The Right Way to Steam Your Face at Home, According to Dermatologists

DIY steam facial

KAT BORCHART / Design by Camden Dechert

Treating your skin to an at-home steam facial is one of the easiest ways to cleanse your pores and target dry skin. Steam helps open the pores—which is one of the reasons it's commonly used in spa-grade facials—and it requires little more than hot water and a towel (plus, some other ingredients you likely already have at home).

Steaming the skin can even help the products you apply after a DIY facial to penetrate deeper. And if that's not enough to sell you on it, there's always the coveted post-steam glow. But just how do you steam your face? And what are the benefits? Is it best for oily skin or is it ideal for dry skin? To find out, we spoke with three experts: Dr. Lucy Chen, a board-certified dermatologist based at Miami's Riverchase Dermatology; Way Ettner, the spa director at The Spa at Chateau du Sureau in Oakhurst, California; and Dr. Rachel Nazarian, a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology in New York City.

Keep scrolling to learn how steaming your face can help both oily and dry skin—and read a step-by-step for safely giving yourself a steam facial at home.

The Benefits of Steaming Your Face

  • Hydrates dry skin. As 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 to better absorb skincare products," Chen says.
  • Aids in collagen production. "Steaming 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 Ettner.
  • Affordable. Because it requires so few ingredients (and they are all accessible), steaming your skin is an affordable and calming way to treat yourself.

How to Do a Steam Facial at Home

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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."
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Selecting a Steam Facial Base and Add-Ins

While a simple base of water works just fine, adding in other liquids, like green tea, can also be impactful (that's thanks to the antioxidants, which can help further clarify the skin). It's also important to choose your herbs and oils carefully. Some, like lavender, have aromatherapy benefits as well as skin-calming properties. And some, like peppermint, might be too harsh on your skin or your sinuses, as you'll be breathing in the steam while you do your at-home facial.

Those with combination skin might add a few drops of rosemary oil, which has anti-inflammatory effects and can help balance natural oil levels.

How Often Should You Do a Steam Facial?

Start doing a steam facial once per month to see how your skin tolerates it, and move to once every two weeks, and then once per week, from there. "The recommendation can vary based on each individual from weekly facials to monthly," says Ettner.

DIY Steam Facials vs. Facial Steaming Device

A quality facial steaming device isn't necessary to reap the benefits of a DIY steam, but it does have a few upsides. For one thing, a device can regulate temperature and has safeguards in place to protect your skin from water that's too hot. Many also work on a timer, so they keep the water hot for the entire duration of a steam (and shut off once you've reached the allotted time).

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 and Side Effects

One of the risks of a steam facial is burning your skin due to the 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).

"One of the biggest risks is flaring temperature skin diseases, like rosacea," says Nazarian. "The heat will increase inflammatory mediators in the skin, worsening acne-like lesions and redness." She suggests consulting with a board-certified dermatologist before incorporating steam facials into your skincare routine.

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 benefit 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.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Orchard A, van Vuuren S. Commercial essential oils as potential antimicrobials to treat skin diseasesEvid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:4517971. doi:10.1155/2017/4517971

  2. 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 expressionSci Rep. 2018;8(1):1732. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-18618-x

Related Stories