Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Facials, Facials, Facials: Extractions, Breakouts, and What to Do Post Facial October 8, 2012

While researching my book review post about Dr. Jeannette Graf’s book Stop Aging, Start Living I discovered the website Well and Good NYC and spent way too much time going through the site instead of writing my book review.  Though the site has a very organic, holistic, and natural slant which isn’t for everyone, and I found myself not agreeing with everything I read on the site, there was still plenty of  information on the site that interested me.  For example the few articles that I read about facials.

I’ve devoted quite a few posts in this blog to facials since they are my bread and butter as an esthetician, and I want people to better understand them since I find that there are many misunderstandings and misconceptions about facials.  Certain questions come up regularly when it comes to facials such as:  do you perform extractions during your facials (if you need them then absolutely yes), why did I break out after my facial?, and can I put on make-up after my facial?


My philosophy about extractions is that if the client has blackheads and clogged pores the esthetician should try to extract them after properly preparing the skin for extractions.  I do not recommend doing extractions on your own at home since you can easily damage the skin.  Estheticians are trained to prepare the skin properly for extractions, know how much pressure to apply and for how long during extractions, and also know how to calm the skin after extractions are over.  Yet it turns out that not all estheticians agree with this outlook.  According to the article Extraction Wars:  Aestheticians Face Off Over Pore Pressure:

For many facialists, extractions play a starring role in a skin-care treatment, with steaming, cleansing, and exfoliating all playing skin-care backup. For others, extractions are cruel and unusual, banned by the Geneva Convention of Aesthetics.

Nothing makes a New York City facialist get on her soapbox quicker than mention of performing extractions, the act of enticing a pore or pimple to give up its impurities (a plug of dead skin and oil). It’s a topic with two opposing camps—and no middle ground. One person’s pinnacle of cleanliness is another’s trauma to the skin. …

The brass ring is clear skin. But most of us are dotted with blocked pores and bumps that we can’t fully clean ourselves—or we shouldn’t. “I don’t want my clients doing it themselves,” says Wright. “You need to know what to look for, what not to touch, and apply the right pressure. I’m good at it,” says [Jillian] Wright, [owner of Jillian Wright Clinical Skin Care] who admits she finds the task incredibly satisfying, “like a treasure hunt.”

Congestion can be partly managed by skin-care products at home, and you can exfoliate blackheads so they’re less visible, but the contents of pores just don’t come out on their own, says Wright. “They just fill and fester and stretch pores to the size of saucers.”

But what about the estheticians who oppose extractions?  What is the reason behind their refusal to perform this service?   According to the article:

In this camp are skin-care professionals who call extractions a “harsh invasive practice” that can leave the skin looking worse for wear. It’s an idea shared by luxe holistic-leaning spas like Sodashi and many French beauty brands. (You’d be hard pressed, ahem, to find a spa in Paris that does extractions.)

“Respecting the skin” is a cornerstone of Clarins, which frowns upon pore pressure to free the dirt and trapped sebum inside them. “We work with the skin, not against it, says Ewa Wegrzynowska, Clarin’s National Skin Spa Training Manager. “Pulling and pressing the pores weakens them and the skin fibers like collagen and elastin.”

Your skin looks good in short term, concedes Elena Chang, an aesthetician at  Clarins Madison Avenue Skin Spa. “But in long run, you’ve got damaged skin that’s lacking strength and elasticity.” And maybe an extra broken blood vessel or two, they say.

Personally, I see no reason to stop doing extractions.  Even following the proper procedures you help people’s skin not hurt it.  I also do not extractions if I see no blackheads and clogged pores.  Those clients luck out with me – they get a longer facial massage.

For my fellow estheticians – Skin Deep published a very informative article about performing extractions called Essential Extractions.  Well worth reading.

Breakouts After A Facial

Sometimes it happens and it’s a bummer.  A few days after a facial instead of your skin looking fresh, feeling smooth, and being blemish free you get a pimple.  It’s happened to me with various clients (including my boss’ daughter once) and though I know it can happen after a facial, it still bums me out to hear about from a client.  The article Should Facials Cause Breakouts? breaks down the reasons for what could cause breakouts post facial:

If you get a facial and your skin breaks out the next day, it’s easy to blame the facialist for flubbing your just-exfoliated gorgeousness. (And investment.) But it may not be her fault. Just what makes skin breakout after a facial treatment—and who’s to blame?

To find out, I asked leading aestheticians—Caitlin Conn, skin care director of Exhale spas, andElena Rubin, the facialist-founder of Ethos Wellness in Soho—for their take on the most common causes of post-facial breakouts.

