- Acne facials can help reduce mild, noninflammatory acne
- Professional treatments can achieve more rapid results than at-home, DIY facials
- Facials are not recommended for inflammatory acne and for moderate-to-severe acne of any kind as they can aggravate symptoms
Acne is a chronic skin condition that can be noninflammatory or inflammatory, and present with mild to severe lesions. To effectively treat and manage acne, solutions typically involve a multimodal approach to take advantage of the combined effects of several treatments. Facials for acne can be used alongside these therapies to help improve mild, noninflamed lesions.
Do Facial Treatments Work for Acne?
Facial treatments can help treat and prevent acne from forming by clearing pores of excess sebum, dead skin cells and grime. They can offer positive benefits by reducing redness, swelling and irritation by infusing the skin with active ingredients meant specifically for this purpose.
While they can help alleviate mild cases of inflammatory acne, facials are not recommended for moderate-to-severe inflammatory acne as they can instead cause severe irritation and inflammation. In these cases, specific topical and systemic agents are required.
While many spas and salons offer facial treatments for acne-prone skin, their effectiveness can vary widely, as many variables are at play:
- Acne type and severity
- Frequency of acne facial treatments
- Influence of other treatments and medications in your acne arsenal
- Quality of products used
- Skill level of the skin therapist
- Skin type
Note that facial treatments cannot be the sole treatment for acne but can support a dedicated skin care regimen that includes acne-targeted skin care products and treatment, both over the counter (OTC) and prescribed.
Types of acne you can treat with a facial
Facials are appropriate and safe for the following types of acne:
- Comedonal acne: Whiteheads and blackheads can effectively be treated with a number of facial treatments
- Mild cases of inflammatory acne: If you have just a few pimples or a combination of pimples and comedones, a facial can help reduce these lesions and improve the appearance of your skin
Types of Facials for Acne
Acne facials are designed to deeply cleanse skin of debris, dead skin cells, excess oils and impurities; exfoliate to prevent future flare-ups; and hydrate to balance skin’s moisture levels.
These facials typically include application of a skin toner as well as an individualized treatment consisting of specific serums and moisturizers to revitalize, moisturize and protect skin. Facials are usually personalized to meet individual needs.
A classic facial for acne involves a deep cleansing, steaming, exfoliation and massage followed by application of a mask suited to your skin type.
This effectively removes dead skin cells and grime, and brightens skin.
This facial treatment concentrates on extraction of whiteheads and blackheads to clear skin of noninflamed lesions, either with an extractor or manually. You may need multiple treatments to see improvements in your skin.
Microdermabrasion is a minimally invasive skin rejuvenation therapy that employs a handheld device to gently exfoliate your skin’s topmost layer to clear pores of blackheads and other debris such as oils and dead skin cells to help clear acne.
This action also stimulates wound healing and collagen production to resurface the skin. Patients typically report a bright glowing appearance with improved softness, texture and decreased visibility of pores.
Light emitting diode (LED) therapy uses differing wavelengths of white, red and blue infrared light to tone skin, encourage collagen production and kill Cutibacterium acnes, the bacteria responsible for inflammation.
Blue and blue-red light has been found to be more effective than topical 5% benzoyl peroxide cream in the short term. You should see results after just one session, but you’ll need maintenance treatments to preserve the effect.
Enzyme peels rely on natural enzymes extracted from fruits that can promote skin cell regeneration by breaking down proteins in the outer layer of skin to slough off dead skin cells, lighten discoloration and remove build-up from pores. Skin is left smooth and bright.
The process is safe for all skin types and gentler than chemical peeling as it exfoliates only dead skin cells, not healthy ones.
A brightening facial treats both mild inflammatory and noninflammatory lesions, postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and rough texture. It achieves this through a combination of acid peels such as lactic and salicylic acid, masks and antioxidant serums such as vitamin C which can inhibit melanin production, speed up skin cell turnover and boost collagen production. This clarifies and brightens skin and also protects against free radicals.
The amount of time this customized treatment is left on skin depends on your skin type and condition.
