A woman using a face streamer

Purge and Purify: Facial Steaming for a Fresh Complexion

You’ve heard of steam cleaning for clothes, carpets and couches.

But for your face?

It sounds a little strange and gimmicky at first, but steam is actually an incredibly effective way to give your skin a gentle yet deep clean.

And all you need to do it is a facial steamer.

We’ve got everything you need to know about facial steamers, from why you need them to how to choose the right one.

What Is a Facial Steamer?

A facial steamer is exactly what it sounds like: a steam-emitting device that’s designed to be used on your face.

You may have seen facial steamers before at the dermatologist’s office or the spa, where they’re referred to as facial saunas.

But facial steamers aren’t just for professionals. You can use them at home and enjoy the pore-cleansing, complexion-refreshing benefits any time you want.

Benefits of Facial Steamers

A woman taking a facial steamer

Steam Pore Cleaning

Pore cleaning is one of the biggest draws of facial steaming.

Over time, your pores become clogged by dirt, oil, dead skin, makeup and other debris. This causes your pores to look bigger, appear discolored and produce excessive amounts of oil.

The steam emitted by a facial steamer makes you sweat, which in turn opens your pores up wide. It then loosens up the clogs and plugs in your pores, allowing you to remove them easily..

Get Rid of Blackheads

Facial steaming can help with all types of clogged pores, but it’s most effective at getting rid of blackheads.

Blackheads are clogged pores with open tops, allowing the buildup to come in contact with air. The oxygen in the air makes the buildup turn black, creating pesky, unsightly blackheads.

But the openness that makes the buildup turn black also allows steam from your facial steamer to enter the pore. It then dislodges the buildup from your pore and lets it simply fall out of the opening.

Remove Pollutants and Toxins

Throughout your day, your skin absorbs a lot of unpleasant or even dangerous toxins.

These can come from the air, water, your hands or even the food you eat. They include chemicals, bacteria and heavy metals.

Toxins and pollutants reduce the functioning of your skin cells, resulting in duller, thinner, weaker skin.

But just as saunas force your body to sweat its toxins out, facial steamers force your facial skin to sweat. The large amounts of sweat push the toxins out of your skin, leaving you with renewed, healthier skin.

Get Glowing Skin

The hot steam produced by a facial steamer causes your skin to instantly react in an attempt to cool itself down.

It begins producing sweat, as explained above, but it also dilates its blood vessels. Larger blood vessels increase the blood flow and oxygen in your skin, allowing it to distribute the heat more evenly.

This increased circulation has visible results. The dilated blood vessels and high oxygen levels give your skin a healthy glow that lasts for hours after your steaming session.

Is Facial Steaming Safe?

A face facial steaming

Overall, facial steamers are extremely safe.

Since they’re designed specifically for your skin, they don’t produce steam that’s dangerously hot. They’re also built so that your face can’t get too close to the device, so there’s no risk of burns if they’re properly used.

The biggest safety concern is bacteria, which can build up on the steamer and potentially enter your skin through any open wounds. You can avoid this by cleaning your steamer thoroughly after each use and skipping your steaming session if you have any broken skin on your face.

And those with eczema, rosacea, severe acne or other skin conditions should consult a dermatologist before using a facial steamer. These conditions may become aggravated by the steaming process.

How to Use a Facial Steamer

Preparing Your Skin for Steaming

Facial steamers work best if they’re used on clean, exfoliated skin. If your skin is covered in makeup, oil or dirt, the steam won’t be able to reach the deeper clogs and toxins in your pores.

So remove your makeup and wash your face with a lightweight cleanser, then follow up with a gentle exfoliant to remove any loose dead skin cells. Avoid exfoliants with rough, jagged particles — use one with round beads or a chemical exfoliant instead.

Using the Steamer

Every facial steamer is different, so always follow the instruction manual for your specific device.

In general, though, most facial steamers work in the same basic way.

First, fill the steamer’s chamber with distilled water. Always use distilled water in your steamer to avoid getting harsh, smelly, harmful chemicals in your steam.

