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 eating 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 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.
Meet the Expert
- Renée Rouleau is a celebrity esthetician based in Austin, TX. She is also the founder and creator of her eponymous skincare line.
- Christine Chin is an NYC-based veteran facialist. Her celebrity clientele includes Gisele Bündchen and Jennifer Lopez.
- Anna Guanche, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and celebrity skincare expert. She is the founder of Bella Skin Institute.
What Causes Scabbing Post-Facial?
"Generally, if someone gets scabs it could be because of heavy-duty extractions," notes Rouleau. "Which, isn't necessarily a bad thing, but 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 to a tiny scab." Guanche adds, "Post-facial scabbing is likely from acne lesions that were extracted during the facial. Sometimes small lancets are used, and even if a Schaumberg extractor is used, it can unroof lesions, causing mild bleeding. Scabs are simply dried blood."
Rouleau also notes that 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 cause more scabs and trauma," she says.
They should notice, but it never hurts to point out sensitive areas on your face to your esthetician. Always better to be safe than sorry, especially if it saves you some irritation or scabbing.
Let Scabs be
"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."
Instead, give your skin some extra TLC with a spot treatment. "I recommend my Herbal Blemish Gel as a spot treatment after a facial," says Chin. "It will help heal and protect your skin as it forms an invisible film to seal openings from pollutants and makeup."
Avoid putting makeup on and around your scab so your skin can heal. Removing makeup could further irritate the scab if you're rubbing or scratching.
Know What Causes Breakouts
"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."
She continues, "So essentially, post-facial breakouts are a sort of 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."
Let Breakouts Heal
One of the worst things you can do for your skin when it's healing after a less-than-ideal facial is to pick at your skin. This can increase the potential to scar: "Do not pick at the scabs!" says Guanche. "Protect the area from the sun by applying SPF. Most tiny wounds from a facial that lead to scabs are extremely small and heal within a day or two. When you wash your face or shower they will naturally fall off when ready (the skin underneath is healed enough)."
"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."
After a facial, when the skin is properly exfoliated, the Rapid Response Detox Masque uses potent yet gentle anti-bacterial ingredients meant to penetrate into the pores and discourage visible breakout activity—all while promising to soothe and calm the skin.
Treat Inflammation and Irritation
"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."
"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."
Guanche also notes, "Inflammation and irritation will naturally subside without treatment. However, if it is severe, you can apply over-the-counter hydrocortisone 1 percent cream to the face twice a day until the irritation resolves. Soothing hydrogel masks and blue/red light treatments also help to soothe and reduce redness and welting from a facial. Some skin types are much more sensitive and likely to have redness afterward than others."
Other than that, I'm a huge devotee of Dr. Barbara Sturm's Calming Serum—it contains active, plant-based ingredients meant to rebalance and calm any irritated skin, and help reduce redness.
If you notice that your skin is really bothered after a facial, reach out to your esthetician or dermatologist to make sure everything is okay. The last thing you want is for a serious allergic reaction to go untreated.
Cool the Skin
"Any and all gel masks can be put in the fridge for 30 mins prior to using for an extra cooling and calming experience," adds Rouleau. You can even use an ice pack or a cube of ice to calm inflammation as well.
No matter what, take a deep breath after your facial. If you have a few scabs, take comfort in the fact that they will heal, and you should be left with glowy, healthy skin once you treat them correctly.
What causes scabs?
Scabs are our body's response to a wound, cut, scrape, or burn. As your body begins the healing process, your skin and red blood cells grow over your wound, causing a scab.
Are there any negative effects of scabs?
Scabs, if not treated properly, can get infected or reopen. Take care to not pick at your scabs. If they do get itchy or irritated, use a warm washcloth to gently dab on your skin.
How long does it take scabs to heal?
Scabs can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to heal. When a scab is healed completely, it should fall off on its own.
Should you apply makeup over a scab?
It's not a great idea to put on makeup over a scab. "It is best to avoid applying makeup to scabs. Makeup can lead to harmful bacteria getting under your skin, leading to infection, and prolonging the healing process," explains Guanche.