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The Dos And Don’ts Of Facial Steaming

Woman steaming face over bowl of water with towel over head

The Dos And Don'ts Of Facial Steaming

Written By:

Libby Wright

Are you looking for a luxurious facial treatment that you can do between your visits to the spa Facial steaming is a simple way to pamper your skin in the comfort of your own bathroom. Read on to find out what products you’ll need to do it safely and effectively with minimal cost or equipment to achieve maximum skin glow.

What Is Facial Steaming?

While some concepts in the skin care world are complex, facial steaming is quite simple. This classic treatment allows steam from hot water to make contact with the skin and provide certain benefits, including cleansing, releasing trapped sebum, hydrating, promoting circulation and helping the skin absorb skin care products more deeply. If you’ve ever placed a warm, moist towel on your face, spent time in a steam room at the gym or taken a long, hot shower, you know what we’re talking about. Bonus: it’s a skin care ritual that can easily be performed at home.

The first purpose-built facial steamers date back to the early 1900s, but the use of steam itself as a method of relaxing and cleansing the body can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. These days, there are a lot of facial steamers on the market, but you can also DIY at home with a big bowl or sink of warm water and a towel.

Benefits Of Facial Steaming

As mentioned, there are a number of ways that steam applied to the skin on your face can benefit the health and condition of your complexion. It can also help with other issues, including sinus congestion and stress. We’ll explain some of the benefits here:


Steaming is an excellent option for removing buildup, especially if a deeper cleanse is needed. It lifts dirt and impurities from the skin, purges excess sebum and loosens unwanted substances like pollutants, leaving your skin thoroughly cleansed and refreshed for a glowing complexion.

Helps Release Acne-Causing Bacteria And Cells

Acne happens when your skin cells trap sebum in your follicles, which can lead to the growth of bacteria and inflammation. Using steam to loosen up dirt and oils can help free the sebum and stop pimples from forming. “There is a misconception that steaming the face opens pores and unclogs them,” board-certified dermatologist Dr. Caroline Robinson tells SELF Magazine. She continues, explaining that our pores are “fixed structures that do not open or close in response to changes in temperature.” In other words, warm steam doesn’t open pores and cool water doesn’t close them. But what steam does do is soften the very top layer of dead skin, making it more permeable, loosening up any oils, dirt or acne-causing bacteria hanging out on the skin surface so it can be removed.

Promotes Circulation 

Heat from steaming — and the perspiration it causes — can encourage blood flow by dilating your blood vessels, which sends more oxygen to the skin. Proper circulation is not only ideal for your overall health, it has specific benefits to the skin, including the prevention of dryness. Additionally, steam promotes blood circulation and causes the skin to flush temporarily — making it look glowy, healthy and plump. 


Hydration helps your skin retain its strength and elasticity. Regardless of skin type, you’ve probably dealt with uncomfortable bouts of dehydration. Not to be mistaken with moisturizing — which you can do with facial oils and creams — hydration comes from water, which is why facial steaming is a great way to give your skin a shot of H20.  

Helps With Absorption Of Skin Care Products

Steam increases the permeability of the skin, allowing it to better absorb topicals. Try steaming before you introduce products like toner, serums and moisturizers to your skin. Steam has the ability to increase skin care product penetration to give you more bang for your skin care buck. 

Helps Relieve Stress

Carving out a few minutes for self-care can do wonders for your stress levels, and using those minutes to steam your face can relax your mind and body, while also enhancing the skin. While you’re at it, add some soothing herbs like mint or rosemary, or essential oils like lavender for an extra boost.  

Helps Relieve Sinus Congestion

A steam bath may conjure up memories of mom placing your head under a towel to help clear your cold symptoms — and, as usual, mom knew what she was doing! Steam lightly inhaled through the nose and mouth can help relieve sinus congestion and headaches in a gentle and soothing way. 

