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What Are the Benefits and Risks of Steaming Your Face?

by LeAnn Cyr |

Keeping your skin looking its best requires commitment. You can't ignore your skin and hope it will look its best and not show signs of aging. However, you don't need expensive products to keep your skin healthy and its texture smooth and bright. One low-cost skincare practice that costs almost nothing is steaming your face at home with a pan of water. You can also add a few herbs to make the experience more spa-like. Before steaming your face, let's look at the benefits of facial steaming and what the risks are.

Benefits of Facial Steaming 

One of the biggest benefits of facial steaming is it helps clean out your pores. How does it do this?  The heat causes the pores to open and the steam has a gentle cleansing action that helps remove dirt and oils. Sebum, an oily substance that blocks the pore opening, builds up, especially in people with oily and acne-prone skin. Steaming helps liquefy sebum and reduces pore blockage. After steaming your face, your pores appear smaller because you've removed some of the sebum and dirt that causes them to look bloated and swollen.

Another benefit of steaming is it increases circulation to your face, thereby boosting the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your skin. Some people like the pinkness and rosy hue their skin has for several hours after a steam facial. After steaming your face, you'll have a healthy glow that looks like you just exercised.

Finally, steaming can improve how other skin care products perform. Once you open your pores, skin care products can penetrate more easily. Whatever products you use after steaming your face, your skin can better absorb the ingredients so that they offer more benefits.

Can steaming help all skin types? Not necessarily. You're a suitable candidate for facial steaming if you have normal to oily skin but don't have an active acne outbreak. If you have blackheads, you're also a good candidate for a steam facial. Some estheticians use steaming to open up the pores and make it easier to extract blackheads.

Drawbacks to Facial Steaming 

If you steam your face at high heat and for too long, it can dehydrate your skin. A good rule of thumb is not to steam for longer than 6 or 7 minutes at a time. That's enough to open up your pores without drying out your skin. After a steaming session, apply a moisturizer to rehydrate. Applying moisturizer to damp skin also enhances its effectiveness. Look for a moisturizer that contains hyaluronic acid, an ingredient that draws water from the environment onto the surface of the skin.

If you have melasma, areas of increased pigmentation, or a condition called rosacea, steaming may be harmful to your skin. Steam can trigger inflammation in people with these conditions and worsen these preexisting skin conditions. With melasma, steam can increase pigmentation or darken preexisting dark areas and in rosacea, it can worsen the redness and flushing.

What about Acne? 

One misconception about facial steaming is that exposing your skin to steam helps clear up pimples. In reality, steaming established pimples, especially inflamed ones, can make an acne outbreak worse by irritating the skin and triggering inflammation. Avoid steaming if you have an ongoing acne outbreak or if you're prone to painful, inflamed acne lesions.

Another risk, if you use poor technique, is burning your skin with the steam. After boiling the water you'll use, place a lid on the pan, lower the heat, and let it simmer for three minutes. Then, place your head, using a towel as a tent, no closer than 6 inches from the pan. If it's still too warm, move your head back further to reduce heat exposure. Don't get sloppy and put your head too close to the pan and risk a burn.

The Bottom Line 

Steaming your face can give your skin a lovely glow, but they're not right for every skin type, and there are some precautions you should take before doing one, as discussed above. Make sure you don't have an active acne outbreak or an inflammatory skin condition since steaming could make it worse. Don't steam your face too often either. Most dermatologists recommend steaming no more often than once or twice per week.


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