Real Talk: Is Facial Steaming a Good Idea or Not?

Dermatologists weigh in, once and for all.

Whenever I boil water to make pasta—the only thing I ever "prepare" in the kitchen—I'm always tempted to tilt my head over the top of the pot and let the steam wash over my face like a pop-up sauna. Ah, heavenly!

But I stop myself, because as someone who struggles with redness, I assume this is a no-no for my skin type, which is nearly as sensitive and explosive as Donald Trump. But that's just me, and I know there are women who swear by this practice to cleanse their pores...

So recently, over a pot of Giovanni Rani ravioli, I wondered if perhaps my pores could benefit from a good sweat out—even if it made me turn tomato red. So I consulted some trusted dermatologists to break down, once and for all, if giving your face the steam treatment is a good idea.

"Facial steaming is a great option for patients with acne prone skin or with stubborn blackheads," says Dr. Arash Akhavan, MD, FAAD,owner and founder of The Dermatology & Laser Group.

According to Dr. Akhavan, the steam accomplishes two things: 1) The water vapor itself loosens dirt and contaminants that are clogging pores and 2) The heat induces sweating, which further flushes out pores.

"Freshly cleaned pores are better able to absorb skin creams with active ingredients such as retinol based-products or prescription creams from your dermatologist," he adds.

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(Image credit: Archives)

The Cons

While dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, M.D., at Schweiger Dermatology Group, acknowledges that exposing your skin to warm steam can feel super relaxing and assist in medical extractions to make it easier to remove acne lesions, it may not be doing *your* skin any major favors.

"The heat that you're exposing your skin to causes dilation of blood vessels—leading to flushing, increased inflammation, and worsening of conditions like rosacea," explains Nazarian. "Hotter temperatures and hot water strip more natural moisturizers from skin then cooler temperatures."

The Bottom Line

Dr. Akhavan agrees with Dr. Nazarian that facial steaming is not well suited for rosacea-prone skin as the heat can cause dilation of blood vessels, contributing to redness. Furthermore, it's not a good idea for people with dry skin or eczema because of the natural oils that are being stripped.

But if your skin isn't *too* sensitive, and you do want to steam your pores, Dr. Akhavan recommends doing so for no more than 10-15 minutes and cleansing your skin with a gentle cleanser immediately after to get rid of loosened debris.

Another option? Get a pro facial, like The Dermatology & Laser Group's cleansing and brightening HydraFacial MD treatment, or try a clay mask at home.

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I’m the associate web editor at Marie Claire. I love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. I firmly believe that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.