By Kaala Wood and Kali Kushner
One thing I absolutely dread is dealing with white heads-I mean come on, I'm not supposed to pop them, I know. But how does anyone expect me to leave them on my face for all to see? I'll rock a new pair of boots, a cute up-do, maybe even some crazy makeup; but a white head, I will not rock.
Saunas, steamy showers, facial steamers, and hot springs. We've all heard these are either good for our skin or bad for our skin.So, which is it? Am I supposed to hang my head over a bowl of bubbling water or close up my pores with ice cubes? Well it depends.Of course, there's a wrong and right way to steam, and there's certain skin types (like those prone to excessive flushing) who should steer clear of steaming but- the majority consensus seems to be that steaming your skin is actually a pretty good thing if you're acne prone.
A few months ago I was surfing online and came across an ad for a facial steamer saying that steaming your face opens white heads without scarring. As a person who has tried almost everything that claims to improve my acne, I was eager to learn about facial steaming with fingers tightly crossed it would bring some relief. I read several articles about the benefits, and there were common perks I came across.
THE BASICS OF STEAMING
Let's get one thing straight first, steam does not actually open and close your pores. Your pores are not magic windows that "open and close" but it does help to loosen up any dead skin cells, dirt, and bacteria making it easier for the pore to unclog and extractions to take place.
Steam warms up the surface of the skin, softens it, and promotes blood flow. Softer more pliable skin yields better results with deep cleansing masks, exfoliation, and overall permeation of ingredients. You know that $75-dollar cream sitting on your vanity? Well you're going to have much better results applying it after steaming your skin than on plain ole dry skin. This is because it's going to be able to absorb better and reach the deeper levels of your skin.
Heating your face also brings oxygen and nutrients to the skin, and promotes healing of skin tissue. This is great when it comes to speeding up the healing process of hyperpigmentation and acne scars! Steaming your face is recommended about once or twice(max) a week, as overusing steam could pose negative effects on the skin.
Steam can be a great tool to use infighting acne but it also has the potential to stimulate your oil glands, in turn causing acne. It’s a double edge sword here, softening the outermost layers of your skin so you can effectively exfoliate dead skin cells away may help your acne, but the stimulation of your oil glands may cause you to overproducing oil thus clogging the pore and again- leading to more acne.
- Facial steaming opens up pores and releases the trapped dirt. Because clogged pores are the beginning of all acne-related trouble (starting with small blackheads and escalating all the way to deep, inflamed cysts) opening them up and releasing all the dirt trapped in them is a very preventative approach to future acne inflammation.
- Open pores are ready to absorb skin-aiding products. Once the old dirt is cleaned out when the pore opens, your skin is now more receptive to masks, strips, and serums. **When I steam, I usually end it by using my weekly blackhead strips, and I've noticed a HUGE difference in the amount of gunk that comes out of my pores after steamer versus without it. Highly recommend.**
- It strengthens circulation, bringing more blood flow to your face. This extra blood flow brings in a flood of oxygen and nutrients that make your skin internally healthier, and externally dewy and glowing.
- 4. It’s really stinking relaxing. My favorite part of steaming my face is that's it's my "me time" where I take a break from everything else going on, and just sit back and take deep breaths. Extra perk: since stress induces acne, even the relaxation component is aiding in your skin health! Win from all angles.
A few other notable benefits of steaming:
- Removes toxins from the skin through perspiration
- Softens debris inside of pores making it easier for extractions
- Promotes relaxation and enhances circulation
- Fights signs of aging
- Prevents dry skin
How to steam - proceed with caution.
Step 1: Wash your face with your preferred cleanser. The goal is to get all dirt and bacteria off the surface of your skin for the cleanest starting point. When our pores open, they are ready to absorb anything-if we have dirt on the surface of our skin, it could actually make matters worse. Let's not risk that!
Step 2: If you have a facial steamer, just full it up with water and turn it on. Mine takes about 30 seconds to what and start releasing steam(I have the Kealive Facial Steamer). If you don't have one, boil water in a pot, and then put it in a heat-safe bowl.
Step 3: Put a towel over your head and the steamer or bowl, creating a "tent" so the steam doesn't escape. Sit for 5-10 minutes, or as long as the steam lasts.
Step 4: Dry your face with something freshly cleaned to avoid transferring bacteria into open pores. Use face masks, pore strips, or serums as desired.
If you want some added moisture, dewiness, and relaxation in your life I suggest giving steaming a go.
To decide whether or not steam is right for you, take note of how your skin feels and looks after a hot shower or sauna. If the clarity is improved steaming could be highly beneficial for you! However, if you notice more redness, small pimples, or a splotchy complexion you may want to skip the steam and try a gentle physical exfoliation instead.
Fair warning, be sure the steam you're using isn't too hot. Steaming with water that’s overly hot can cause problems with sensitive skin and flushing. It can also dry out your skin (causing it to overproduce oil and produce more acne).Also, be mindful not to steam too frequently or for prolonged periods of time. Steaming more frequently won't give you better benefits or quicker results, oh the contrary, it'll lead to more breakouts and sagging, dehydrated skin.
DIY AT HOME STEAMING
Luckily, you don't have to go run to an expensive spa or esthetician to reap all the benefits of facial steaming. In fact, there are many safe steam producing machines you can use in your own home. Check out some of these top-rated ones on amazon here and here.
You can also steam your face the old-fashioned way, like yours truly, and place your face over a bowl of water with a towel covering your head. Just make sure the steam isn't too hot. Either way you choose to steam your face you can also add beneficial ingredients like rosewater, rose petals, jasmine, or even lavender buds. I personally have the botanical steam combo pack from Franklin and Whitman and use it about twice a week, sometimes sprinkling it into my bath and absorbing the benefits that way.
Do you regularly steam your skin? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below!