Below, a dermatologist and an esthetician share their picks for the best facial steamers you can use at home, plus everything you need to know about how (and why) you should be using them.
Shop the best facial steamers
For only $40, this steamer will give you everything you need for a full-blown at-home facial. After you steam, use the exfoliating brush to slough off dead skin, then apply your moisturizer with the sponge head (both of which are included in your purchase). In addition to the facial-sized cone, it comes with a smaller nasal cone that is great for targeting comedones on your nose.
This cult-favorite steamer has earned itself tens of thousands of five-star reviews. It steams using an ion generator, which is what pros use in their offices and helps to boost the steam’s detoxifying properties. It also comes with a blemish extractor kit to help you rid your skin of blackheads.
If you don’t have a ton of time for a lengthy facial, this steamer will give you a spa-like experience in just six minutes with a push of a button. It uses nano-sized steam particles that can deeply penetrate your pores to thoroughly clean and moisturize your skin.
With a full tank, this steamer will run for eight minutes, which is exactly enough time to give your face the recommended treatment. It produces nano steam particles to really help open and unclog your pores, and is designed with a unique cleaning system, which means the steam is absolutely pure. Although it creates a strong mist, it notably runs quietly. When you’re done, the steamer has an auto shut-off feature.
This steamer is a splurge compared to the others on this list, but according to Worden, it’s worth the price. It’s got a wide nozzle that will cover your whole face, uses nano technology for maximum hydration, and shuts off automatically after 10 minutes as soon as your steam session is done.
The Aira uses an ion generator to enrich the water molecules to help the steam do a deeper clean on any pores that are in need of a real cleaning. If you prefer your facial treatment with a light fragrance, you can add your favorite essential oil, and the steamer comes with three essential oil baskets included so you can switch up your scents without mixing them. You’ll also get a customizable bunny ears headband, which you can wear while steaming, using a sheet mask, or just when you want to keep your hair out of your face.
Declog your pores with an ultra-fine nano mist, which will get deep into your skin to help detoxify and moisturize it. This steamer has a a UV lamp for sterilization and a large water container that will give you 15 minutes working time. The machine has an auto shut-off feature if the temperature gets too high, so you don’t end up with any accidents or injuries. There’s a built-in cosmetic mirror so you can admire your clear complexion after a steam, or use it for your daily makeup routine. You’ll also get a set of extractor tools and a bunny ears spa headband.
This ionic steamer will give you a strong and soothing mist within 30 seconds of turning it on (use distilled or purified water for the best results). The nozzle is adjustable so you can aim the steamer at the best angle for your face, and there are aromatherapy pads if you want to use any essential oils. The steamer comes with a five-piece skin kit so you can remove any stubborn blackheads afterward, if needed.
The benefits of facial steaming
"Facial steaming can help hydrate and soften the outer layer of skin,” says Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. “By hydrating the skin, it also helps increase penetration of active ingredients applied topically immediately after steaming.” This means that when you apply your usual serums on freshly steamed skin, they'll be able to get way down deep under the surface of your skin in order to do their jobs more effectively. The same goes for moisturizers: "When followed by moisturizers, steaming can help to add moisture to the skin," adds Dr. King.
Steaming can also be helpful for priming your skin for extractions, which explains why facialists rely on the process before they squeeze out your blackheads. "It can soften up keratinaceous debris and sebum... so comedones will be much easier to extract," says Dr. King. "And the heat increases circulation and can help pimples or cysts come to a head." It's also great as a pre-cursor to any exfoliants or targeted treatments because it's easier to melt away dead, dull skin cells from the surface once the skin is softened by the steam.
Who should (and shouldn't) use an at-home facial steamer
"Oily and acne-prone skin will benefit most with using steam," says Taylor Worden, celebrity facialist and founder of Taylor Worden Skin, pointing to the pore-opening and sebum-loosening properties that steaming brings about. Some dry skin types can also benefit from the process thanks to its hydrating and softening benefits, but if you have severely dry skin, eczema, or rosacea, it's best to steer clear of steaming in order to avoid irritation. And if you're prone to redness, Dr. King suggests proceeding with caution, because the heat from the steam dilates your blood vessels which can cause skin to flush.
How to use a facial steamer
There are a few different ways you can integrate an at-home facial steamer into your regular routine. Use it after you cleanse your skin to open your pores before you apply the rest of the products in your regimen, or prior to doing your own extractions (though you'll want to make sure you're doing them the right way, which you can read more about here).
As far as frequency goes, pros suggest limiting your steamer use to once or twice a week for five to ten minutes. "More than that can dry out the skin," says Dr. King.
It's also critically important that you keep your face at least six to 10 inches away from the water. The reason? "You don't want to risk getting too close and getting burned," says Dr. King. "Steamers have more safety mechanisms [than your usual pot of boiling water], but you still need to make sure that you are keeping your face at a safe distance."
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