1. The Chinese Cure

Elena Rubin says that two things are equally true: The skin should not break out after a facial. Yet it’s normal if it does. The latter she attributes to the “Chinese cure,” a term used in acupuncture, which means sometimes the skin (in this case) gets worse before it gets better. “Skin can take the treatment as a sign to detox. And some people have three years of built-up sebum, dead skin cells, and sunscreen in their pores,” says Rubin.

2. Poor Pore Prodding

As a facialist, “you have to be really careful that you finish what you start,” says Caitlin Conn. “A facial stirs up bacteria, and leaving it behind after extractions can absolutely cause a post-treatment breakout.” Conn likes to use anti-bacterial gadgets like light therapy (looks like a Lite-Brite panel or a glowing paddle) and high-frequency wands (sounds like a bug-zapper) immediately afterward. “These technologies are very quick and healing,” says Conn.

3. Over-Reacting Skin

“Some skin reacts to steam, facial massage, new products, or to the very potent drawing power of clay,” says Conn, and it can cause a breakout. “Clay draws out impurities almost too quickly. I’m cautious about using it and may just apply it across the nose in a thin layer, while using a hydrating mask on the cheeks…”

4. Over-Eager Extractions

A good facialist should allow plenty of time preparing skin for extractions—not just with steam, but with exfoliants and pore-opening oils and massage, says Rubin. “It’s about luring out the contents of the pores, not forcing them out,” she explains, a cosmetic courtship with your skin. “Then, maybe I’ll make a second pass over the skin after the oils have helped loosen them.”

5. Skipping the Cool Down

In addition to allowing the skin a 20-minute warm-up for extractions, plenty of time is needed for calming any blotches, inflammation, and irritation from extractions, says Conn. “No one should have welts or bleeding or blotches on their way out the door.” In other words, you should never leave the spa looking like you’ve had a deep cleansing facial, even if you have.

6. It’s Not a Makeover!

A facial isn’t a makeup application. It’s more like a workout at the gym. It doesn’t necessarily make you beautiful the first visit, says Rubin. Unless it’s a red-carpet facial (a treatment intended for immediate radiance or lifting only), “the benefits kick in after a few days, when the skin’s like, ‘Oh, wow. Now I can function better without that dead layer of skin and clogged pores.”

I thought the explanations offered in this article did an excellent job of explaining why you can breakout after a facial.  Personally I usually keep it simple when explaining to a client what happened.  I explain that a facial can bring to the surface a pimple that has been forming beneath the skin (the same is true with chemical peels as well).  Sometimes your skin simply looks worse before it looks better.  It is best to assess the true results of your facial about a week after you had it done, especially if your skin is acne prone.  If your skin is dry you should hopefully reveal radiant and soft skin immediately following your facial.  One last thing to keep in mind, sometimes what you might perceive as a pimple is irritation to your skin instead.  Perhaps a product was used on you that caused your skin to react, perhaps to become red or have small bumps appear.  This too should subside with time, but be sure to mention any post-facial reactions you had to your esthetician before your next facial.  You may even want to call the esthetician you had the facial with so that she can make a note in your chart.  That sort of feedback is actually appreciated by estheticians.

What To Do and What Not To Do After A Facial

I always make sure my facial clients leave me with sunscreen on and a few skincare tips as well.  For instance many times I will tell my client not to do anything to their face until the following morning after a facial simply because I’ve already done enough during their facial.  If  I’ve exfoliated, extracted, massaged, and applied a mask to your skin why would you need to then go home, wash your face, slather your face with AHA (alpha hydroxy acids) or Retin-A?  Sometimes too much of a good thing really is too much.  According to the article What Not To Do After A Facial Treatment you should avoid doing the following post-facial:

1. Don’t visit the steam room or sauna.
Why? You’ve been cleaned and steamed. Heating your face up is just going to strip away your just paid-for glow. Ditto working out. (Not that we like to give you an excuse.)

2. Don’t have a massage.
Why? How does a toilet-seat-shape imprint on your newly poreless complexion sound? Book it before your facial.

3. Don’t wash your face. (Make that, don’t touch your face.)
Why? You’ve just had it washed by a professional who spent 59 minutes more on cleansing your skin than you usually do. You can skip this step in the spa shower and at bedtime.

4. Don’t use at-home peels or Retin A/Renova for at least 72 hours.
Why? Alpha-hydroxy acid peels plus vitamin A is a recipe for redness. Give your skin a two- or three-day break from potent at-home products after a treatment.

5. Stay out of the sun.
Why? Even incidental sun exposure can cause sun damage and skin cancer. And since 100 percent of facials involve a scrub or a peel (anti-aging facials often include both), you’ve got a new batch of vulnerable skin cells on the surface that can easily burn.

