It seems as though during the COVID-19 lockdown people either baked copious amounts of banana bread, or took up steaming their faces. What is this steam craze, and is it worth investing in? We took a deep dive into the world of facial steaming and the facial steamer; here is everything you need to know…
In this article we discuss the following:
- What is a Facial Steamer?
- Benefits of Facial Steamers
- How to Steam Your Face
- Herbal Facial Steam Recipes
- Best Facial Steamer
What is a Facial Steamer?
To the unfamiliar eye, a facial steaming device looks a lot like a handheld nebulizer, or even a type of essential oil diffuser. Facial steamers have a similar function to both of these contraptions, in that they diffuse liquid into vapor and send it wafting out of one end and onto your face.
A facial steamer is used to safely introduce steam to the skin of the face, with intent to reap all kinds of skincare benefits. This is something skincare enthusiasts were practicing for years prior to the first invention of the face steamer, simply using pots of water boiled on the stove.
Face steamers bring the experience of visiting your trusty esthetician into your home. With social distancing becoming the new normal, people are more open to new, innovative ways to DIY the self care rituals that they would usually employ external services for. There is something very reassuring and convenient about having a professional facial steamer available in your humble abode.
The skin of the face is an entity of its own, and the beauty industry is forever learning about the best ways to achieve this or that. Skincare, in general, has seen a massive movement toward the ‘natural’ sectors. Ancient rituals are coming back into focus, and chemical-based products are falling to the wayside. Facial steamers form part of this movement.
The art of steaming dates back to Ancient Greece and Rome, where steam rooms were used to rid the body of impurities. We still see these today in the form of saunas, and it’s high time the face got a steaming device of its own. But what are the benefits of facial steaming? Read on to find out!
Benefits of Facial Steamers
A lot of people are under the impression that steaming or heating one’s skin works to “open up” pores. Any decent esthetician or skin specialist will tell you this is not really the case, as pores don’t expand and contract in the way we picture them to.
Instead, imagine that every pore on your face is packed to the brim with some sort of debris build up. This is usually a combination of dirt, oil, sweat, and the various skincare products you apply to your face on a daily basis. Together, they form pockets of what can be described as a sort of hard butter, and when we use a facial steam machine this butter begins to soften.
The soft debris is easily removed from the pores, and will remain this way so long as the skin is kept moist via the steam. Once the congestion is removed from the skin, the pores are somewhat empty and now have space for new products to be applied.
“A facial steamer has great benefits for the skin and it is a misconception that they are only good for oily skin or acne. An oily skin will benefit, as the steam opens the pores and helps to deep cleanse, so blackheads, spots or acne are lessened and kept at bay, while the steam also encourages the skin to sweat, so a great way to get rid of toxins that may build up on this skin type. But other skin conditions can benefit too. The steam will soften and warm the skin, so any subsequent products applied, will absorb more easily, and therefore have a greater effect. A dry and dull skin will achieve more hydration! Blood circulation is also increased, which ‘feeds’ the lower layers of the skin and stimulates more effective cell regeneration. However, steam should not be applied to highly sensitive skin or skin with lots of broken capillaries,” says Alison Angold from Beauty Taming the Beast.
This is merely scratching the surface (pun intended) when it comes to face steamer benefits. On a deeper level, a face steamer works to raise the internal temperature of the skin, which in turn increases blood circulation. When this happens, more oxygen flows to the surface of the body and face, feeding the skin cells with brand new nutrients in the process.
Here are the most notable benefits of an home face steamer:
The sebaceous glands release a natural oil called sebum, which works to lubricate the skin and hair for healthier growth patterns. A buildup of sebum on the skin will see the oil becoming trapped in the pores, and overtime this forms a breeding ground for bacteria. This is a major cause of acne and blackheads.
Better Absorption of Skincare Products
Steam works to increase the permeability of the skin, which in turn allows for better absorption of any skincare product that is applied to the area. It’s been said that a face steamer can make your products perform in their most optimum state.
Increase in Collagen and Elastin
Improvement in blood flow always brings with it a boost of collagen and elastin. These are two agents responsible for youthful, firm-looking skin.
Improved Natural Hydration
Steam on skin works to increase oil production, which in turn works as a natural moisturizer on the face.
