Here's what experts want you to know about using at-home steamers
Keeping up with the surge of “cure-all” wellness fads is a job in and of itself. In our column Wellness Inspector, we do the work for you, closely examining these trends to see if they’re worth your hard-earned pennies—or whether they’re just hype.
Anyone who’s ever gotten a professional facial knows that steaming is neither new nor revolutionary. However, at-home steamers are experiencing somewhat of a resurgence. Lately, we’ve noticed skincare experts, wellness advocates, and beauty bloggers posting pictures of themselves with small steaming devices in the name of better skin and health.
This new fad makes sense: We’re living in a time when people are trying to replicate in-office treatments in the safety of their homes in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. By that logic, if an at-home steaming device could improve your existing routine, why not use one? Before you go ahead and make a purchase, read what experts have to say about the benefits of using at-home steamers—and who should stay away from them.
How do at-home steamers benefit the skin?
According to Richard Firshein, D.O., a board-certified doctor and founder of LaylaHealth.com, at-home steamers can clear pores naturally since steam can loosen or “melt” pore-clogging debris. Just make sure to remove your makeup and cleanse your skin first. What’s more, the effects of steam can boost overall radiance since it increases circulation by gently heating the surface of the skin, which stimulates blood cells.
However, facial steaming is only beneficial for certain skin types, says Sonya Dakar, a celebrity esthetician and founder of Sonya Dakar Skin Clinic. If you have extremely sensitive skin or have certain skin conditions, steer clear of at-home steamers: “You can risk irritating skin, expanding broken capillaries, and even triggering dermatitis or rosacea.”
Dakar also cautions against at-home extractions. During a professional facial, steaming the skin prepares it for extractions. “If you extract skin that is not correctly prepped, your skin could tear and scar,” she says. Here’s the thing, though: DIY extractions aren’t recommended, even if you steam your skin beforehand. Professionals know how and when to properly extract clogged pores, so if you try to extract your pores yourself you could end up with irritation, inflammation, and even scarring.
Can at-home steamers improve overall health?
If you’ve ever had a stuffy nose and then taken a hot shower, odds are you were able to breathe a little easier afterward. Dr. Firshein says that an at-home steamer can deliver the same effect but with less hassle. “As a daily ritual, clearing your nasal passages can rid you of bacteria, fungi, and viruses before they take hold and cause infections,” he says. “Additionally, at-home steaming is safer than going to a [public] steam room where the risk of exposure to the aforementioned pathogens is high.” He even says that, for some patients, using an at-home steamer is a more effective way to clean the sinuses than using a Neti pot, since it can loosen mucous and help to drain sinuses.
The best part about using an at-home steamer is that it only takes a few minutes to reap these health benefits. “Daily treatment for [several] minutes is often all it takes and is a great way to unwind, detox your pores, and clean sinuses,” Dr. Firshein says. Just be sure to regularly clean your at-home steamer to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. “If done properly, steaming generally has no negative effects,” he adds.
What’s the best way to use an at-home steamer?
For anyone interested in incorporating an at-home steamer into their routine, Dakar has some best practices to follow. First, prep the skin by cleansing and exfoliating it so that the steam can better penetrate your pores. Then, when you’re ready to steam, keep your face five to ten inches away from the opening of the steamer. Remember, some devices can produce extremely hot steam, so keep a safe distance to avoid any potential irritation or burns. Once you’re set in place, steam your face for up to nine minutes. When you’re done, apply a face mask or your skincare routine—your pores will be completely cleansed and ready to absorb products, so you’ll benefit more from your products. Do this twice a week for best results.