6. Don’t pick.
Why? If a facialist leaves pimples behind, it’s usually because they’re not close enough to the surface yet. Leave your pimple for a day—a deep-cleansing facial can make a few naturally surface within 24 hours. Or call your facialist about a follow-up extraction visit, the facial equivalent of a bang trim.

7. Don’t apply makeup.
Why? Okay, you can apply makeup. But why not use your skin-perfecting facial as an opportunity to go au naturel? And if you’re skin isn’t at its best afterward, it’s time for a new facialist.

Personally I think the advice not to use Retin-A for 72 hours is a bit much.  I usually recommend to clients that they can return to their normal skincare routine the day after a facial.  Applying high quality, non-pore clogging make-up such as mineral make-up post facial is fine, in my opinion.  Sometimes people go back to work or out to dinner or run errands after a facial and feel more comfortable with make-up.  Having a mineral make-up on hand to apply following a facial can be an asset to your esthetics business not a detriment.

My Related Posts:

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40 Responses to “Facials, Facials, Facials: Extractions, Breakouts, and What to Do Post Facial”

  1. This was excellent ! As a fellow esthetician I must say that I love to do extractions but I only do them as needed. Like you, if they don’t need it then I just give them a longer facial massage. I love the tips on what to do after the facial. I would love to share that info.

  2. kakah007 Says:

    Your site is information filled. Such joy to find such a rare gem of a site. Thanks for job well done. This is hoping other acne sufferers can take advantage of this information and eliminate their acne permanently

  3. Brittany Says:

    Very interesting article. Especially for me. I recently got a facial- she spent about 45 minutes extracting everything out- I walked out looking like I had hundreds of little red dots and blotches. And now- a couple days later I’m happy to say some of the redness had subsided, but now my acne is back with a vengeance- a painful vengeance. Is there anything I can do that will help calm my extremely irritated skin. I’ve had this done before, I’m a regular for acne treatments, but this is rather painful and the acne is really sore.

    • Thanks for your comment. I would say that you should just leave your skin alone for now. Moisturizer and use sunscreen for a week before doing anything anti-acne. If you own a soothing mask or serum you can use that. It sounds like your skin needs downtime before you go back to your regular routine. If in 2 weeks or so your skin isn’t better I would contact the esthetician who gave you the facial to see if she has any suggestions for you. Good luck!

  4. J. Says:

    This is so informative! I would actually really want to know where you work, so I could book an appointment with you. I live in TA and don’t have a regular facialist at the moment. So if you still do facials and don’t feel comfortable sharing your place of work on the blog, yet would want new clients, please send me an email 🙂

  5. Angie Says:

    My esthetician did all the steps you mentioned during my facial, however when I left the spa my face was very swollen. The extractions were very painful, but I assumed this was normal since it was my first facial. Hours later the swelling diminished but I had red and purple marks all over my face. The following day the marks where worst, now I had dry patches were the marks were, which I could not cover with make. On my third day I’m peeling excessively and still have tons of scars I did not have before. Is this normal ? The facial I had done was an extraction and a diamond peel.

    • I’m sorry to hear that your skin reacted as it did to your facial. It sounds like you received an aggressive facial which isn’t always such a bad thing. And yes, extractions hurt no matter if it is your first facial or your 50th facial. First of all I would let the esthetician or the spa where you had the facial done know what is going on with your skin. They can let you know how long your skin will look like it does. Your skin will heal but in the meantime baby your skin – use a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen only. This isn’t the time to use AHA or BHA or other aggressive exfoliation products. The marks that you have on your face will diminish with time and so will the peeling.

  6. hujanc Says:

    Thank you for posting this. I must congratulate you for this excellent post. I’m a regular client for facial as well. I admit that after facial, my skin was smoother upon touch. However it leaves scars on my face which is very annoying to look at. I know it will go away by time but when I go for the next facial, they will leave new scars as well. So my face was like full with scars from the existing healing scars plus the new scars. And my question is when will my face will be scar-free if they keep on leaving scars? 😦

  7. Taylor Hood Says:

    Hi, I really like your websites advice and I was hoping you’d have some advice. I got a deep cleasning facial last week and my face has just been getting itchier since, but its only the lower half (below nose, cheeks, lips etc). I know my esthetician made me go in the sauna AFTER my facial and I had to ask her for moisturizer after the sauna. Any advice?

    • Thank you for your question. There are numerous reasons why your skin could be itchy, and it is hard to know what is causing this reaction from the information you provided in your question above. I would suggest contacting the esthetician who gave you the facial and discussing the matter with her. Good luck!

  8. DCAesthetic Says:

    Hi there – I am an aesthetician in a plastic surgeon’s office. I am an independent contractor and don’t necessarily have all the tools given to me so I do sometimes provide them myself. I would love to bring in a HF wand if you recommend one as some of my patients do break out after treatments. Is there one you recommend? Thank you in advance!

