Acne facials: Use and effectiveness

Acne facials: Use and effectiveness

In mild cases, facials may help to reduce acne symptoms, but sometimes they can make this skin condition worse.

A facial is a beauty procedure requiring a variety of treatments on the face to clean the skin and enhance its appearance. Users should get a skin care professional’s facial, or attempt to do one at home.

In this post, we look at whether acne can be healed by facials, and how. We also look at possible threats.

Do they help?

Facials may help remove impurities, debris, and oil from the skin.
Facials may help remove impurities, debris, and oil from the skin.

The efficacy and effectiveness of acne facials depends on a number of factors, including:

  • how harsh the facial is and the likelihood of it irritating the skin
  • severity and type of acne
  • skin type
  • other products and medications that the person is using
  • whether it is a professional or at-home facial
  • the quality of the ingredients

Usually, acne facials are healthy for people with tiny, nonpainful, white or black pimples, and unhealthy for people with multiple red and painful sores.

People with moderate, non-inflammatory acne can benefit from the occasional gentle facial appearance.

People with more serious forms of acne should avoid most types of facials, such as inflammatory acne. Most acne sufferers have inflammatory acne.

Professional acne facials can deliver better results than at-home versions, although most facials cause irritation to the skin. Overall, chemical peels could be the safest option.

It is important to note that facials are unable to cure acne, and that most only provide minor, temporary outcomes.

How do they work?

Most acne facials claim that they reduce the symptoms of acne by:

  • cleansing the skin to remove impurities, debris, and oil
  • unclogging pores using exfoliation, which is the removal of dead skin cells
  • reducing oil production and inflammation of the skin
  • reducing irritation
  • killing acne-causing bacteria
  • improving skin hydration

Professional acne facials can include chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and light therapy. Though there are many at-home versions of these products and devices, their efficacy and safety is uncertain.

A skin care specialist, preferably a dermatologist, may use manual extraction procedures to remove whiteheads , blackheads, cysts, and nodules too. It may also be necessary for aesthetician to extract minor acne lesions.

Things to expect

What to expect from an acne facial depends on whether or not a person gets the facial from a skin care professional or performs it at home.

Professional facials

Professional facials generally involve the following:

  • cleansing the skin
  • exposing the skin to steam or applying warm towels
  • exfoliation using scrubs, microdermabrasion, or chemical peels
  • LED light therapy treatment or laser therapy
  • extraction of whiteheads and blackheads
  • massaging the skin
  • applying facial masks
  • applying facial serums and moisturizers with antioxidants or active enzymes

Many professional facials cost $75 to $200, and take around one hour.

Acne facials should avoid steps or methods that may further irritate the skin and exacerbate the symptoms, including microdermabrasion, scrubs, and massage.

To minimize the risk of side effects, extractions, chemical peels, or light therapies should only be performed by dermatologists or highly trained or licensed aestheticians. Dermatologists typically use products much stronger than aestheticians, such as chemical peels and lasers.

Factors to enquire about potential skin care professionals include:

  • training or license (dermatologists are board certified with the American Association of Dermatology, and estheticians need to become licensed through their state’s Board of Cosmetology or health department)
  • experience level
  • evidence of success treating other people
  • previous history of professional services

At-home facials

Most topical acne formulas which are over-the-counter or do-it-yourself (DIY) allow a person to apply them directly to clean, toned skin and leave them on for 10–20 minutes. Many items or recipes often suggest using steam baths before application to help open the pores.

Acne products may contain ingredients or techniques which may not in certain cases be safe or beneficial. Hence people should take care to minimize the risk of side effects before buying, creating, or using facials at home. Considerations common to all include:

  • type or stage of acne
  • current medications
  • skin type
  • treatment goals
  • other medical conditions
  • allergies
  • age

People with moderate to serious acne should seek a dermatologist ‘s support in seeking safe , effective products or treatments. Acne facials should not include treatments or procedures that become physically irritating.

Before using any product on the face, it is necessary to conduct a patch check, if it causes side effects.

