While facial steams can help minor pore blockages and blackheads be extracted, they won't do anything to clear up an active case of acne. You can still enjoy your facial steams, but use them along with proven acne medications to get real improvement in your skin.

Was this page helpful?
1 Source
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. Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016;74(5):945-73.e33. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2015.12.037

Additional Reading