Then turn the steamer on and wait for steam to start coming out. This could take anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes depending on your specific steamer.

Once it’s steamy, place your face over the steam and hold it there for around 3 minutes. Some steamers have a cone- or funnel-shaped top for you to rest your face in.

Don’t bring your face too close to the steamer or you could irritate or burn it — a distance of 5 to 10 inches is recommended for most steamers.

When you’ve used your facial steamer several times and gotten used to it, you can start extending your steaming sessions past the 3-minute mark.

Post-Steaming Skincare

After you’re done steaming, gently pat your face dry with a clean towel. This will also remove any of the buildup that the steam dislodged.

Then it’s time to take advantage of the enhanced absorptive state that your skin is in. You can apply a face mask that’s suited for your skin type and specific needs (hydrating, firming, brightening and so on).

The face mask will stick to any remaining dirt and grime in your pores, removing it when you take the mask off.

Finally, give your face a quick rinse with cold water to close your pores back up. Then apply a moisturizer to your face to cancel out any dryness that your skin may experience post-steaming.

Cleaning the Steamer

Always clean your facial steamer after each session to kill any bacteria and remove any grime that may have accumulated on it.

Your steamer will come with its own cleaning instructions, so consult the manual to learn the best procedure.

Generally, though, you’ll want to clean the steamer with hot water and gentle soap, especially any parts that touch your face directly. You can also sanitize the surface of the steamer with isopropyl alcohol.

Dry the steamer with a clean towel and store it in a clean, dry place.

Choosing a Facial Steamer

In-home facial steamer

In-Home Facial Steamers

A personal facial steamer is the most budget-friendly, convenient way to get the benefits of facial steaming.

In-home facial steamers tend to be much cheaper than their professional counterparts. The catch: they’re not usually as powerful or full-featured, so you may need to undergo longer or more frequent sessions to get the same results.

But in-home facial steamers are often easier to use than professional ones. They typically have conical tops that allow you to perfectly position your face over the steam, and some even have an extra cone that allows you to position your nose within the larger cone.

Choose a steamer with a tall cone if you’d prefer to stand during your treatment. If you’d rather sit, choose one with a shorter cone, or look for one with interchangeable cones if you want to switch it up.

Handheld and Portable Facial Steamers

Being on the go doesn’t mean that you have to give up your facial steamer. There are plenty of portable options available.

The average portable facial steamer weighs around 4 pounds. You may not want to take one backpacking with you, but they’re lightweight enough to bring along on a road trip or flight.

If you need a travel-sized facial steamer, look for compact devices like the Silver Fox Ozone Mini Facial Steamer that are lightweight yet powerful.

Professional Facial Steamers

You may not be able to buy the exact facial steamer that your dermatologist or esthetician uses, but you can get pretty close.

Professional-grade facial steamers tend to be made with higher-quality materials like stainless steel. They’re also generally larger than consumer-grade facial steamers, often mounted on wheels so they can be rolled around.

And rather than being topped with a cone, professional facial steamers usually have a steam nozzle that’s uncapped when you’re ready to use it. You then point the nozzle at your face rather than placing your face over the steam.

Other features to look for include nano-ionic technology that provides a deeper clean, ozone technology to kill bacteria and the ability to switch between hot steam and cold mist.

Facial Steamers with Magnifying Lamps

Many professional facial steamers have a magnifying lamp attachment that enhances your steaming session.

These consist of bulbs that emit special wavelengths of light to kill bacteria and sterilize your face. The bulbs sit behind a magnifying lens that amplifies the effect of the light while allowing another person to get a closer look at your face.

This makes facial steamers with magnifying lamps excellent for those with acne, as the light can kill acne-causing bacteria. The magnifying lens is also handy to have if you plan to help others use your facial steamer.

Devices like the BeautySPA 3 in 1 Professional Facial Steamer include both a steamer and a magnifying lamp in a durable package that rivals the devices you’d find in a spa.