Will a Facial Steam Treatment Clear Acne?

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Facial steams are popular. You can get them at a salon or do it yourself at home. Home-use steamers are available. And you can always just use a bowl of warm water and a towel.

Facial steams feel amazing and leave your skin bright and glowing. But are they good for acne?

Some misinformation about facial steams is out there. This article looks at what facial steams actually do and what other acne treatments you should consider.

Woman receiving steam treatment
subman / Getty Images

Steams Don't "Clean Out" Pores

You may have heard that steaming cleanses your pores. It doesn't.

Pore blockages (called comedones) form when oil and dead skin cells get lodged in a pore. They become a thick, sticky substance. That's the basis of every blackhead, whitehead, and pimple.

Even hours of steaming won't clear this plug or prevent new ones. That's because comedones form deeper within the pore. Steam just billows around the surface of your skin. It never penetrates to where comedones form.

Pore Blockages

Facial steaming does have a place in skincare. It softens blackheads and non-inflamed breakouts. That makes them easier to extract.

This is why it's done before extractions during an acne treatment facial. Once the plug is softened, the esthetician can coax it out with gentle pressure.

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

If you're gentle and careful, you can extract some blemishes on your own at home.

Steaming also increases circulation. That's what makes your skin look brighter and gives you a rosy glow (temporarily, at least).


Comedones form deep inside your pores. Steaming doesn't penetrate that deep so it can't prevent or clear up pore blockages. It does soften blackheads, though. That makes them easier to get out.

Steaming and Acne

Steaming alone won't clear up acne. It also can't stop new breakouts from happening. So if facial steams are your main acne treatment, you'll always be playing catch up.

Steaming has no effect on inflamed pimples and larger blemishes like nodules and cysts. You can't extract these large, deep blemishes no matter how much you steam your face.

Steaming too often or with steam that's too hot can make inflammatory acne look worse by increasing redness and inflammation.

Acne Treatments

For treating acne, you should use a topical treatment or oral medication.

For mild acne and blackheads, over-the-counter acne products may work. For moderate or severe acne, you'll need a prescription acne medication.

You can get those prescribed by a dermatologist or your regular healthcare provider.


Steam won't stop acne breakouts or get rid of any large, deep blemishes. You may need topical or oral treatments, including prescription products.


Steam facials don't get rid of blemishes. They soften small blemishes, like blackheads, and make them easier to extract.

For larger blemishes, you likely need medication. Topical and oral medicines are available, both over-the-counter and by prescription.

A Word From Verywell

If you enjoy facial steams, go ahead and use them. But make sure you're using proven treatments for acne and other skin problems.

If you're struggling to clear up acne on your own, talk to your healthcare provider. They can recommend products, prescribe something, or refer you to a dermatologist.

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

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