Will a Facial Steam Clear Acne?

Facial Steam
Rita Maas Collection/The Image Bank/Getty Images

You love facial steams -- who doesn't?  They feel amazing on the skin, 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 -- with a bowl of very warm water covered by a towel.

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

Pore blockages (called comedones) occur when oil and other debris become lodged in 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 the pore.  The steam, however lovely it feels, just billows around the surface of your skin.

Facial steams can make pore blockages easier to extract.

That's not to say facial steaming doesn't have a place in skin care. Facial steaming can help soften blackheads and non-inflamed blockages so an esthetician can more easily extract them. Your skin care therapist should never try to extract an inflamed blemish, though. It will damage the skin.

If you're super gentle and careful, you may be able to extract some blemishes on your own at home.  Here's how you can do so safely, without damaging your skin: Is It Ever OK to Pop a Pimple or Squeeze a Blackhead? 

Steaming can also make your skin look brighter and give 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 can soften blemishes and make them easier to extract, steaming alone won't clear up acne.  Just steaming the face, no matter how often you do it, won't stop breakouts from forming nor will it heal and clear existing breakouts.

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

Got breakouts?  Try these treatments (with or without the steam bath.)

If you love steaming your face, 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.

You can still enjoy your facial steams, but used along with effective acne medications, you'll soon notice improvement in your skin.


Next steps:

Do Acne Facials Work to Clear Acne?

Effective Salon Acne Treatments

Top 5 Signs It's Time to See a Dermatologist About Your Acne


Lavers I.  "Therapeutic strategies for acne vulgaris."  Nurs Times. 2013 Dec 4-10;109(48):16-8.

United States. NIAMS. "Questions and Answers About Acne." Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, 2006.

Continue Reading