One of my favourite birthday presents this year was a facial steamer. After a few weeks of using it, I found myself wondering how I was able to live 31 years previously without one.
What does steaming do for your skin?
It’s cleansing. Steam opens up your pores and helps to 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, resulting in 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 essentially creates a breeding ground for bacteria and causes acne and blackheads. (ewww!)
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 your skin’s permeability, allowing 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 which translates into firmer, younger-looking skin.
It’s soothing. The feeling of warm steam on your face is incredibly relaxing. Add some soothing scents using herbs or essential oils for aromatherapy to take your steam sesh to a whole new level!
It helps with sinus congestion. Steam can help relieve sinus congestion and headaches that often accompany it. Again, by adding certain essential oils to your steam, you can boost the effects.
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 different techniques.
There are a few ways you can enjoy this versatile skin treatment at home. It can really be as 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 (you may want to use a headband for this) 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.
- 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.
- Secure your hair so that it’s off your face (you may want to use a headband for this) 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. – my new obsession!
- 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 could take a few seconds or a minute 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.
How to choose your base.
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, however be careful with this method when using a home facial steamer. Hard still water can damage your machine overtime. Plus, the water you use and the bacteria in it, it going right into your wide open pores.
- Distilled or spring water. These would be your best choices, I personally use distilled water in my home facial steamer. 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.
So, could or should you use herbal tea as your base for steaming? Absolutely!
How hot, how long, and how often?
A steam burn is actually much 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.
If you are using a home facial steamer, I recommend steam your face once or twice a week for the best results. Limit each steam session to around 10 minutes to avoid irritating your skin. It is not a bad idea to set a timer for 5 minutes and re-evaluate after that for the first few times.
- Hydrate. Drinking water before exposing yourself to heat of any kind is a good idea, so drink some water before you begin.
- Cleanse. Wash your face using a gentle cleanser with an exfoliator so your skin is ready to reap all the rewards of steaming.
During the steam.
- Keep your eyes closed. You’ll be more comfortable, you won’t risk irritating your eyes, and you can allow your eyelids to enjoy the benefits of the steam.
- Keep your face 6 to 10 inches away. You don’t want to get too close to the bowl or sink and risk getting burned. Listen to your skin and do what feels comfortable.
- Follow directions if using a facial steamer. Read the instruction booklet and use your facial steamer as directed.
- Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry. Your skin will be extra sensitive, so you don’t want to irritate it by rubbing with a towel.
- Apply a moisturizing cream or serum. The effects of your moisturizer or serum will be enhanced after a steam, so use something that nourishes. If you’re after younger looking skin, this is a great time to use an anti-aging cream.
- Massage your face. What better way to end a relaxing face steam than with a gentle face massage? Use your fingers to gently massage your forehead, cheeks, and neck using upward strokes. Unless you have oily or sensitive skin, you can use a bit of facial oil to enhance your massage.
Possible side effects and risks.
Steam can cause serious burns, so keeping a safe distance from the source of the steam is a must. If you’re steaming your face using the damp towel method, make sure the towel is warm — not hot.
If you have rosacea, you might want to skip facial steaming. The heat dilates blood vessels, which contribute to redness.
Though steaming can hydrate the skin, people with very dry skin and eczema should use extra caution. Limit steam sessions to just a couple of minutes to avoid irritation.
To all my early holiday shoppers… this makes a great gift!
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