The Benefits of a Do-It-Yourself Facial Steam

The Benefits of a Do-It-Yourself Facial Steam
Photo: Allison Kahler.

Hold up—your skin isn’t looking as glowy as it used to. What happened? Is it the perpetual lack of sleep or that semi-unhealthy diet (not for lack of trying)? Whatever the reason for your skin-care woes, we’re here to help… and we come bearing facial steams.

What Is a Facial Steam?

According to Athena Hewett, aesthetician and founder of Monastery Skin Care, a facial steam is best described as “the practice of surrounding the face with steam. The steam can be artificially produced by an electrical steamer, or it can be made by boiling a pot of water.” Sounds to us like an opportunity for an at-home spa day. And during the hot summer months, it’s easy for your pores to become clogged with sweat and makeup—a little detox couldn’t hurt!

Hewett says the benefits of facial steams are numerous. The primary benefit, as we all know, is “a deep cleanse to the skin by opening the pores and softening the skin.” But that’s not all! Steaming also softens the oils in your pores, making it easier to extract blackheads and whiteheads. Plus, they improve circulation, giving you a “temporary glow.”

Professional vs. At-Home

But who says you need to spend a gazillion dollars to reap these benefits? Not us, and certainly not Hewett. She says the only major difference between a professional steam and a DIY one is its strength and duration. (“An electrical steamer can apply a constant stream of steam for a longer amount of time—a pot of boiling water will eventually run out.”) She does mention, however, that professional steams can also include an “ozone function,” which adds oxygen to the skin cells, and they’re antibacterial, meaning they’re great for acne-prone skin. DIY steams can’t do that.

MORE: DIY Facial Massage and Mask Tricks That Make a Major Difference

Do It Yourself

To customize your at-home facial steam experience, it’s important to note that there are different facial steams for different skin types. Some are great for treating oily skin, and some are more hydrating, for dry skin—it just depends on your specific concern. In order to make it easier on you, we broke these six facial steam recipes down by skin type. So find yours, build out the recipe, and enjoy your at-home spa day!

Before you begin, Hewett reminds us that facial steaming isn’t all fun and games: “Be very careful… a bowl of hot water can be dangerous.” She advises that you pour your boiling water into a fresh bowl before starting and place it on a stable surface—this minimizes the risk of burning yourself. Furthermore, she recommends not leaning in too close. Not only could this contribute to the risk of facial burns, but it can also be suffocating under your little towel tent! But don’t fret—when practiced appropriately, facial steaming can be super healthy.

For the following facial steams, start with clean, dry skin. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and then transfer it to a wide-mouthed bowl (a mixing bowl works). Stir in your choice of herbs and/or oils from the recipes below, and lean over the bowl with your face 10 to 12 inches from the surface of the water. Drape a towel over the back of your head and neck, and let the excess fabric come down on the sides of your face to trap in the steam. Stay there for 10 to 15 minutes (or until you get too hot), and then pat your face dry.

Hewett recommends steaming once per week for oily skin, once per month for dry skin, and “rarely” for super-sensitive skin. (“Steam is great during a professional service for easily removing blackheads, but it also opens the pores, so it makes the skin more susceptible to infection and collecting dirt,” Hewett says.) For this same reason, it’s important to treat your skin with a toner afterward.

As long as you follow these rules, facial steaming can be a wonderful addition to your skin-care routine. So, say it with us: Keep calm and steam on!

MORE: 12 Best Illuminating Moisturizers for Glowing, Dewy Skin

For Oily Skin

  • Fresh basil leaves
  • 3 drops tea tree essential oil

Get the recipe.

For Dry Skin

  • Comfrey leaves
  • Dried calendula flowers
  • Dried chamomile flowers
  • Dried rosebuds and petals
  • Dried lavender

Get the recipe.

For Combination Skin

  • Dried lavender
  • 3 drops geranium essential oil

Get the recipe.

For Acne-Prone Skin

  • White willow bark
  • 3 drops peppermint essential oil

Get the recipe.

For Dull Complexions

  • Dried chamomile flowers
  • Dried lavender
  • Dried rosemary
  • 3 drops of lemon essential oil

Get the recipe.

For Puffiness

  • Dried rooibos
  • Dried green tea leaves

Get the recipe.