Recently, I had a slightly traumatizing facial that left my skin scabbed over and red. Spoiler: After a full week and several mini panic attacks, the scabs healed, and my skin looked better than ever. But leaving a two hour-long facial with open wounds and sugar cookies to keep from fainting was not initially on my agenda.
For those seven days, I worried I'd scar and my clear skin would never look the same again. What I know now, though, is that there are some really great products that will help calm, soothe, and heal your skin (and your nerves) after an aggressive treatment. Below, a few of the pros reveal the products that work best when your skin is scabbed, scarred, or broken out.
"Generally, if someone gets scabs it could because of heavy duty extractions," notes celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau. "Which, isn't necessarily a bad thing, but in order for closed comedones (clogged pores/bumps) to get removed, they have to come up and out through the skin, which means that through the extraction process, the skin can get broken. And that ultimately can lead into a tiny scab.
“Another way for scabs to appear is if an esthetician did too strong of a peel in areas where there were already wounds, such as blemishes. If you extract a blemish and the skin oozes and bleeds, it means it’s open, and then to use an acid peel over an open wound can result in the skin being 'eaten' away. This can definitely cause more scabs and trauma."
Tip: "Just leave the skin alone," Rouleau suggests. "No picking. Scabs need to run their course, so let the skin's natural healing process do its thing. Always work with Mother Nature; never work against her."
Recommended product: "I recommend my Herbal Blemish Gel ($35) as a spot treatment after a facial," says Christine Chin, a veteran facialist. "It will help heal and protect your skin as it forms an invisible film to seal openings from pollutants and makeup.
"As an experienced esthetician, I usually know if someone is going to get some post-facial breakouts and will ask them in advance if they have an important event the few days following," says Rouleau. "The reason someone can get post-facial breakouts can be due to manually extracting closed comedones (whiteheads/bumps) that are deep in the skin. I always use a lancet to create an opening so they can be removed easily, but oftentimes you can only remove what wants to come out (while not over-squeezing at the skin).
And once the opening and pathway have been created, it invites whatever is deeper down in the skin to purge out in the following days. So essentially, post-facial breakouts are a sort self-cleansing for the skin. However, some clogged pores and blemishes simply shouldn’t be extracted (a seasoned esthetician should know what should come out via extractions and what should be left alone), so sometimes if something is messed with that shouldn’t be, then breakouts and irritation can occur."
Tip: "I suggest going back to the esthetician to see if he or she has any special tools to help heal current breakouts and prevent new ones from appearing," says Rouleau. "A device known as high frequency uses ozone to disinfect and heal active blemishes to make them go down quickly."
Recommended product: After a facial, when the skin is properly exfoliated, the Rapid Response Detox Masque ($61) uses potent yet gentle anti-bacterial ingredients to penetrate into the pores and discourage visible breakout activity—all while soothing and calming the skin.
"Irritation and redness can happen for many different reasons," explains Rouleau. "Possibly from over-exfoliation (a peel too strong or microdermabrasion working too deep), an allergic reaction, or enzymes that increase heat in sensitive skin."
Tip: "A thin layer of a cortisone cream can reduce rashes and irritation when used once a day," says Rouleau. "You can also splash the skin with cold water or hold a frozen bag of peas or corn over a thin towel over the face. The cold temperature will greatly reduce the skin’s internal temperature to reduce redness, irritation, and puffiness."
Recommended product: "Any and all gel masks can be put in the fridge for 30 mins prior to using for an extra cooling and calming experience," says Rouleau. Other than that, I'm a huge devotee of Dr. Barbara Sturm's Calming Serum ($190)—it contains active, plant-based ingredients to rebalance and calm any irritated skin, and help reduce redness.