Facials: Should I Steam My Face Before or After Cleansing?

 Facials: Should I Steam My Face Before or After Cleansing?

Facials are an excellent way to treat your skin and destress at the same time. Here’s an in-depth look at the best order for performing a facial so you know exactly what you should be looking for.

Best Order to Treat Facials


Let’s answer the question straightaway: cleansing is the first step of a facial. Cleansing first is crucial because it gives all of the following steps a clean and receptive canvas. Your skin needs to be cleansed of dirt that accumulates all day long. It’s not visible to the naked eye, but the dust and dead skin cells and tiny particles of sand or dirt all build up on the surface of our skin. If you’re wearing makeup, a cleanse will begin by focusing on removing the layer of cosmetics on your skin. By gently cleansing our skin first, we make sure that every subsequent step works to its full ability. Steaming before cleansing, for example, can actually open our pores up and force them to draw dirt and oil deeper in, rather than allowing for the helpful substances applied in later stages to absorb easily into the skin.


Exfoliation is often set to follow a cleanse during a facial, though in some cases the exfoliation and steaming process may be reversed in order. Generally speaking though, it’s best practice to also exfoliate before steaming. Exfoliation takes the cleanse to the next level, using abrasive substances to help remove the topmost layers of dead skin. This not only promotes healthier growth of fresh skin after treatment, it also clears the skin to enable better absorption of moisturizers and other useful serums as the facial progresses. Some exfoliation happens manually – that is, using a slightly abrasive sponge or brush. Other exfoliants are called chemical exfoliants, like salicylic acid. These acids are most often used to treat conditions like acne, because they can penetrate deeper into the pores and destroy excess oil and dead skin cells that can clog pores. It’s important to exfoliate, but be careful to avoid over-exfoliating. You want your skin looking and feeling fresh, not raw and irritated. There’s a fine line, which is why a facial with a qualified dermatologist is the best bet.


Steaming is a very critical part of a facial for a few reasons. Firstly, a steam is often fun and relaxing. Steaming your face feels nice, as warm and moist air circulates over your skin. It feels incredibly nourishing. Steaming serves a much greater purpose during a facial, however. The steam helps to open the pores in our skin, which makes them more absorbent to the serums and moisturizers that will be applied next. Steaming too early can make pores enlarged prematurely, and that should be avoided. Only clean, exfoliated skin should be steamed. That way, the skin doesn’t absorb dirt and oil along with the moisture as it is wafted over your face.

Applying a Mask

A mask can consist of many things, but the main goal is to allow your skin to soak up useful substances and nutrients. It’s called a mask because the serum is allowed to rest on your face. Masks can be tuned to do a variety of things, from simply soothing your skin if it’s inflamed from acne or conditions like rosacea to absorbing excess oil or boosting moisture. Masks are then removed after a set amount of time, and the final stage begins.

Moisturizing and Massaging

Just as a cleanse is a key first step for a facial, moisturizing is critical for the end of the routine. Moisturizers come in a variety of different strengths depending on your skin type. They are designed to be absorbed by the skin and enhance its natural moisture barrier, keeping hydration locked into the skin. This helps to prevent signs of aging and dryness, especially in arid climates or winter. A massage can happen at many stages during a facial, but it often happens at the end at the very least. Massages help to promote absorption of the moisturizer and can help you relax and unwind. Massages are all about eliminating stress, and a good massage can go a long way.

The steps of a facial are particular but not set in stone save for a few big “don’ts.” If you want to learn more about a facial routine or you’re ready to schedule your facial, give us a call at Pacific Dermatology Specialists for a consultation today.

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