Sinus and Congestion
Facial steaming doesn’t only have to be aesthetic. Steam to the face directly affects the sinuses, and helps to relax them. This alleviates headaches and other symptoms of congestion that come as a result of inflamed sinuses.
Heating the skin results in a dilation of blood vessels. These vessels then move more rapidly, in turn delivering nourishing oxygen to the skin cells. The result is a very obvious natural glow that can only be achieved when there is a flow state in action.
Benefits of Steaming Face for Acne
Some individuals have been singing the praises of facial steaming as a treatment against acne.
Firstly, the skin is the biggest organ in the body, so when acne occurs it’s not always a direct result of external forces. Often, acne is the body’s most direct way of expelling toxic waste that is building up on the inside. That being said, once said toxins reach the surface of the skin, there are other bacterial influences that can contribute to a worsening of the condition.
The worst thing for active acne is the multiplication and spreading of bacteria. The face needs to be kept as clean as possible, and this requires that all build up in the pores be removed.
The steam softens the skin and pores, allowing for a more gentle and effective release of the debris build up within. Active acne is less likely to be aggravated in the process, and the surface becomes less suited to being a breeding ground for any bacteria that may be present.
Sebum build up is a massive contributor to acne and blackheads and, as mentioned above, facial steaming targets sebum release directly and makes the quantities more manageable.
After the cleaning of the pores has taken place, the skin is now ‘wide open’ and ready to receive any acne-fighting products you may be accustomed to using. The product can be delivered deep into the dermis, where it can get to work effectively, instead of simply building up a new layer of clogging debris on the surface.
Benefits of Steaming Face for Relaxation
This is a benefit we feel is largely overlooked when it comes to the world of facial steaming. Everyone wants to know about the tangible, physical benefits of these devices on the body, and so few take note of the more subtle benefits that steaming can bring to the mind and spirit.
Steaming is one of the most soothing experiences for the human body. Aromatherapists have used steam for centuries, often combining essential oils and steam for a transportive, meditative practice that brings the whole body into balance.
By investing in a home facial steamer, or even making one from scratch using a pot of water, you can enjoy temporary escapes into levels of calm usually not attainable in the chaos of the day to day.
Facial steamers have made this kind of experience both affordable and accessible. In the past, one would usually have to take out a gym membership to make use of their steam room facilities, or seek a professional spa treatment for the facial steaming benefits. Now one can enjoy this same session of relaxation from the comfort of their own home.
How to Steam Your Face
A facial steamer is a pretty straightforward device that will do all of the heavy lifting on your behalf. All you need to do is ensure it is filled with water at the time of use, and set to the most adequate setting for your personal skincare needs.
If you’re not making use of a facial machine, and you’re instead making a steam experience from scratch, there are a few ways to go about this:
Steam with Warm Towels
Find a towel roughly the size of your face, or bigger. You’ll want it to at least cover the surface area of your face, reaching to the ears and just below the chin.
Then, fill your sink or a generous-sized bowl with piping hot water. There should be enough that the towel can soak whilst being submerged. Let your towel soak in the water for a few minutes, so that it has properly absorbed the heat.
Wring it out and, whist leaning comfortably back in a chair, drape the steamy towel over your face. You’ll want to sling the towel around the nose, almost as though you’ve made a teardrop type shape so that the nose is peeping through the fabric. Let the towel steam the skin until you can feel there is no longer any heat being absorbed.
The Over Bowl Steam
This is the easiest and most recommended way to enjoy at home steaming without a professional device.
Bring about six cups of water to the boil in the biggest pot you have. If your pot isn’t that big, then stick to around four cups of water. Once boiling, turn down the heat and set the pot in front of you whilst in a comfortable seated position; this may be on the ground or at a low set table.
Place your face directly over the steaming pot, and drape a large towel over your head, so that you form a cave-like environment for you and the steam. Stay under the towel for five to ten minutes depending on how much you feel you can take.
Keep in mind that the temperature of the water is very important and more challenging to regulate in this DIY environment. “The challenge with facial steamers is to ensure a temperature that can achieve a benefit without the risk of scalding the skin. The key is avoid extremes in temperature and to limit the usage to avoid excess skin redness or irritation,” warns Erum Ilyas, President and Founder of Montgomery Dermatology.
