While facial steaming has been a secret of dermatologists and skin care enthusiasts alike, the process has lately gained traction on social media. From Instagram to TikTok, skin care fanatics are swearing by the technique — but does it actually work?
Put simply, facial steaming is exposing the skin to the warm steam created by heated water. The basic way of facial steaming — exposing the skin over hot water, like in a sauna or hot shower — has been commonplace for thousands of years across various cultures. Now, with beauty tools and advancements, facial steaming devices are used at home by celebrities like Hailey Bieber, Kate Hudson, Victoria Beckham and more. Ahead, we speak to experts about the skin care technique and what to know before investing in an at-home facial steamer.
The benefits of facial steaming
Facial steaming is proven to promote circulation and open the skin’s pores — allowing trapped sebum, the naturally occurring oil that causes bacteria and acne, to be released. The simple technique also helps the skin to appear younger and firmer, as the steam increases blood flow and oxygen to the skin.
“With steam, the pores [and] capillaries — tiny blood vessels in the skin — open up and the skin and sinuses rehydrate,” says Dr. Brandith Irwin, board-certified dermatologist, founder of skintour.com and MadisonMD Skincare. “And afterward, you get a little more product absorption, if you put on active serums like the MadisonMD Skincare Niacinamide + Copper Serum.”
In addition to opening the pores and its acne-fighting qualities, facial steaming also provides intense hydration and the promotion of collagen and elasticity. However, experts warn that the steam should not be too hot — as this can permanently scar the skin — and those with certain skin types should not use the technique. “Heat can trigger or worsen certain skin conditions like rosacea, melasma and eczema,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Tiffany J. Libby. However, it’s safe for most if you follow best practices: “[Facial steaming] is well suited for oily, combination and normal skin types,” Libby says.
How to use a facial steamer
There are dozens of ways to facial steam — in the shower or sauna, over a steaming bowl of hot water with a hot towel or, of course, with a facial steamer. Dermatologists recommend buying a facial steamer as it is the most hygienic and safe way to incorporate steaming into your skin care routine — which will increase moisture, firmness and overall health within the skin. Most at-home products follow a similar procedure — filling the device with distilled water, pressing a button and positioning the face in front of the steam.
“Before beginning any facial treatment, the first step should always be a thorough cleanse,” Dr. Dennis Gross, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, says. “Keep the steamer 12 inches away from your face during treatment to ensure an even distribution of the steam. The steam should feel warm but not hot. A few minutes of steam will loosen up solid debris, cleanse the skin and improve hydration. Finish your treatment with your favorite serum and/or moisturizer while the skin is still damp to maximize hydration.”
Dermatologists recommend steaming the skin for at least five minutes and no more than 20 minutes for optimal results. “You can steam three to four times per week if you are oily-prone,” Gross recommends. “Especially in the dry, winter months or warm [and] humid months if dry or waxy buildup is substantial.”
Adding a few drops of essential oils to the water — such as lavender, geranium or eucalyptus — can also provide added benefits like relaxation and toning. However, those with allergies or sensitivities should skip this step.
Best at-home facial steamers
“I designed my steamer for patients to simultaneously cleanse pores, hydrate skin and efficiently exfoliate safely from the comfort of home,” Gross explains. “The precise pressure of the water output, optimal temperature and micro steam allows for better penetration and increases the efficacy of all skin care products post-treatment.”
“Easy to use, and affordable, this simple facial steamer gets the job done,” Libby explains. “[It] emits a steady flow of steam to leave skin feeling soft and refreshed.”
Plum Beauty’s cost-effective steamer opens the pores and helps to detoxify the skin while promoting hydration. Simply add water to the back of the lightweight vessel, and the skin will feel a handful of benefits — hydration, radiance, cleansing — in no more than six minutes.
This Hailey Bieber-approved steamer is on the pricier side, but it certainly lives up to expectations. Designed by luxury skin care expert Sarah Chapman, the steamer achieves professional results with nano-sized steam particles that help to remove debris and excess oil in order to thoroughly cleanse the skin.
With over 26,000 5-star ratings on Amazon, this full-size steamer produces negatively charged ionic particles, which help effectively penetrate and cleanse the skin.
“Facial steaming helps to clear pores, promote circulation, hydrate, soften and soothe skin,” Gross says. “Steam increases circulation in the skin, resulting in better oxygen blood flow for an immediate glowing complexion post-treatment.”
This portable option from Vanity Planet utilizes nano-sized steam particles to replenish the skin as well as promote circulation and blood flow.
For an at-home spa experience, Conair’s Facial Sauna System employs a steady, gentle stream of steam that promotes healthy and hydrated skin. Featuring a facial and exfoliating brush, nasal cone and moisturizer sponge, the system has everything you need for a facial steam.
Those looking to splurge should check out Fancii’s Rivo Facial Steamer. The at-home steamer boasts six treatment modes that are targeted to specific skin concerns — moisture, tone and tighten, elasticity and more.
Utilizing ultra-fine steam particles that penetrate and replenish the skin, this at-home steamer is easy to use and equipped with temperature-regulating safety measures to ensure that the skin is not irritated during the process.
This option from Flawless by Finishing Touch combines all the must-haves of a facial steamer and more: a dual-sided mirror, an easy-to-clean tank and a steady flow of steam to increase the skin’s elasticity and moisture.
“All skin types benefit from hydration and circulation,” Irwin explains. “It’s just that those with really dry skin will need a more intense moisturizer after, and those with oilier skin might need [to] clean the skin of makeup first.”
Cost-effective and lightweight, this facial steamer helps to loosen any built-up debris and increase the skin’s moisture and elasticity.
This portable, multifunctional steamer provides ample steam and moisture to the skin, an asset that dermatologists recommend, especially in the colder months.