    • Thanks for your question. Unfortunately I don’t know which product to recommend for you. I suggest asking your question in a forum for estheticians like the ones on Linked In. Good luck!

  9. Stephan Says:

    Should my skin feel kinda’ dry after a facial? I had a lot of closed comedones extracted from my forehead yesterday. Today, I’m not sure if I’m looking at flaking skin from normal scarring, or dryness. How can I tell the difference between the two? My forehead doesn’t feel tight when I move my eyelashes up and down.

  10. Stephan Says:

    Er, and what I mean by “normal scarring” is that the flaking skin tends to be rounded in shape around where the comedones were extracted.

  11. alliebeck Says:

    Hi! I recently had a facial where the aesthetician dug out a bunch of clogged pores on my chin. I left looking like someone held a lighter to my chin. I know clogged pores are deep, but should my face be so swollen, bruised, and scanned? Also, I am afraid it will scar and/or that she didn’t get the pores out all the way, as it is still bumpy (hard to tell because of the swelling). Should I get my money back? And should I be worried about my skin? Thanks!

    • After extractions sometimes the skin can be red and sensitive. If your skin doesn’t calm down in a few days definitely contact the esthetician who gave you the facial and consult with her. You can also use a soothing mask on your chin.

  12. Char Says:

    After having a facial, I forgot to asked my esthetician if I should put on a sunblock cream. Is it okay to use other product or cream not prescribed by him to reduce the red marks on my skin?

    • Thank you for your question. Yes, you can use a product that your esthetician has not recommended, but if you are unsure of what to buy I would suggest going back to consult with your esthetician. I am sure they would be happy to make product recommendations for you.

  13. Ariel Says:

    I forgot to ask my esthetician if I could wash my face after the facial!! I waited about 10 hours. My face was just itchy and felt yucky and I wanted to go to bed with a clean face. I washed with simple gentle ckeanser, applied witch hazel and moisturizer but it feels kinda dry. Did I mess up?!

  14. Berenice Says:

    I just had an extraction and diamond peel done two days ago and now my face has like dark looking pimples that won’t cover up and little pimple here n there. Is there anything I can do?

  15. Leanna Says:

    I did my extraction 4 days ago and my estheticisn said i can not wear makeup for 3 weeks. But i have a date in another week, is it okay if i wear makeup just to cover the scars left on my forehead due to the extraction?

  16. Jane Says:


    Thanks for your article.

    I’m a esthetician also and love my job .

    I’m always reading and learning new things and enjoy learning everything I can about skin health.

    I was just confused about one thing you mentioned.

    You like to leave the client wearing sunscreen after the facial and I know sunscreen should be a vital part of everyone’s skincare regime.

    When you said they should not wash there skin to the next day however I got confused because no one should sleep with sunscreen on.

    It’s not good for the skin to have sunscreen on while going to sleep.

    • Thanks for your comment. Going to sleep every once in a long while with sunscreen on your face is fine in my opinion. No one is getting a facial every day and then going to sleep with sunscreen on. If it really bothers someone that they have sunscreen on their face they can certainly wash their face at night, even after having a facial earlier in the day, with a gentle cleanser and apply a moisturizer afterwards. You just want to avoid exfoliating your face again on the same day you got a facial.

  17. randy Says:

    Help! Just had an extraction facial and she broke a blood capillary on my nose and I now have a big brown spot. Will it heal on its own?

  18. Julie Says:

    I had a hydra facial done 2 months ago. The esthecian left the wand on too long in some areas and you can still see the marks which are big and whiter in colour. The other problem is that I also have different white spots that are very noticible. The sun won’t even tan them. Will my face heal with time or do I have permanent damage. This was my first facial and will be my last.

    • Sorry to hear this happened to you. If you haven’t already contacted the spa where you had the facial be sure to update them about what happened. I would suggest seeing a dermatologist to be an answer to your questions. Good luck!

  19. brndncrn Says:

    Hi. My derma (not related with the facial clinic I went) told me to use Adafalene, an anti-acne gel, before going to sleep for 2 weeks before I undergo facial extraction.

    I had a facial extraction 10 days ago. I still use the Adafalene day after. But my face is still left with scars and dark spots from the extraction. It’s frustrating 😦 How long will it take to heal? I have to go to a facial clinic again next week, as advised by my derma. Im scared that it might worsen my pimple scars. 😦

    Thanks so much!

    • Hi- thanks for your question. Everyone’s skin is different. Some people’s skin heals within a week, for others it takes longer. It is best to ask your questions where you did your facial since you will be returning there next week. Good luck!

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