Home Facial Steamer
It’s imperative that one follows the guidelines laid out by the many home facial steaming devices on the market. Different brands have different instructions, including the distance at which the device should be held from the skin.
Since this is a temperature sensitive device, one runs the risk of burning the skin if these instructions are not followed. Experienced steamers recommend steaming the face for no longer than two minutes per round, with a one minute break between rounds.
Always steam after your face has been properly cleansed and dried. Another important thing to note is that the hydration window for facial skin is 60 seconds. What this means is that one has just one minute to seal the skin after the steaming session ends, as this is when moisture evaporation occurs.
Herbal Facial Steam Recipes
Whether your at home facial involves a pot of boiling water, or a semi-professional facial steaming device, you’re always able to take things to the next level using herbs. Bringing herbs and essential oils into the mix likens the experience to that of a facial sauna steamer with the added benefits of aromatherapy.
DIY facial steam is easier to influence with herbs as compared to a portable facial steamer. Not all handheld units permit herbs/oils to be added into the device, as this can make those devices difficult if not impossible to properly clean.
Pot Steaming with Herbs
Prepare your pot of boiling water as laid out in the aforementioned section.
Herbs should be added as soon as the water begins to boil on the stove, and one should leave them to steep into the water (whilst boiling) for at least three minutes. The best herbs to add to a steam pot when intended for use on the face are:
- Rose petals
- Dried lemon peel
- Dried rosemary
Once the water is taken off the stove, and the solution is no longer boiling, one can add a few drops of a chosen essential oil to the mix. We recommend sticking to one oil at a time, as the combination of oils and herbs can become overwhelming to breathe in once you are underneath the towel.
Some subtle yet effective essential oils for pot steaming include:
- Sweet orange
- Lemon balm
- Juniper berry
Towel Steaming with Herbs
The towel steaming method works a little differently when adding herbs and oils into the mix. This part is done during the pre-soaking process, when you’re simply filling your bowl or sink with the piping hot water.
Add the herbs as you do the water, and then add a few drops of whatever other essential oil you’d like included in the mix. Since your nose is left peeping out from the towel once it is draped over the face, the mix of herbs and oils is less likely to be overwhelming.
Some great herbs and oils to use for this steaming method include:
- Tea tree
- Oregano oil
- Rose Hip
- Ylang Ylang
Facial Steaming Machine with Herbs
There are some facial steamers that are compatible with essential oils. The same cannot be said for dried herbs. Take note of the capabilities of your unit and, if permitted, apply a few drops of your chosen essential oil into the device’s water tank.
To prevent cross contamination of fragrances, be sure to thoroughly rinse out said water tank post use so that it is clean and fragrance free for the next time you choose to steam.
Unfortunately, dried herbs require boiling water to adequately release their properties, so putting them into the holding tank of a face steamer will be less than effective. They may also clog the escape routes that the steam makes use of when exiting the device. As a result, it is best to simply stick to oils.
For units that don’t allow for essential oils to be added into the device itself, one can get around this by using the steamer to heat up a facial towel. Place a few drops of your chosen essential oil into the fabric of said towel, and steam the towel until it is nice and toasty. Apply this towel over the face whilst leaning backward in a chair, and let the moisture combined with the oils sink in.
Best Facial Steamer
Pure Daily Care
Admittedly, home care products often pale in comparison to devices used in professional settings, regardless of the good intentions of the brand in question. This is the case with many a personal face steamer: great in theory, yet unable to achieve those undeniably refined techniques and results.
At least we thought so until we discovered this home steaming device by Pure Daily Care. Their NanoSteamer brings salon-quality steaming into the comfort of your home. The kit is equipped with a set of stainless steel skin tools that can aid in the purification process once the steam is applied.
The unit delivers 30 minutes of uninterrupted steaming at full capacity. The steam comes in the form of charged ionic particles, thus (they claim) able to penetrate deeply into the skin, unclogging pores and eliminating blackheads.
There are three settings on the unit: facial steaming, towel warming and humidifying. It’s not cheap, as far as facial steamers go, but as we said there is little competition between this device and the ones you’ll find at your local beautician. Overall, this is the best face steamer available for home purchase.
