As the first days of Spring introduce more light into your house, have you noticed that your skin isn’t looking as bright or as clear as it was before dry, unforgiving temperatures prevailed? Or are you already worried that once Mother Nature awakens and begins her pollinating process, your sinuses won’t respond well? It just so happens that both of these concerns can be addressed by the same remedy – facial steaming. Water vapor is a powerful tool when it comes to refreshing skin cells as well as relaxing respiratory tissues. But before you dive in headfirst, better review these steps so you can proceed safely and successfully!
How to Steam?
An affordable DIY facial steam can be completed in five simple steps.
- Boil water. A kettle is recommended as it will make the next step easier.
- Add hot water to a bowl. Pour the boiled water into a heatproof bowl, preferably glass or ceramic.
- Begin steaming. Surround both your head and the bowl with a large towel. Make sure the towel drapes all around the bowl to trap the steam.
- Take care. Always keep your face at least six to ten inches away from the water so that the steam doesn’t burn or sting your skin. Facial steaming should be pleasant, not painful!
- Set a timer. Your facial pores are experiencing quite a lot of strenuous heat, so expose them to the steam for only 5 to 10 minutes at most.
Facial steaming devices are also popular. Always use distilled water when operating a facial steamer, and just like a DIY steam, short exposure times of between 5 to 10 minutes are still recommended.
How Not to Steam?
Surrounded by steam, you may be thinking that you’re experiencing a very moisturizing at-home spa day, but you can easily lose hydration if you steam for too long through a process called transepidermal water loss (TEWL). TEWL is regarded as one of the most important parameters for characterizing skin barrier function and a healthy skin barrier has less TEWL, which is why experts recommend keeping facial steaming sessions to a minimum of ten minutes. For similar reasons, don’t forget to keep at least six inches away from the steam at all times, and limit your facial steaming sessions to once a week at most starting out. Also, anyone who has sensitive skin or who is prone to inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea, melasma, hyperpigmentation, or even chronic acne, should skip facial steaming and perhaps try a DIY spa treatment that is even gentler such as an oatmeal facial instead!
Benefits of Facial Steaming:
- Exfoliation. Though facial steaming itself doesn’t necessarily exfoliate your skin, it does soften the very top layer of skin, making it more permeable, loosening up any oils, dirt, or acne-causing bacteria hanging out on the surface so it can be easily removed afterward. Following up a steaming session with a gentle washcloth and a mild cleanser can help remove these blemish-causing debris revealing a clean, clear complexion underneath.
- Hydration. Did you know there’s a difference between hydrating and moisturizing your skin? When skin is dry, its often lacking in oils, which moisturizers seek to replenish. Steam, however, provides skin with the water that it needs to remain plump and hydrated, as long as you don’t expose yourself to the steam for too long. Remember to keep it under ten minutes and your skin will remain dewy – not dull.
- Absorption. For the same reason that facial steaming boosts exfoliation, it also bumps up the penetration of skin care products such as toners, serums, and moisturizers. The active ingredients in these products, including retinol, Vitamin C, niacinamide, or hyaluronic acid are better absorbed by the now softened skin barrier, so you’re essentially getting more out of your products.
- Removing Blackheads and Sebum. First of all, what is sebum exactly? It’s an oily, waxy substance produced by your body’s sebaceous glands that coats, moisturizes, and protects your skin. It can build up, however, resulting in a dull-looking sheen, or clogged pores leading to blackheads. Because steaming softens and loosens skin layers, however, removing blackheads and clogged pores becomes much easier to do and hence, the extraction process is generally gentler on your skin as well.
- Circulation. Steaming increases blood flow to the skin cells in the face, and proper blood flow helps build collagen and elastin, giving skin a plump, full look. Increased blood flow also helps deliver oxygen to the skin, which is nourishing.
- Relief from Congestion. Suffering from a stuffy nose, allergies, or congestion? Inhaling or breathing in warm water vapor can loosen mucus in the nasal passages, throat, and lungs, allowing it to be expelled. It won’t cure a cold or flu, but it can help reduce symptoms. Similarly, studies show it will also help with allergic rhinitis (AR), significantly improving nasal obstruction in AR patients. Follow the same procedures as a facial steam and your breathing passageways will remain safe during this DIY remedy!
Add Herbs or Essential Oils
Adding herbs or essential oils to your steam can enhance your experience – both aromatically and topically as well. For facial steams, try adding Clary Sage essential oil if you have oily skin, as it reduces sebum production. Chamomile essential oil contains chamazulene, a constituent that is calming to sensitive skin, Tea Tree can reduce acne, and Frankincense and Sandalwood essential oils have long been known to promote anti-aging effects due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Some steaming devices should not be used with anything but distilled water, so read the instructions carefully. When adding essential oils to your at-home remedy, just start with a few drops in your glass or ceramic bowl when beginning. Essential oils are highly concentrated, so a little goes a long way!
If you are looking to further reduce congestion or open respiratory passages, try adding Clear Head Steam. It contains a robust blend of herbs including Eucalyptus Leaf, which has had several studies showing its impressive antimicrobial action not to mention its antispasmodic and expectorant properties regarding respiratory organs specifically. Horehound is also found in this blend, which can thin mucus secretions and decrease swelling of respiratory tissues, as well as Coltsfoot, which contains tussilagone, an anti-inflammatory agent that helped reduce cough frequency by up to 62% in a study done with mice. Clear Head Steam also contains Elderflower, which can further reduce swelling in the sinuses, Sage Leaf, to help dry up mucus membranes, and finally Peppermint Leaf and Menthol Crystals to clear congestion and ease breathing.
When done properly, this simple and affordable procedure yields lots of benefits, with or without herbs or essential oils. So whether you’re looking to pep up your skin this Spring or enjoy a balmy day with fewer allergies, try steaming for clearer skin and less congestion!