What to Know About Facial Steaming

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on August 08, 2022
5 min read

You already know that the skin care basics include cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. But there’s one simple strategy that’s getting a lot of attention right now — facial steaming.

In case you haven’t heard, skin care is healthcare. Your  skin is the largest organ of your body, and tending to it should be high on your list of priorities. So, is facial steaming good for skin? Here’s what you need to know.

Facial steaming is exactly what it sounds like. It involves exposing the skin on your face to the steam produced by heated water.

It’s not as simple as leaning over a pot of boiling water (please don’t do that!), but it’s far from complicated and can easily be done at home. If you’ve ever taken a long hot shower or used the sauna at a gym, you’re already familiar with the concept.

To start a facial steaming routine, all you need is hot water, a towel, and at least 5 minutes.

You’ve probably gathered that facial steaming is pretty straightforward. It can even be accomplished by placing a warm, wet towel over your face. But there are some techniques and accessories that can contribute to an optimal facial steaming experience.

Technically, you can steam your face without purchasing any special items. Here’s how to make your own facial steamer:

  1. Boil water. Using a kettle will make the next step easier.
  2. Add to the bowl. Transfer the boiled water to a heatproof bowl, preferably glass or ceramic.
  3. Get a towel. Make sure the towel is large enough to surround both your head and the bowl.
  4. Start steaming. Put the towel over the back of your head and lean over the bowl. Make sure the towel drapes around the bowl to trap the steam. You shouldn't be so close to the bowl that the steam burns or stings your skin. Facial steaming should be pleasant, not painful.
  5. Set a timer. For best results, steam your face for at least 5 minutes (but no more than 20 minutes).

After boiling the water, you can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for an aromatherapy experience.

If you’re a fan of facial steaming, you might want to purchase a facial steamer. When using a facial steamer, all you have to do is fill the device with distilled water, press a button, position yourself in front of the steam, and relax.

What is facial steaming good for? Steaming your face softens your skin and opens your pores, making it a great addition to your skincare routine.

Here are some facial steaming benefits:

  • Purging. The steam opens your pores and purges unwanted substances, like excess sebum. Sebum is an oily substance released by your sebaceous glands and a common cause of acne.
  • Acne fighting. Acne happens when your skin cells trap sebum in your follicles, which prompts bacteria growth, inflammation, and acne. Because facial steaming opens your pores, it can help free the sebum and stop pimples from forming.
  • Hydration. Proper hydration helps your skin retain its strength and elasticity. Understand that there’s a difference between hydration and moisturizing. You can get moisture from facial oils and moisturizers, but hydration only comes from water — and that makes facial steaming a great way to give your skin a much-needed dose of H2O.
  • Increased circulation. Heat can encourage blood flow, which provides the skin with more oxygen and makes it look healthier. Increased circulation can also stimulate collagen and elastin production. Elastin fibers maintain your skin’s resiliency and elasticity, which helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
  • Product absorption. Facial steaming can help you get the most out of your products. Steaming before you add toner, serums, or moisturizer ensures that your skin is prepped for product penetration.

Regardless of which facial steaming method you choose, follow these five facial steaming steps to elevate your experience:

  • Cleanse your face. This should always be step one (after preparing your steamer) — cleansing is crucial! Your skin must be free of dirt, oils, and dead skin cells so they don’t make their way into your open pores.
  • Try extractions. Best handled by a professional, extractions are a method of purifying your pores by squeezing out blackheads and whiteheads. Extractions should only be attempted at home after facial steaming and if you have a sterile extraction tool, like a looped blackhead remover.
  • Use a face mask. Your skin is particularly receptive to products after steaming, making it the ideal time to apply your favorite face mask.
  • Apply toner. Facial toner helps close your pores so uninvited impurities don’t sneak in and undo all the benefits of steaming. If you don’t have toner, cold water works, too.
  • Moisturize. Apply moisturizer last to ensure that your skin retains all the facial steaming benefits. Just make sure you choose the right moisturizer for your skin.

As harmless as it seems, facial steaming isn’t for everyone. The side effects of facial steaming are generally mild but can spell trouble for people with certain skin conditions, like rosacea, eczema, and seborrheic dermatitis.

If you have dry skin, it’s possible that too much facial steaming will make the problem worse. Too much water and steam can strip your skin of its natural oils, contributing to dryness and irritation.

Finally, because facial steaming dilates your blood vessels, it can cause excessive redness — particularly for people with sensitive skin.

Like many beauty rituals, facial steaming works differently for different people. That said, daily facial steaming is not recommended.

When deciding how often to steam your face, consider your skin type. People with oily skin tend to benefit from facial steaming the most, so you can probably get away with doing it two or three times per week. If your skin is dry, stick to steaming once per week to avoid over drying. As for those with sensitive skin, you’re better off skipping the steam altogether.

In short, no — you don't need facial steaming. You also don't need a special facial steamer. The steam in the shower should be enough to give your skin a healthy glow. But if your skin reacts positively to steam and you enjoy the spa-like experience, there’s no harm in sticking with your facial steaming routine.