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Short of a professional extraction, treating your skin to a steam facial is probably the best thing you can do for your pores. You've likely noticed that most professional extractions start with steaming. Not everyone has the money for consistent professional extractions, though. Occasionally, you might want to skip the esthetician's bill and create your own at-home spa. You can even use what you probably already have in your kitchen.
Steaming may loosen dirt and debris in your pores, and might even allow the products you apply afterward to penetrate deeper. And then, if that's not enough to sell you on it, there's always the post-steam glow.
Keep scrolling to learn how to safely do a steam facial at home.
Meet the Expert
The Benefits of Steaming Your Face
- Hydrates. As board-certified dermatologist Dr. Lucy Chen explains, steaming "hydrates the skin by increasing oil production."
- Releases trapped sebum. "When steam releases trapped sebum from the skin, this process prevents bacteria from breeding, thus preventing acne and blackheads," says Chen.
- Increases elasticity. "[Steaming] helps increase the skin’s permeability which allows the skin better absorb skincare products," Chen says.
- Aids in collagen production. "Promotes elastin and collagen production and opens the pores to reduce the buildup of dirt," she adds.
- Promotes circulation, "which boosts blood flow and delivers oxygen to the skin, resulting in a healthy, natural glow," Chen says.
- Aids congestion. "A steam facial is relaxing in general and helps to open any sinus congestion," says Way Ettner, the spa director at The Spa at Chateau du Sureau.
How to Do a Steam Facial at Home
- Gather Supplies: You’ll need baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and some herbs—whichever you feel are best for you—to add to your steam.
- Exfoliate: Baking soda and water are all you need for a little budget-friendly deep pore cleansing with light exfoliation. Mix two teaspoons of baking soda with one teaspoon of water into a paste. Using circular motions, massage that mixture onto your face for one minute, and then rinse to remove pore-clogging dead skin cells.
- Steam: Bring water to a boil, remove it from the heat, and customize your steam facial for your skin type by adding fresh or dried herbs to the boiling water. Some advise using parsley because it acts as a natural astringent, which has been used to treat bruises and wounds. If your skin is dry or sensitive, try a soothing ingredient like chamomile instead. Licorice root and mint are also great detoxifiers that work on all skin types. Chen suggests adding "essential oils or herbs such as lavender, eucalyptus, or peppermint."
- Lean over the water basin, keeping your face about 12 inches from the water, and drape a towel over your head to create a tent. Sit like this and steam your face for about five to 10 minutes to clear out your pores.
- Dry: Pat your skin dry with a clean towel, preferably a gentle towel like Tatcha's Kinu Pure Silk Polishing Face Cloth ($70 for 5).
- Tone: Now that the dirt and impurities have been loosened from your pores, wipe it all away with a toner. If you don't have a toner on hand, don't fret—you can just use apple cider vinegar. It's an antiseptic and an antibacterial that may balance the pH of your skin while it gently exfoliates to keep pores clean. Just mix equal parts ACV and filtered water (or use one part ACV and two parts water if your skin is sensitive), and apply the toner using a cotton pad.
- Moisturize: Finish off your facial by applying the moisturizer of your choice. If you want to stick to the all-natural route, use a natural oil—we're partial to rose hip seed, but a lot of people love coconut oil.
How Often Should You Do a Steam Facial?
"The recommendation can vary based on each individual from weekly facials to monthly," says Ettner. Start with once per month to see how your skin tolerates the steam, and move to once every two weeks, and then once per week, from there.
Safety Tips for Steam Facials
You should always make sure the steam isn’t too hot and limit your time steaming to avoid burns. And take care of your skin post-steam, too. "Your skin will be extra sensitive, so make sure to lightly pat your face dry to avoid irritating it with a towel," says Chen.
Possible Risks/Side Effects
The main risk with a steam facial is burning your skin on hot water. Always allow water to cool from its boiling point before placing your face near it, and be sure and transfer even warmed water to a heat-resistant bowl (and use gloves or oven mitts so you don't burn your hands).
The Final Takeaway
Not only are steam facials good in terms of boosting glow, they can also help with other skin procedures, such as extractions. "The main benefits is that it opens pores and allows the esthetician to more easily clear clogged pores while doing extractions," Ettner says. Of course, as they do come with risks (see above), steam facials should be performed carefully or by a professional.
Photographer: Kat Borchart
Hair and Makeup: Barbara Lamelza
Producer: Jenna Peffley
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Yagnik D, Serafin V, J Shah A. Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):1732. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-18618-x