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If you have acne, you might feel as though you’re always searching for that one cure.

Unfortunately, a facial isn’t it. But it can calm the condition.

How effective it is depends on a few things: products used, how regularly you have one, and the skill of the aesthetician.

A seasoned professional will know how to work with your individual skin type.

Here’s how to pick the right facial for your skin, what to expect during your appointment, and more.

Those with minor acne may find that a facial works wonders when used alongside suitable skin care products.

Those with moderate to severe acne — at least 30 lesions in total — may want to avoid facials or team them with something stronger like prescription medication.

ClassicDecongestingMicrodermabrasionLEDBrighteningEnzyme
WhiteheadsXXX
BlackheadsXXX
Pustules (pimples)X
PapulesX
Cysts
Nodules
Atrophic or other depressed scarsXX
Hypertrophic or keloid scars
DiscolorationXXXX

Some facials tackle active acne while others work to diminish leftover scarring or discoloration.

Classic

  • What does this consist of? A few standard processes. In order, they are steaming, an exfoliating scrub, massaging, and the application of a mask. A toner and moisturizer may also be applied.
  • What does it do for your skin? Typically, your skin will undergo deep cleansing and exfoliation. This will allow dead skin cells to be removed and leave skin looking hydrated and more even in tone.
  • What type of acne does it work best for? Blackheads or whiteheads can be extracted.
  • What’s the average cost per session? Around $75, but this can increase to several hundred dollars.

Decongesting

  • What does this consist of? Essentially a classic facial with a focus on unblocking pores. An esthetician will use either their fingers or an extractor tool to remove minor breakouts.
  • What does it do for your skin? Blocked pores will be cleared and skin will be left smoother. However, it doesn’t target the root cause of acne, and you may need to have more than one to see significant improvement.
  • What type of acne does it work best for? Whiteheads and blackheads can be successfully treated. Deeper lesions like cysts and nodules shouldn’t be extracted.
  • What’s the average cost per session? This can range from around $70 to upwards of $200.

Microdermabrasion

  • What does this consist of? Microdermabrasion is a noninvasive treatment where a handheld device gently exfoliates the top layer of skin. It takes around 30 to 40 minutes after which a moisturizer is applied.
  • What does it do for your skin? After a short course of sessions, your skin should appear brighter and smoother and have a more even tone.
  • What type of acne does it work best for? Blackheads and whiteheads can be treated. Depressed scars and discoloration may also improve.
  • What’s the average cost per session? The average cost of one treatment was $137 in 2017.

LED

  • What does this consist of? Skin is cleansed before being treated with an LED machine. This emits a combination of white, red, and blue infrared light. White goes the deepest and works on the tone of the skin, red encourages the production of collagen, and blue kills off acne bacteria.
  • What does it do for your skin? The treatment can fight against active acne and act as an anti-inflammatory. It’s ideal for sensitive skin and the benefits should be noticeable after just one session.
  • What type of acne does it work best for? This kind of light therapy is mainly effective for pimples.
  • What’s the average cost per session? Prices can start around $35 and venture up to almost $200.

Brightening

  • What does this consist of? This uses a mixture of acid peels, masks, and serums containing antioxidants like vitamin C. The amount of time these are left on for depends on your skin type and condition.
  • What does it do for your skin? The products used aim to reduce discoloration left over from acne. This occurs by slowing melanin production, or encouraging the top layers of skin to shed. Skin texture can also be improved.
  • What type of acne does it work best for? Dark marks, also known as hyperpigmentation, are targeted.
  • What’s the average cost per session? These tend to be a little more expensive with prices starting upwards of $100.

Enzyme

  • What does this consist of? Enzymes are natural substances that encourage the regeneration of new skin cells. They can often be found in fruits and are incorporated into a facial peel.
  • What does it do for your skin? The top layer of the skin comprises dead skin cells which contain keratin protein. The enzymes in the peel break down this protein, leaving smoother and more even-colored skin.
  • What type of acne does it work best for? Enzyme facials are best for depressed scars or discoloration. Results can vary as enzymes require careful storage to remain stable.
  • What’s the average cost per session? A typical starting price is around $150.

You have two options: a dermatologist or aesthetician.

A general dermatologist can deal with straightforward acne issues, while a cosmetic dermatologist specializes in more complex problems like discoloration or scarring.

