Facial steaming has amassed a following on social media, with many people swearing by it as part of their skincare ritual. There are proven benefits to the practice, but it isn't the solution for every type of skin or every person, and when done incorrectly, it can exacerbate skin conditions and the very problems the user may be trying to correct.

Knowing how to steam your face, what to do before and after steaming, and when to prioritize different methods can help boost effectiveness, resulting in healthier, more hydrated skin.

What Is Facial Steaming?

Essentially, facial steaming is as straightforward as the name makes it sound: you expose your facial skin to steam in a DIY treatment that can boost hydration. People over the age of 40 often experience dryer skin as their ability to retain moisture declines. Facial steaming may help combat this and can be performed in several ways, making it an accessible DIY solution to dry skin.

Beauty treatment of face with ozone facial steamer in beauty center. Julio Ricco/ Getty Images


Benefits of Facial Steaming

Facial steaming provides a myriad of benefits to many skin conditions. It can help clear and unclog pores, treating acne, and a study shows that steam hydrates, which can increase the permeability of the skin.

Steam also warms the skin, causing perspiration that dilates blood vessels. The increased blood flow to the face allows for greater delivery of nutrients and oxygen that can improve the skin's health.

Beautiful woman on ozone therapy with facial steamer in beauty salon. Bojan89/ Getty Images


Side Effects of Facial Steaming

While steaming the face may seem harmless, it can bring some risks. Steam is, of course, hot, and there is a risk of burning the skin if the water is overheated. Hot steam, like hot water, can also potentially strip the skin of natural oils, which can result in dryness or irritation for some people.

Woman steaming her face Comstock/ Getty Images


When Not to Try Facial Steaming

Though it sounds contradictory, people with sensitive skin or with skin conditions that cause dry skin, such as rosacea or eczema, should not use facial steaming. Because blood vessels dilate, the increased circulation that benefits other people can, in those with sensitivities, lead to increased inflammation and redness, exacerbating their underlying problems.

A beautiful woman looks into a bathroom mirror and gently touches her skin as she examines her reflection. Catherine Falls Commercial/ Getty Images


How Often to Facial Steam

The frequency of facial steaming depends on your skin type and how you specifically respond to the practice. Dry or thin skin often can't tolerate frequent steaming and should only be exposed once per week, while thicker, less sensitive, or oily skin can be steamed two or three times weekly.

If you notice signs that your skin is irritated, such as breakouts, redness, or cracking, reduce how frequently and long you steam your face.

Medium close-up shot of professional facial skin care treatment with a cosmetic steamer at beauty salon Maksym Panchuk/ Getty Images


Facial Steaming Devices

Some people prefer to use facial steaming devices, which use distilled water to create a stream of steam that can be directed toward the skin. Some include benefits such as ionizing water or offer cleansing brushes as well. It's important to make sure you don't hold these devices too close to your skin, as this can result in burns to the skin or to your airways if you inhale it.

Woman in spa salon receive skin treatment. Vaporizer, device for decoupling of skin. Evaporator. Removing dead cells. Pilin_Petunyia/ Getty Images


Facial Steaming at Home

If you don't have or want a facial steaming device, you can DIY it. Some commonly used methods include

  • Putting boiling water in a bowl and placing your face over the bowl, under a towel
  • Running a hot shower and placing your face in the steam
  • Filling a sink with hot water and using the steam
  • Using towels soaked in warm (not hot) water directly on the face

young woman facial steaming at home


How to Prepare for Facial Steaming

Before steaming your face, it's a good idea to clean it. Steaming increases the permeability of the skin, so starting with a clean slate can prevent makeup, dirt, and other unwanted substances from getting into your pores. Gently dry your face prior to beginning the steaming.

Front view of woman washing face with water in the bathroom gpointstudio/ Getty Images


How to Steam Your Face

If you plan to use a facial steamer device, follow the instructions that came with it. To steam without a device, fill a large glass bowl or a sink with steaming hot water. Place your face about six inches above the bowl and drape a towel over your head and the bowl or sink. Make sure you let out some of the hot air as needed. For best results, steam for 5 to 10 minutes. Any longer can dry out your skin, just like long, hot showers.

Alternatively, you can dip your towel in the water once it has cooled slightly, wring out most of it, and place the damp towel directly onto your skin over your face, leaving your nose sticking out.



Facial Steaming Aftercare

Right after steaming, rinse your skin with lukewarm water and gently pat it dry. Don't rub, which can irritate the skin. Then, apply a moisturizer or serum to lock in the hydration, protect your skin from the drying effects of exfoliating, and massage your face. This helps to keep your skin feeling soft.

Attractive young woman cleaning her face with a cotton pad in the bathroom at home svetikd/ Getty Images


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