Why You Should Be Steaming Your Face

Whether your skin is persistently dry, dull and congested or simply tired, the trick to a healthy, glowing complexion could be facial skin steaming. Here, MALENA HARBERS explains why this old-school cleansing technique is still so important


“Skin steaming has surged in popularity recently because it’s so simple and it consistently gives results,” says cosmetic doctor Dr. Sophie Shotter. “There’s a renewed focus on achieving naturally radiant skin,” agrees A-list skin expert Sarah Chapman. “Steaming is perfect for this, since it boosts the skin’s overall health and creates a dewy glow.”

“Pores can’t actually open and close,” says facialist Debbie Thomas. “They’re always open – steam just makes them more pliable.” While extractions (the process of clearing a clogged pore) should be left to professionals, regular steaming will help melt oil and debris trapped in pores and prevent future build-up. Our experts unanimously agree that steaming five to 10 minutes maximum, two to three times per week, is ideal. “You’ll see a clearer complexion over time,” says Chapman. “[When steaming], expect to see your skin flush, whatever your skin type, as the heat increases micro-circulation, which means more oxygen and nutrients can travel to the tissues, boosting collagen and elastin production and giving a rosy glow.” The steam itself “adds instant hydration, strengthens the skin’s natural barrier and helps to plump and smooth out any fine lines, too”.

It’s essential to cleanse your skin thoroughly before and after steaming. “Cleansing before ensures that dirt, pollution or makeup doesn’t work its way into the more receptive barrier layer,” says Thomas. “Cleansing after prevents sweat from the steam and other impurities from encouraging bacterial growth, causing breakouts or irritation.” Steaming is an active step in your regime, notes Dr. Shotter, so use a gentle cleanser to avoid irritating the skin. Try an oil-based balm to break down sebum or makeup formulas without stripping the skin. When it comes to steaming, many at-home devices use micro-fine mists and offer multiple heat settings to soften debris more effectively, too. Always position your face about 20cm away from the steamer nozzle. If you still prefer the traditional method, keep a similar distance over a bowl of hot water (105 Fahrenheit/40 Celsius is best) and cover your head and the bowl with a towel to contain the steam. As an added bonus, the moist air will help to open and clear blocked airways, too.

Chapman uses steam in nearly all her facials to hydrate, detox and clarify in one step. “If you’re concerned about signs of aging, the heat treatment also works to plump out fine lines for a smoother appearance.” According to Dr. Shotter, congested, acne-prone and dull skin will benefit most from a full steam session. However, she advises against it if you have rosacea or thread veins, or are prone to redness and flushing. “The heat can dilate the blood vessels, worsening these inflammatory conditions.”

Using a serum or mask while you steam will ramp up results. Chapman recommends steaming over an exfoliating serum for a deeper cleanse, or a hyaluronic acid-based serum or mask for an extra shot of hydration. Post-steam, it’s absolutely essential to lock moisture into skin immediately. “If you leave it for longer than a minute, you’ll get evaporation, which leads to skin dehydration instead,” warns Dr. Shotter. She suggests keeping a sheet mask in the refrigerator to use here. “The cold helps to quickly close pores and lock in hydration.” Using a skin icing or cryo device or globes, or even a chilled face roller over a nourishing hyaluronic acid, ceramide or vitamin B5-rich serum, works just as well. “Your skin will be primed for better absorption of active ingredients, so I like to really massage my Platinum Stem Cell Elixir into skin to get the most out of the plumping and rejuvenating stem cells,” says Chapman. Whatever you apply post-steam, make sure it’s non-comedogenic (not clogging). “It will penetrate more deeply, which could cause problems with pore blockage otherwise,” says Dr. Shotter.

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