Best Facials for Your Acne
The best facial for your acne will be one that will depend on the severity and type of your acne as well as your skin type.
|Type of Facial||Acne Treated||How It Works|
|Classic||Best for those with mild inflammatory acne lesions||Cleansing, steaming, exfoliating and massage to clear pores and calm skin|
|Extraction||Targets blackheads and whiteheads; several treatments may be required||Mechanical or manual extraction to remove comedones|
|Microdermabrasion||Blackheads and whiteheads||Mechanical exfoliation using a handheld device to exfoliate the outermost layer of skin|
|LED therapy||Mild, inflamed pimples; ideal for sensitive skin||A handheld device emits white, red and blue infrared light wavelengths to boost tone, encourage collagen production and kill C. acnes|
|Enzyme peels||Blackheads and whiteheads; ideal for sensitive skin||Gently accelerates the natural exfoliation process to speed up healing|
|Brightening||Mild, inflamed pimples; blackheads and whiteheads||Speeds up skin cell turnover, lightens dark spots, unclogs pores and sloughs off dead skin cells|
At-Home Facials for Acne
An at-home facial for acne can be a welcome addition to a well-designed skin care program to help maintain clear pores, exfoliate, brighten and hydrate skin. When choosing active ingredients, opt for those that take into account your skin type as well as acne type and severity.
While they will not likely produce the same results as professional treatments, they are cost-effective and you have the option of trying several products with varying ingredients until you find the one that works best for you.
You can purchase a pre-assembled face kit to take the guesswork out of what products to choose and at what concentrations. These kits will contain specific components such as a cleanser, exfoliant and mask that are designed to work well together for optimal results. This also ensures you don’t inadvertently damage skin by combining incompatible active ingredients.
The best agents will be those that are established and proven to clear pores and heal acne lesions, such as the follows:
- Benzoyl peroxide can kill acne-causing bacteria, clear pores of comedones and calm inflammation; it is so effective that results can be had within days
- Glycolic acid is an effective exfoliant to slough off dead skin cells and debris, and is ideal for dry skin as it works as a humectant to draw and retain moisture
- Retinol is an excellent choice for both inflammatory and noninflammatory lesions to exfoliate, speed up skin cell turnover and promote collagen production for healthier skin
- Salicylic acid is ideal for comedonal acne as it can penetrate deeply into pores to break up and dissolve blackheads; it can also reduce sebum production, making it ideal for oily skin
5-step DIY acne facial
Include this DIY acne facial into your skin care routine to heal skin and prevent future flare-ups.
- For oily skin, use a gentle foam or gel face wash to thoroughly remove excess oils; dry or normal skin types can opt for a cleanser to balance moisture in skin.
- Steam your face for several minutes to open your pores and soften hard plugs of debris. Fill a large bowl with boiling water, drape a towel over your head and hover over the bowl.
- Pat your skin dry. For oily skin, apply a salicylic acid to exfoliate blackheads and control oiliness; dry or sensitive skin would benefit from a lactic acid toner for its gentleness and ability to restore moisture. Both types clarify the skin and remove any remaining residue from cleansing.
- Apply a mask that is specifically designed to treat acne. Follow all instructions regarding time on skin and proper removal.
- Complete your facial by applying a noncomedogenic, quality moisturizer that is suited to your skin type. This is an important step, as this serves to infuse skin with active ingredients meant to boost hydration, soothe any redness and inflammation and protect the moisture barrier.
Look for glycerin and hyaluronic acid as both are natural humectants to draw in and retain moisture; plant oils such as jojoba, argan, rosehip and primrose oil to repair and protect the skin barrier; and most importantly, ceramides which also moisturize, strengthen the skin barrier.
Facials can be beneficial for mild, noninflammatory acne, when you have only a few pimples or have a combination of pimples and comedones. They are not appropriate for inflamed acne lesions as this can cause worsening symptoms.
As well, a facial for acne is not intended to be a sole treatment but to help bolster the effects of OTC or prescribed medications and therapies.
Facials for mild acne work to deeply cleanse skin, exfoliate blocked pores and brighten skin’s texture and tone. This is achieved through a series of steps that uses the application of specific skin care products and techniques in an individualized approach.
A professional facial for acne may offer the best results based on the quality and grade of the products used, as well as the skill of your provider. However, for a cost-effective approach you can purchase a ready-made kit to perform your own facial or create your own kit by choosing your own products.
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