If you’ve ever gotten a professional facial, you’re probably familiar with the warm mist used to open up your pores. This relaxing part of the facial process is brought to you by the use of a facial steamer, and while those used in professional treatments are typically bulky and high-tech, there are smaller versions that are made for use at home. But is it worth adding one to your skincare regimen? According to estheticians, yes.
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“The steam opens up all the pores to help release trapped sebum, debris, and dead skin, and soften blackheads so that they’re easier to extract,” explains Taylor Worden, celebrity esthetician and founder of Taylor Worden Skin. This also allows products that follow to penetrate better. “Steam is also incredibly hydrating as it increases the natural oils in your skin and boosts blood circulation for a healthy glow.”
While most estheticians give the thumbs up for using a facial steamer at home, it’s important to learn how to use them correctly. “You definitely don’t want to burn your skin, so be cautious how close you are to the steamer, how long you are steaming your steamer, and how often you are steaming your face,” says Alex Gilleo, celebrity makeup artist, skincare expert, and founder of holistic wellness sanctuary, My Zen Den.
Here, we asked experts how to use a facial steamer at home — properly, safely, and most efficiently.
1. Purchase the right steamer
There are countless facial steamers on the market today, so it’s important to be choosy when it comes to purchasing one for at-home use. Melissa Urban, an esthetician and skincare expert with the SkinForYou app, recommends looking for a steamer that has a removable water reservoir and is easy to clean, to prevent bacterial growth.
She also suggests buying one that has a dial to control temperature. “There are some that produce cold or hot steam and having that control can help make this a more comfortable experience,” she says. A built-in timer can also be helpful, as this helps you keep track of time and keep your session from going too long.
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Portability is also important. Karina Sulzer, esthetician and founder of Skin Gym and Skin Camp, recommends choosing a facial steamer that’s small and easy to carry, especially if you plan on using it regularly. “The appeal of this tool is that it creates an at-home spa day from any location, which can be a lifesaver when you’re dealing with skin irritation from travel or weather changes,” she says.
We like the Dr Dennis Gross Pro Facial Steamer ($149; dermstore.com), which features micro-steam technology and delivers a strong steam of mist; it also has an auto shut-off so you never risk over-doing it. For a less pricey option, experts recommend the Vanity Planet Aira Ionic Facial Steamer ($50; bedbathandbeyond); it ionizes the water for a more efficient steam and has a movable nozzle so the steam is aimed accurately toward your face.
2. Cleanse your face thoroughly
Prior to using a facial steamer, Worden recommends double cleansing. This involves washing your face twice — first with an oil-based cleanser and then with a water-based cleanser — to make sure you thoroughly cleanse your skin of makeup, product residue, and dirt so that the facial steamer can do its job more efficiently. Otherwise, you risk pushing this stuff deeper into your pores.
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3. Fill the water tank with fresh water
Gilleo recommends wiping down and changing the water in your facial steamer before every use. “The last thing you want to do is to steam dirty water into your face,” she says. On that note, it’s also important to thoroughly clean the device after every use.
4. Steam for no more than 15 minutes
The steaming process itself is quite efficient and requires no longer than 15 minutes to open pores and loosen debris. Anything more, according to Worden, can actually dehydrate and dry out your skin.
5. Keep a safe distance
Always keep a distance of at least six inches between your face and the steamer to prevent burns or irritation. You’ll want to keep your eye closed the entire time, too, to avoid the heat from irritating or drying them out.
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6. Use it alongside other products
Since facial steamers open your pores and allow for easier absorption, Sulzer recommends leveraging your favorite serums and moisturizers by using them simultaneously for the best results. “Incorporate hydrators like a serum for a smooth and supple look or a nourishing face mask right after, so your pores are open and the ingredients soak right in,” she says.
7. Be mindful of how often you are steaming your face
Yes, a good facial steam may soften your pores and leave you with a glow, but Gilleo warns that if you steam more than once a week (depending on your skin type), it may lead to a compromised skin barrier, moisture loss, increased redness, and inflammation.
If you have sensitive skin or a condition like rosacea, it’s best to avoid facial steamers altogether.