Aestheticians are qualified to carry out regular facials, peels, and microdermabrasion.

A good dermatologist will be board-certified by the American Academy of Dermatology. The majority of states require aestheticians to be licensed too.

Whichever specialist you’re looking for, remember to ask them the following:

  • How many years of experience do you have?
  • How often do you carry out the procedure you’re interested in?
  • Can you show me before and after photos of previous clients?

Ask around and check online for recommendations. Make sure you feel comfortable and that the specialist is able to answer any questions you have.

Before

Make a note of any medication you’re currently taking and your usual skin care routine.

When you arrive, you should be asked to fill out a consultation form. There will be questions relating to your skin, general health, and current medication. That’s where that note comes in handy.

Make sure you answer everything as fully and honestly as you can, and don’t forget to tell your dermatologist or aesthetician of any particular concerns.

During

You’ll then be taken to the treatment room. Certain facials may require you to remove your top and bra if you wear one. The specialist will leave the room while you’re undressing.

All that’s left to do is make yourself comfortable on the bed by laying under the sheet or towel provided.

Then your facial will begin. The process will depend on the procedure that you’ve chosen. But any type will start with a good cleanse to remove makeup and dirt.

If it’s a regular kind of facial, you can expect to be in the room for around an hour. Treatments like microdermabrasion and LED therapy may take less time.

No part of the facial should feel painful. If you do experience discomfort, tell the specialist immediately.

Once the facial is over, you’ll be left alone once again to get dressed.

After

Before you leave, you’ll be given aftercare instructions and advised on how to keep your skin looking the way it now is.

Some clinics may give you the chance to buy the products that were used.

Your dermatologist or aesthetician will also advise you when it would be best to book another appointment.

Overly aggressive treatments can worsen acne. Be aware that vigorous exfoliation may lead to redness and swelling.

The same goes for excessive extractions. All of these side effects can and should be minimized by an experienced dermatologist or aesthetician.

Certain procedures come with a few more risks. For example, anyone with acne interested in LED therapy and microdermabrasion should consult an expert before undergoing the procedure.

If you’re taking isotretinoin or have done so in the past six months, you could develop scars after microdermabrasion.

Less common side effects of this treatment are bruising, burning, stinging, and sensitivity to sunlight.

You can live your life as you normally would after most facials. Maintaining results at home will involve incorporating certain products into your daily skin care routine.

Don’t be aggressive in your at-home approach. A gentle cleanse using products that contain little to no alcohol can help keep acne at bay. Exfoliation can be carried out once a week.

More complex procedures, such as microdermabrasion, may require you to apply sun protection afterwards. Again, the specialist will advise you of this.

If you experience another breakout, resist the temptation to squeeze. Instead, book another appointment and let the experts do their thing.

It’s usually sensible to have a treatment every two weeks or every month, depending on the severity of your acne.

You can replicate most facials at home. For the ones that don’t require a machine, stick to the following process.

  1. Cleanse skin with a gentle non-foaming cleanser. Then, steam your face to soften the skin.
  2. Use an AHA or BHA toner to remove debris before applying a mask or peel. Anything containing clay, like Glamglow’s Super Mud Clearing Treatment, or sulfur is good for acne.
  3. Once the mask is off, you can extract any visible whiteheads or blackheads. Use a sterile extractor or cover your fingers with a cloth and gently press.
  4. Moisturizing is the last step. Try a rosehip facial oil instead of a traditional cream to calm skin.

You can also attempt microdermabrasion or an LED treatment at home.

PMD’s Personal Microderm Tool takes a few minutes and can be used weekly, while Neutrogena’s Light Therapy Acne Mask combines red and blue light and can be used daily for 10 minutes.

Before diving headfirst into the world of facials, book an appointment with a doctor or dermatologist. They can advise you on the best course of treatment and which facials to avoid.

With any facial, it’s important to understand that you won’t walk out of the room with clear skin.

These treatments are designed to combat acne breakouts or improve the residual effects of the condition over time. It may take more than one session before you notice an impact.

Although it’s possible to do some of the facials yourself at home, you may not get the same results as you would with a professional.

So, limit your DIY expectations, be patient, and, if in doubt, always seek professional advice.