One of the first known facial steamers was invented by Jeanette Scale in 1903. Scale invented the "Russian Steam Bath – the most perfect apparatus for cleansing the face". This product was a tabletop version of the modern day steamer. Scale was also an avid product manufacturer and distributed products known as "skin foods.". Seemingly ahead of modern day skincare, Scale's skin foods were touted as "nourishing when massaged into the skin because animal and plant oils were readily absorbed into the skin and petrolatum products were not." Some formulas contained coconut, orange flower water, sweet almond oil, and lanolin. Other versions of tabletop steamers included the popular 1967 home beauty device: Lady Schick® Facial Steamer, which featured multiple settings for emitting various vapor intensities.
- It’s cleansing. Steam opens up your pores and helps loosen any buildup of dirt for a deeper cleanse. Opening up your pores also softens blackheads, making them easier to remove.
- It promotes circulation. The combination of warm steam and an increase in perspiration dilates your blood vessels and increases circulation. This boost of blood flow nourishes your skin and delivers oxygen. The result is a natural, healthy glow.
- It releases acne-causing bacteria and cells. Opening up your pores allows the release of dead skin cells, bacteria, and other impurities that clog the pores and contribute to acne.
- It releases trapped sebum. This naturally occurring oil is produced by your sebaceous glands to lubricate your skin and hair. When sebum gets trapped beneath your skin’s surface, it creates a breeding ground for bacteria and causes acne and blackheads.
- It’s hydrating. Steam hydrates the skin by helping to increase oil production, naturally moisturizing the face.
- It helps your skin better absorb skin care products. Steam increases skin’s permeability, enabling it to better absorb topicals. This means you get more bang for your buck from skin care products applied after a steam.
- It promotes collagen and elastin. The increased blood flow experienced during a steam facial promotes collagen and elastin production. This results in firmer, younger-looking skin.
- It’s soothing. The feeling of warm steam on your face is relaxing. Add some soothing scents using herbs or essential oils for aromatherapy to take your steam sesh to a whole other level of calm!
- It helps with sinus congestion. Steam can help relieve sinus congestion and headaches that often accompany it. Adding certain essential oils to your steam can boost the effect.
- It’s affordable and accessible. You don’t need to dish out big bucks for a steam facial at a spa to enjoy the benefits; it can be done at home using items you already have.
There are a few ways you can enjoy this versatile skin treatment at home. It can be simple and free or as luxe and costly as you — and your wallet — choose.
Here’s a step-by-step description for each technique.
To steam over a bowl or sink of hot water
- Grab a big fluffy towel and choose your spot. Comfort is key, so if you’re doing this over a sink you’ll want to use a chair or stool that offers the right height. Otherwise, a bowl on a table is your best bet.
- Secure your hair so that it’s off your face and cleanse using a gentle exfoliating cleanser. Don’t forget to cleanse your neck, too!
- Bring 4 to 6 cups of water to a boil in a kettle or pot, depending on the size of the sink or bowl.
- Add a handful of herbs once the water begins to boil and stir.
- Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes. Carefully pour into the sink or bowl. If you’re using essential oils, this is the time to add a few drops to the water.
- Have a seat, drape your towel over your head and the pot, and hold your face 6 inches above the water.
- Raise or lower your head for more or less heat and lift a corner of the towel to cool off if needed.
- Steam your face for 5 to 10 minutes.
To steam with warm towels
- Get a hand towel and turn on the hot water tap. When hot, fill your sink or bowl with enough hot water to soak your towel. Add your herbs.
- Secure your hair so that it’s off your face and cleanse your face and neck using a gentle exfoliating cleanser.
- Soak your towel in the hot water and wring it out so that the towel is damp.
- Lean back in a comfy chair or lie down. Place the towel on your face, holding each corner up so they meet in the center of your forehead.
- Adjust the towel so that it covers your entire face, including the eyes, leaving just your nose peeking through. Relax for 5 minutes.
To steam with a home facial steamer
- Read your facial steamer’s instructions, filling it up as directed. Place it on a table near an outlet so you can plug it in. It will take a few minutes to begin emitting steam.
- Secure your hair so that it’s off your face and wash your face using a gentle exfoliating cleanser.
- Have a seat, get comfortable, and set your face inside the cone attachment, staying 5 to 10 inches away as it says to do in your steamer’s instruction booklet.
- Steam for 2 or 3 minutes at a time with a 1-minute break in between to see how your skin is handling the steam.
Facial steamers offer a more powerful steam than the other methods.
At the end of the day, the base you choose for steaming your face won’t make the steaming any less beneficial, but some bases may offer even more perks.
It comes down to personal preference and budget:
- Tap water. Tap water is accessible and free, so you can’t really go wrong.
- Distilled or spring water. You could also use distilled or spring water, though there’s no evidence to suggest that one is actually better than the other for steaming.
- Tea. Beauty teas offer health benefits that are good for you from the inside out, like antioxidants. They’re also supposed to help your body release toxins. Research has found that green tea and others that contain polyphenols have protective and anti-aging benefits when applied topically.
Adding dried herbs and oils to your steam may offer extra benefits. Certain herbs are thought to be more beneficial for different skin types. Some essential oils and herbs are known to have a calming or invigorating effect, depending on what you’re after.
- Chamomile. ResearchTrusted Source shows that chamomile can help with skin inflammation and dermatitis, making it great for all skin types, including sensitive skin.
- Rosemary. This fragrant herb may be a good option for those with oily skin.
- Lavender. This herb is great for dry skin or eczema, and it has relaxing aromatherapy benefits.
- Geranium. This oil derived from the geranium flower is a natural astringent that tightens and tones the skin.
- Eucalyptus. If you deal with acne or are congested, this is a great option.
- Orange. Along with having uplifting aromatherapy properties, orange may also help with blocked pores and a dull complexion.
A steam burn is more damaging than a burn from boiling water, so you need to be especially careful when steaming your face.
To lower your risk of burns, avoid putting your face too close to the steam. Increase the distance as needed for you to be comfortable. Water should be warm, not hot, if you’re using the towel method.
Steam your face once a week for the best results. Limit each steam session to around 10 minutes to avoid irritating your skin.