Got a faucet and a stove? How about a herb garden or a vial of essential oil? Your recipe for a radiant, blackhead-free complexion requires little else.Steaming is something of a lost art. Your mother or grandmother may have treated themselves to this pore-purging practice. Today, few of us ever make time to reap its benefits unless we’re sitting in the steam room post-workout or splurging on a pricey facial. But all that could change once you hear what your skin’s been missing.
Quick route to results
Experts agree that steaming is effective. The vapor imparts a dewiness to your complexion and you’ll find your skincare products penetrate deeper and work more effectively, says Lily Morgan, founder of Lily Organics skincare and author of Beauty, Health and Happiness. “Heat and moisture also opens the pores freeing dead skin, dirt and bacteria and bringing toxins to the surface,” says Cecilia Wong, esthetician and founder of Cecilia Wong Skin Care. But it’s oily and acneic types that generally benefit most from this steamy pursuit. According to Manhattan dermatologist and Skin Rules author, Debra Jaliman, steam gets rid of both blackheads and whiteheads by opening plugged pores and softening blockages.However those with rosacea, severe acne, sensitive skin or coronary issues should skip the steam or consult with a doctor first.
Boil down the basics
Bring a pot of filtered water to a boil, toss in a handful of fresh herbs and simmer for two to three minutes. If you’re using essential oils, remove the water from the heat before adding in a few drops. Move the water to a comfortable location where you can sit alongside and keeping your face eight to 12 inches above the water, drape a towel over your head and the bowl to trap the steam. Breathe in and enjoy the aromatherapy and respiratory benefits for five minutes or until the water cools. Follow with a splash of cold water then pat dry. Wong recommends applying your serum, facial oil or moisturizer over top and make sure to rehydrate with a glass of water.
Spice things up
Herbs and essential oils aren’t essential, but they provide benefits that make them worth the extra effort. “They’re very curative and nourishing to skin,” says Morgan, who installed a steam room in the basement of her Colorado farmhouse to enjoy regular steams. She recommends sage, lavender and eucalyptus—fresh, dried, or in essential oil form—for basic steams. “They’re all anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, stimulating and detoxifying,” she says. Or, if you have chamomile tea bags handy, toss two into the water as it boils. Rose, which is astringent but nondrying, is a good alternative for acneic skin. “But above all, choose an herb that pleases your senses so you get aromatherapy benefits as well,” says Morgan.
As with most skincare rituals, more is not always better. “Steaming too often or placing your face too close to the water can lead to broken blood vessels,” says Jaliman. Once a week is sufficient for maintaining healthy, skin and drier types should limit themselves to once-a-month steams to avoid excess flaking.
Head to toe hydration
Bring the benefits to the rest of your body by venturing into the steam room at your gym equipped with a spray bottle filled with purified water and a few drops of essential oils. Mist this mixture from head to toe then chillax. “Steam helps open the lungs, which is great for asthma or respiratory problems as well as relieving stress and joint pain, clearing nasal passages and boosting the lymphatic system,” says Wong. “Sitting in the steam room is therapeutic. There’s nothing to do and nowhere to be,” says Morgan. “I think of the things that I’m grateful for. It’s like meditating and a way to take some time to love yourself.”