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Skin

Everything you need to know about skin steaming

Could this traditional facial-cleansing technique transform your skin? SUZANNE SCOTT reports

Beauty

Once upon a time, a facial wasn’t considered a facial unless steam was involved. But as our love of high-tech tools took over, steaming fell out of favor. Now it’s on the rise again, from steam-extraction facials to facial teas, the latter of which involves steaming skin over water that’s infused with herb-blend bags (Miranda Kerr is a big fan). Here’s how it can benefit your skincare regimen.

HOW TO START STEAMING

“I use steam in every facial,” says LA esthetician Shani Darden. “It’s great for congestion as it softens the oil trapped in pores and makes extractions easier.” While extraction is best left to professionals like Darden, steaming is a great start to an at-home treatment, as it helps to loosen the “cement” that holds dulling surface dead skin cells, making any exfoliation you do afterwards much more efficient. “Start by steaming your face for five minutes in the shower, then follow with a light exfoliation, a hydrating mask and your daily moisturizer,” suggests New York facialist Tracie Martyn. Products applied post-steam also penetrate further, as pores are more open, but “avoid anything that contains comedogenic [pore-blocking] ingredients – even natural varieties like cocoa butter”.

You may notice a little redness post-steam, but this is perfectly normal. “Flushing is natural, as it shows that your blood has been stimulated beneath the skin,” says London-based facialist and skin expert Sarah Chapman. “I suggest using a chilled sheet mask, such as Sarah Chapman Skinesis 3D Moisture Infusion Mask, after steaming to soothe your skin.”

HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU STEAM?

There’s more than one way to use a facial steamer. Yes, it’s a brilliant step to incorporate on its own into your daily – or even weekly – skincare routine, but it’s a useful tool to use alongside other treatments, too. Try a light steam with Sarah Chapman Pro Hydro-Mist Steamer the next time you use a sheet mask; allow the steam to gently waft over the mask to encourage penetration of the ingredients and actives. This device was inspired by the professional steamers at Chapman’s Skinesis clinic in Chelsea, London. It uses nano steam – tiny steam particles – which cleanses more deeply. We also love to steam while applying a gentle glycolic-based treatment, such as Indie Lee Radiance Renewal Peel, to amp up results.

The next time your skin is feeling dry and uncomfortably tight following a long-haul flight, try steaming over a thin layer of a rehydrating face mask, such as La Mer The Intensive Revitalizing Mask. Or, for a really deep cleanse, Chapman recommends the following: “Apply a balm cleanser and massage it into your skin while using the steamer. The heat from the steam will loosen the dirt and sebum in your pores, while your knuckles knead the formula into the dermis.”

CAN EVERYONE STEAM?

Some skincare experts claim that steam destroys collagen and elastin. While research is still ongoing, we do know that steaming definitely aggravates sensitivity, as it raises the skin’s temperature and boosts circulation. This can be good (energizing and brightening) or bad, depending on your skin type. “Subjecting sensitive, rosacea-prone skin to heat can make the condition worse,” says Martyn. It can also lead to broken veins, as that boost in circulation causes blood vessels to rapidly dilate. Plus, open pores are more susceptible to bacteria, so avoid touching your face after a steam to guard against breakouts.

FULL STEAM AHEAD

The model featured in this story is not associated with NET-A-PORTER and does not endorse it or the products shown.