Conair Facial Steamer
The Conair moisturizing mist facial sauna system is a great affordable alternative to the more professional units that seem to be saturating the market. It’s a very simple yet effective facial steaming device, and we find it to be particularly user friendly due to its straightforward design.
The Conair steamer comes with interchangeable heads, which gives you an array of steaming options. The one is wide enough that the entire face can sit inside of the steamer itself, which mimics that of a DIY steamer using a pot and towel.
Conair has even thrown a cleansing and exfoliating brush into the mix. This is used to buff the skin during the steaming process, allowing the heat to penetrate even deeper.
A wonderful face steamer available on Amazon, this product has received numerous reviews from individuals who have seen great benefit in using the steamer to combat their sinus issues. There is a nasal attachment that comes with this kit that is perfect for the sinus affected areas of the face.
Aera Facial Steamer
If you’re in the market for the prettiest facial steamer in town, look no further than the Aira unit by Vanity Planet. This device has been featured in Harper’s Bazaar and Vanity Fair, with the unique design being offered in either rose gold or a beige chrome.
What we like most about the entire Vanity Planet range is that they are designed and made in California, and are always 100% cruelty free. Expect quality and performance of vegan-friendly standards.
The Aira facial steamer (which is available on Amazon) doesn’t offer interchangeable heads; instead the steam is delivered in a gentle, consistent spray from the topmost nozzle. You only need to set yourself directly in front of the device and move your head into the steam as desired. This is great, because if you want to focus on the chin area you can do so with ease, whilst avoiding the forehead entirely.
The Aira unit is also compatible with essential oils for a more therapeutic steaming experience. One simply has to add a few drops of their chosen oil into the 85ml water tank, and the device will do the rest.
Nano Ionic Facial Steamer
VillaSure is one of the most affordable home facial steamers on the market. The kit costs just over $20 all inclusive and, if you have very basic expectations of your steaming experience, you’ll find this to be more than adequate.
What’s great about the VillaSure is that it embodies nano ionic technology. This means that the steam is not regular steam, it’s nano steam. Nano steam is made of negatively charged ionic particles, generated by an ultrasonic vaporizer. It is thought that nano steam has the ability to penetrate pores that regular steam usually would not be able to, or to address smaller pores that would usually go unnoticed.
Nano steam is rumored to be 10 times more effective in cleaning and unclogging the face. The device gets to work in just 30 seconds, taking no time at all to heat up. All you need is 10 minutes of steam for the optimal dose of negatively charged ionic particles.
What’s interesting to note is that water in motion naturally produces negative ions, which have a calming effect on the human body. This is why people are partial to being near the waves of the ocean, and find it to have a positive effect on their mental health. Water moving out of facial steamers is already negatively charged to a degree, so the further benefit of nano ionic steam means an even more therapeutic effect on the user.
Panasonic Facial Steamer
If you’re looking for a portable, compact facial steaming unit that is easy to use — Panasonic is the one for you. This handheld device is roughly the side of a beer mug, making it extremely easy to carry and store. It nestles in nicely next to any array of serums and skincare products on or in a vanity cabinet.
The device is also affiliated with nano-ionic technology. In a very quick six minute session your skin will be clean and open just as though you’d been sitting over a pot of boiling water for the last half hour. It’s incredibly penetrative, and wonderful for use over makeup that seems resistant to lifting from the skin (such as waterproof mascara).
As an entry level facial steamer, this tends to be the editor’s pick!
Hey Dewy Portable Facial Humidifier
We wanted a facial steamer that wouldn’t feel like carting around a blender or kettle every time we wanted to make use of it. There is something to be said about appliances that don’t require what feels like a strenuous production just to enjoy the benefits that the unit offers.
Hey Dewy is the most compact facial humidifier on the market. It’s cost effective and result effective, softening the face just as thoroughly as its fuller sized competitors.
The device is just bigger than the average human hand. It holds like a cellphone and can be incorporated into any morning beauty routine, especially for those individuals who don’t have a lot of time to spare in the mornings and need products that optimize their experience. A lot of users admit to keeping their Hey Dewy in their car or office cubicle, as its discreet nature makes it suitable for use in both of these environments.
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