Do Acne Facials Work to Clear Pimples?

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

Salon Acne Facials
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 -- will having a facial done help clear up your skin?

Do acne facials work to clear the skin?  Sometimes.

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 super amazing results with just one treatment.

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

Typically, facials are scheduled every week to every other week.  To keep the benefits going, you'll have 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.  Don't be afraid to ask the esthetician about her experience with treating acne.

Facials are especially good ​for comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads).

Do you have blackheads and other non-inflammatory blemishes?  You'll find facials do indeed make your skin look better, and reduce the amount of breakouts you get.

During a facial treatment, the esthetician performs extractions by manually removing pore blockages, or comedones.

  So all those pesky blackheads and whiteheads (AKA milia)?  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'll notice an improvement of comedonal, or non-inflammatory, acne.  Keep up with your acne treatments between facials to keep breakouts from coming back.


Facials alone generally won't clear inflammatory acne.

Mild inflammatory acne can also be treated at the salon.  If you have moderate to severe acne, though, you should see a dermatologist instead.  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.

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 may 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 at 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 on anyone taking Accutane (isotretinoin) or using topical retinoids like Differin or Retin A. If a dermatologist is treating your acne, it's always a good idea to talk to him or her before having any facial treatment done.

Next steps:

The Best Salon Acne Treatments

Treating Acne with Help from Your Esthetician

Source: Gerson, Joel; Ph.D.. Standard Textbook for Professional Estheticians. 8th edition. Albany, NY: Milady Publishing, 1999.

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