People use a variety of techniques to hydrate and cleanse their skin. While some people search for the best facial cleansers and moisturizers, others use water vapor and face steaming.
Although a simple bowl or pot of hot water can do the trick, some people add salt, lemon, tea, dried herbs, and oils to water for extra benefits.
Researchers have not studied the benefits of face steaming. Most of the available information on the benefits of face steaming comes from anecdotal evidence.
Keep reading to learn more about the possible benefits of face steaming, different face steaming methods, and some potential risks of this practice.
Below is a list of possible health benefits of face steaming.
Hydrate the skin
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) do not mention the use of facial steamers as a treatment for hydrating dry skin. However, they recommend that people with dry skin close the bathroom door during baths and showers.
Taking a warm bath or shower with the door closed may trap the steam in the bathroom and help hydrate the skin. The AAD do not recommend taking hot baths or showers as this may worsen dry skin. Also, the AAD recommend using a humidifier to add moisture to the air to help hydrate the skin.
Provide a calming sensation
Many people describe feeling calm and relaxed when using facial steamers. People use steam rooms in gyms and spas to relieve stress. Many natural hot springs are found across North America and around the world. People visit hot springs and soak in the thermal baths to relax.
Although researchers have not studied the benefits of visiting hot springs, many spas try to recreate the calming environment of the hot springs.
Increase the effectiveness of beauty creams, serums, and masks
When people steam their faces, they are exposing their skin to the water vapor from hot water. This technique can increase the temperature of the skin, which can cause increased blood circulation. With increased blood circulation, products can more easily pass through the skin barrier.
This indicates that skin absorption is more effective at higher temperatures, which could hint at a potential benefit of facial steaming and absorption of skin creams and other products.
Increasing the temperature of the skin can allow the components of creams, serums, and masks to absorb further across the skin barrier. The clinical benefits of applying skincare products to warm skin are uncertain.
Cleanse the pores
People use facial steamers because they believe the hot steam will open up their pores and help clean out any debris. The AAD do not mention the use of facial steamers to unclog pores. They recommend using other cleansers twice daily and avoiding products that can further clog pores.
Although it may seem that pores open and close, closed pores are simply pores that have expanded because they are clogged; changes in skin temperature will not change the size of the pore. The best way to clean out pores is with gentle cleansers.
Pores might also appear larger in people with less elasticity in their skin and those with acne. The AAD also note that retinol products can help improve the appearance of pores on the face. People who want to try retinol products should consult a doctor since it may not be an appropriate treatment for everyone.
Read more about some alternative ways to unclog pores here.
Boost collagen production
Some commercial facial steamers suggest that steaming helps to boost the production of collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin give skin a more voluminous and resistant appearance. As people age, the skin appears thin and loose because of the loss of collagen and elastin.
However, there is no scientific evidence to back this anecdotal claim.
Doctors may recommend retinoids or other physical treatments, such as microfocused ultrasound and radiofrequency microneedling to boost collagen and elastin production.
There are several ways people can use face steaming, including:
Commercial facial steamers
Many commercial facial steamers are available for consumers, varying greatly in price. Again, there is no scientific data that proves they are beneficial.
Commercial facial steamers come with different features and accessory tools to remove blackheads and blemishes.
Misuse of facial cleansing methods and devices can injure the skin and lead to infection, according to the AAD. Dermatologists recommend being gentle with facial skin. To clear acne, people should use mild cleansers, avoid scrubbing, and gently pat the skin with a clean towel.
Spa treatments may be the most expensive option. Some spas offer facial packages with several sessions included.
A facial at a spa may include a variety of treatments, including mud treatments, exfoliation, massage, and masks, along with steaming.
Since all spas will offer different facial treatments, researchers cannot determine whether spa treatments have any benefits or how they compare with commercial facial steamers.
Steaming over a bowl of hot water
People can also steam their face using tools they have in their kitchen or bathroom. Using boiling water involves exposure to very hot vapor, so people must take care not to scald their faces.
Some people choose to cleanse their face before steaming. Sometimes people put towels over their heads to focus the steam on their faces. Steaming for frequent and prolonged periods may dry out the skin. After steaming, some people may apply other facial creams or beauty products.
Although no scientific evidence confirms its efficacy or evaluates its safety, some people add salt, lemon, green tea, herbs, and essential oils to the water. Water vapor does not contain salt, as the salt is left behind when water changes from a liquid to a gas state.
Green tea may have antioxidative properties, which could help skin conditions. However, there is no evidence that these properties will pass to a person via steam. Researchers recently demonstrated in limited studies that green tea extract and tea tree oil may have therapeutic applications for acne. However, again, these studies used the products directly on the skin and not in a vaporized form.
Further studies are needed to determine if steaming is effective and whether different additions to the water increase its effectiveness.
Regardless of the method a person uses, they are at risk of steam burns when they steam their face. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health define the term scald as a type of burn caused by hot liquids or steam.
A scald can occur when the skin comes into contact with hot steam. These types of burns are common in restaurant workers. Still, they can happen at home when people steam their face. If heating water in a microwave, make sure to use ventilated containers or wait a minute or two to let the water cool before carefully opening. Steam from microwaved liquids in a closed container can reach 200°F quickly.
People with skin conditions such as rosacea, eczema, and other inflammatory diseases, such as psoriasis, should avoid steaming their faces. Hot temperatures at the surface of the skin cause dilation of the blood vessels. Greater circulation in the face can increase inflammation and redness.
Before considering face steaming, people should ask their doctor or dermatologist if their skin type is suitable for water vapor treatment.
There are numerous potential benefits of face steaming, including cleaning out pores, hydrating the skin, and feeling relaxed. However, there is no scientific evidence to back these claims.
Although commercial facial steamers are available and spas offer face steaming treatments, they are unlikely to improve the appearance of the skin.
Face steaming may not be harmful if a person does it correctly and carefully. Steam burns may occur in people who use water that generates extremely hot vapor temperatures.