Is Holding Your Face Over Steam Healthy for the Skin?

by Paule McKenna

Steaming is part of some facial cleansing routines.

Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Beautifying the face is an ancient tradition that has basic rituals you can do at home. Spa treatments and facial care often begin with steaming the face for deep cleansing. How well this process works for you depends on your skin type. You can take precautions to make your cleansing experience the most effective and safe it can be. If you have medical, lung or breathing issues, be sure to consult with your doctor before steam treatments.

Effects of Steaming

A deep cleansing can be achieved by opening the pores first. This makes skin more receptive to cleansers and skin-sloughing scrubs that remove excess oil from the pores. There are several ways to do this after you determine if it is right for your skin type. You can fill a bowl with boiling water and place your face over it as you drape a towel over your head carefully, to keep the steam directed at your face, or you can use a steamy towel directly on your face. You can also use an at-home portable or plug-in steamer that shoots a stream of steam directly at your face, which you would use for a shorter time. Total length of time depends on skin type. Under no conditions would you steam longer than 20 minutes. Steaming will leave pores ready for cleansing. Your face may be slightly red and sweating.

Normal Skin

Normal skin benefits from deep cleansing once a week to remove dead skin cells. Steaming for five to eight minutes at a 12- to 15-inch distance is adequate to open pores to help with cleansing. Lavender or orange peel can be added to the bowl for their skin balancing effects. If you have areas of your face that are sensitive or prone to redness or broken capillaries, treat your skin as if it were sensitive and avoid steaming, or use a steamy warm (not boiling hot) towel on normal areas of the skin only, for two to five minutes.

Oily and Combination Skin

Oily skin should be deep cleansed once to twice weekly. Steam your face with a hot towel -- but not extremely hot -- directly on skin for just two to three minutes. Over cleansing creates excessive surface drying, which increases breakouts. If you have acne, avoid steaming. If you have combination skin, steam for two to eight minutes, adding peppermint for its astringent properties, if desired. Allergies to some herbs are common.

Dry and Sensitive Skin

Dry skin should not be steamed more than once a month. Steam for two minutes or less, at a farther distance --18 inches away from the water. Avoid very hot towels for product removal while cleansing between monthly steam treatments; use warm towels instead. Sensitive skin should avoid steam and hot towels. Use warm towels for cleansing and product removal, and avoid very cold towels also. Chamomile is a good additive for sensitive skin that can be made as a tea, strained and cooled, then applied as a compress in warm water on a towel.

Photo Credits

  • Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images

About the Author

Paule McKenna is a celebrity makeup artist for print TV and film who began her career as owner of Los Angeles' first makeup studio. She has a makeup line and enjoys writing, marketing and real estate at the beach.