Will a Facial Steam Treatment Clear Acne?

Woman with a towel wrapped around her hair getting a steam treatment
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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?

Facial Steams Alone Won't "Clean Out" Your Pores

You're not alone in your love of steaming the skin. The facial steam is a favorite feature of any salon facial, and personal facial steamers are extremely popular for at-home use. And many people steam their face the old-fashioned way, leaning over a bowl of very 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.

Facial Steams Do Make Pore Blockages Easier to Extract

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 skincare therapist should never try to extract an inflamed blemish, though. 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 Your Face Won't Clear 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.

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

Try These Treatments Instead

If you love steaming your face, and it doesn't leave your skin too red or irritated, go ahead and enjoy it. But know steaming in itself is not a cure for acne. Instead, you'll be much 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 aren't going to 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 a real improvement in your skin.

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