Step By Step Facial Steam

There are a few ways you can enjoy this versatile skin practice at home. It can be simple and free or as luxe as you choose. A quick search will bring up a huge selection of electric facial steamers, but if you like a DIY approach, the process can be done with nothing but hot water and towels. Here are some general guidelines to help you create this eco-friendly and relaxing skin care ritual in your own bathroom. 

Step 1

Start by cleansing your face. You want all oil, dirt and makeup gone to prevent them from seeping deeper into your skin as you steam. A gel or foaming cleanser is a good idea to help get rid of the oil and dirt. Some good options for all skin types include the Stone Crop Gel Wash or the Kombucha Microbiome Foaming Cleanser.

Step 2

Heat water and carefully pour into a large, heat-safe ceramic or glass bowl or into the bathroom sink (with the stopper in place). Plastic bowls are not recommended. Tap water is a great, accessible option, but if you want to get fancy, try distilled or filtered water.

Step 3 (Optional) 

For a fragrant experience, essential oils or herbs can be added to the warm water. However, before doing so, we recommend consulting with a skin care professional on correct usage and determining what works for your skin. Essential oils can irritate the skin and need to be properly diluted before use. If used correctly, tea tree oil contains cleansing, anti-inflammatory and healing properties and is known to assist in regulating sebum production. Lavender oil is known to lessen redness and irritation caused by dry skin and eczema. Pro tip: If you don’t have herbs or oils available, adding a couple of tea bags can help achieve the same results. Organic chamomile and peppermint are calming to the skin, while green tea has polyphenols that can fight against infection and bacteria. 

Step 4

Place a towel over your head so that it is trapping all the steam inside and position your face about 10 inches above the bowl. Don’t get too close to the steam — the ritual should be pleasant, not painful. Stay in the position for 8 –10 minutes for best results. 

Step 5

Once you have steamed your face, your skin is primed ready to absorb whatever is next. Now is a good time to apply a facial mask. If you’re looking to double down on hydration, go for the Coconut Cream Masque or Strawberry Rhubarb Masque. If you’re struggling with breakouts, your skin will love the Clear Skin Probiotic Masque or the Acne Advanced Clarifying Masque. Aging skin will drink in the Bamboo Age Corrective Masque. Additionally, the Calm Skin Arnica Masque is a great option for all of the sensitive complexions out there. 

Product picks first

Stone Crop Gel Wash Clear Skin Probiotic Masque

Product picks second

Lilikoi Daily Defense Moisturizer SPF 40 Radiant Protection SPF Fluid

Body second

Step 6

Following your steam and mask, you’ve already treated your skin to exactly what it needs; but there’s still more you can do to get the most out of the process. If you’re hitting the sheets, choose an Eminence Organic Skin Care serum that best suits your needs. If you’re steaming earlier in the day while the sun is still out (even if it’s cloudy), apply a moisturizing SPF like Lilikoi Daily Defense Moisturizer SPF 40 or Radiant Protection SPF Fluid to get the added benefits of bakuchiol and niacinamide.

Does Facial Steaming Work For Everyone? 

While this relaxing ritual has many benefits, certain skin conditions don’t mesh well with hot steam. Dr. Robinson says: “Heat and steam are known triggers for many dermatologic conditions, such as rosacea, melasma and eczema.” Since heat can provoke inflammation, anyone who’s prone to skin conditions that involve inflammation should stay away from at-home steaming practices. 

Body third

Facial Steaming Safety Guide

Water can cause a burn in 5 seconds or less at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the American Burn Association — that’s about 70 degrees below water’s boiling point of 212 degrees Fahrenheit. That means you’ll have to be extra careful if you’re steaming your face at home. Make sure to have everything you need within arm’s reach and perform the ritual without distractions. Consider starting with your face further than the recommended 10 inches and then lowering it as your get more comfortable. Spend those 8 –10 minutes deep breathing or meditating for an extra boost of relaxation. Before starting new skin care techniques, we recommend consulting a skin care professional for safety tips and determining what works best for your skin.

Don’t forget to follow up your at-home skin care rituals with regular trips to the spa for professional care. Visit your nearest Eminence Organics Spa Partner to find out more.

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