A facial steam is a miracle product that can improve skin tone, deep clean your pores, clear up acne and counteract the effects of aging. Better yet, it’s a completely free, natural way to purify your skin. Learn more about these benefits and how you can recreate this spa treatment at home.
Why the pros use steam
Estheticians often use steam to "prep" the face for subsequent treatments. By softening skin, steam brings dirt and impurities to the surface; makes extractions easier; and allows products to penetrate deeper into the skin. Plus, there’s a welcome side effect to this multi-purpose treatment — you emerge from the spa with supple, hydrated, younger-looking skin.
Why skin loves steam
- It’s a quick fix for tired, aging skin. Steam hydrates the skin, rushes oxygen to your face and increases circulation, giving skin a rosier, dewy appearance.
- It fights acne and blackheads. Just like a sauna helps to clear the body of toxins, steaming the face brings all the ugliness under your pores to the surface. At first, facial steaming can actually cause more breakouts, a common initial reaction to the purifying process. But, over time, breakouts diminish.
- It produces clearer, smoother skin. Many mistakenly believe that steam opens the pores and thus results in a clearer complexion. Instead, steam "loosens debris and softens skin...so pores can unclog and appear less prominent," author and spa owner Barbara Close tells Whole Living.
Facial steaming at home
To reap the beautiful benefits of facial steam, all you need is water, a pot and towel. Here’s how to get a professional-quality steam at the comfort of your own home.
- Use a cleanser to wash your face thoroughly and pat dry.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Reduce to simmer for a few minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for five to 10 minutes. Never use boiling hot water for a facial steam; this can easily scald skin, causing way more harm than good to your complexion.
- Place the pot of water on a table, where you can sit comfortably with your face over the pot for about 10 minutes.
- Drape a medium-sized towel over your head like a tent.
- Slowly lower your towel-covered head over the pot of water until you feel the warmth of the steam. It should feel soothing, not uncomfortably hot. Importantly, don’t get too close to the hot water.
- Breathe deeply and relax, letting the steam pour over your face for about 10 to 12 minutes (15 at the most).
- Finish off by splashing cool water on your face. This is also the perfect time to apply facial masks, toners or moisturizers.
- Repeat this process once a week. Steaming more frequently can cause over-drying.
Incorporating essential oils
Steam is wonderful on its own, but, for additional benefits, you can incorporate skin-soothing essential oils. Look for these essential oils online or at many natural food stores. Just add a few drops to the hot water right before you steam your face.
You can customize and adjust the oils to address specific problems. According to beauty guide Julyne Derrick of About, here are your options:
- For dry, irritated skin, use chamomile, jasmine or rose to soothe and hydrate.
- Oily skin may benefit from lavender, cedarwood, rosemary or peppermint.
- Got combination skin? Try rosewood or Ylang-ylang.
- If acne is an issue, tea tree oil has effective astringent properties.
Steam enhances the effects of other skincare products. To take advantage of these benefits, use these products.
When not to use steam
If you have severe acne or rosacea, avoid using steam both at home and at the spa — it can worsen these conditions. Also, if you have any skin condition or are using products that make you prone to peeling, like Retin-A, check with your dermatologist before steaming.
When warm steam is combined with aromatherapy, it can actually exacerbate breathing problems like asthma.