How to perform a facial at home

The following is an example of an at-home facial procedure:

  • Cleanse the skin using a gentle cleanser that is soap- and alcohol-free and has a pH similar to that of the skin (5.5). Cleansers with salicylic acid may help unclog pores, but they can irritate the skin. The cleanser should also be noncomedogenic, meaning that it contains neither pore-clogging ingredients nor any artificial colors, fragrances, or foaming agents.
  • Steam the skin for a few minutes to open the pores by placing the face over hot water or applying warm cloths to it. Be careful not to burn or scald the skin.
  • Use a chemical peel product containing exfoliants such as alpha and beta hydroxy acids. Gently rub it into the skin in circular motions for about 30 seconds or as the label instructs. Rinse it off with lukewarm water.
  • Apply a face mask, either purchased or DIY, and leave it on the skin for the recommended amount of time (often 10–20 minutes) before gently rinsing it off with lukewarm water. People with acne should avoid some types of masks, such as sheet masks, and certain mask ingredients. These include artificial dyes and fragrances, parabens, phthalate esters, alcohols, propylene glycol, diethanolamine, benzalkonium chloride, diazolidinyl urea, and formaldehyde.
  • Moisturize the skin with a noncomedogenic, hypoallergenic, oil-in-water emulsion, or hydrogel product. Moisturizers with retinol or retinyl palmitate may also be beneficial for mild acne. Many natural ingredients, such as glycerin, shea butter, jojoba oil, and marula oil, are also excellent moisturizers.


People can combine a wide range of natural ingredients and extracts to make acne-prone skin face cleansers, masks, and moisturizers. Some of the ingredients for at-home acne most common and studied include:

  • tea tree oil
  • green tea
  • lemon juice and peel
  • hops
  • cucumber
  • walnut oil or powder
  • green clay
  • turmeric
  • aloe vera
  • neem
  • honey
  • allantoin, lactic acid, and citric acid
  • glycerin
  • shea butter
  • jojoba, marula, safflower, and sunflower oils
  • basil oil
  • rose water


To perform a DIY lemon facial:

  1. Cleanse the skin and rinse with lukewarm water.
  2. Cut one lemon in half and squeeze out the juice into a small bowl.
  3. Peel the lemon half, cut the peel into smaller pieces, and press them through a garlic press over the same bowl, extracting the peel’s natural oils.
  4. Mix the lemon juice and oils. Use a cotton ball or pad to absorb some of the mixture and dab it gently onto affected areas of the skin.
  5. Allow the mixture to sit on the face until it is dry or 5–10 minutes have passed — whichever occurs first. Wash it off immediately if it causes irritation.
  6. Gently rinse off the mixture with lukewarm water.
  7. Apply a moisturizer and, if necessary, sun protection.

Users may also make another simple DIY acne facial mask by adding an equal mixture of honey and fresh aloe gel (about a minimum of a tablespoon) to cleansed skin. If it has dried or after about 15 minutes, they can rinse this off with lukewarm water.

If this mask is effective and well tolerated, people can attempt to add a drop or two of tea tree oil or half a teaspoon of dried, ground turmeric or green tea leaves to the mix. Adding 5–6 drops of jojoba, sunflower, or safflower oil to any good moisturizer can also be beneficial.

Risks factors

Acne facials carry some risks , especially for individuals with moderate to serious or inflammatory acne. Side effects may include:

  • irritation
  • allergic reactions
  • dryness
  • oiliness
  • increased skin sensitivity, especially to sunlight
  • burns
  • scarring
  • discoloration
  • infection due to spoiled or impure ingredients
  • bruising


Besides providing minor, temporary results, it’s unknown if facials are helpful for acne. Some ingredients and procedures can worsen symptoms. Therefore, people with inflammatory or serious acne should visit a dermatologist before they get a facial.

While they are not a cure, people with moderate, noninflammatory acne often find facials healthy. Choosing an experienced skin care professional or using gentle at-home products is therefore essential.