You’ve heard the claims: facial steamers open your pores, allow product to penetrate deeper, reveal smaller pores, and brighter skin. Plus, for some, it’s the most satisfying part of a facial visit because you immediately feel a sense of ease when your esthetician takes a steamer to your face.
But what are facial steamers really doing?
“You probably think of steamers as a way to soften and open the pores—that’s not the case, as pores aren’t like doors,” explains celebrity esthetician and founder of Renee Rouleau. "Steamers help to make manual extractions easier to prevent too much stress on the skin."
Here's how it works: Steam increases the temperature of your skin, which in turn heats the debris in your pores. The dirt and oils clogging your pores are usually the consistency of hard butter, but with a little heat, they can be melted to more of soft butter. "It only stays soft as long as the skin is moist," adds Rouleau. Once your pores are open, it's easier to clean the skin and rid it of any congestion. Usually, your go-to esthetician is the key to unlocking cleaner skin, but as social distancing becomes the new norm and local businesses closed, it might be a while until you can get back in for a treatment. If you're thinking of taking matters into your own hands, you should invest in a quality facial steamer. The beauty tool can bring the spa experience to your home bathroom.
Ahead, Rouleau breaks down the benefits of at-home steamer use and the best way to use the product, plus some of the best facial steamers hand-picked by skin experts.
What are the main benefits of an at-home steamer?
“One of the main benefits of using a facial steamer at home is that it increases blood circulation to the skin by raising the skin’s internal temperature,” Rouleau explains. When you increase the skin’s temperature, oxygen flows to the surface and “feeds the skin cells with new nutrients,” Rouleau adds.
Another benefit of facial steaming is hydration. “As long as you seal it in within 60 seconds after discontinuing the steam,” Rouleau cautions. “You have a one minute window before moisture evaporation occurs, which quickly leads to dehydration. Skin cells are like fish and need water to live, so anytime you infuse water on to the skin, you are getting hydration—but be sure to apply an alcohol-free toner or serum and moisturizer after turning off the steam.”
Where does a facial steamer fall in order of skincare routine?
“You should cleanse, steam, apply serum, and finish with a moisturizer.”
Experts' Favorite: Vanity Planet Aira Ionic Facial Steamer
Aira Vanity Planet $74.99 SHOP NOW
"It’s a great part of at-home self-care to make you feel good. It feels very warm and soothing on the face," Rouleau says. Nicole Simpson, the founder of Amethyst Skincare, adds that the steamer is great because you don't have to bend your neck too far to feel its power.
"The steamer ionizes the water molecules, which helps hydrate the skin a bit faster," she says. "Ionized water typically delivers the best results without the need for a timely process. I caution against over-steaming as it can dehydrate the skin, and that’s what you want to avoid."
Splurge-Worthy: Dr. Dennis Gross Pro Facial Steamer
Pro Facial Steamer Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare $149.00 SHOP NOW
The beauty of this facial steamer is its simplicity. "It’s a simple, one-piece design that is lightweight and compact," NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Marnie Nussbaum says. "The micro-steam technology hydrates and purifies my skin effectively in just 9 minutes."
Best Affordable Option: Conair Facial Sauna
Facial Sauna with Timer Conair $40.80 SHOP NOW
You don't have to break the bank to bring the spa-feel of a steamer to your home. Dr. Nussbaum suggests investing in Conair's steamer because it "comes with a gentle brush that you can use to exfoliate your skin before steaming for best results." But she warns that at-home users should be careful when extracting. "When extractions are done improperly, they can cause scarring and more harm than the blackhead itself. The skin is fragile, so extractions are best left to a professional," she explains.
Cult-Favorite: Panasonic Beauty Nano Facial Steamer
Nano Mist Face Steamer Pure $62.99 SHOP NOW
Panasonic's popular steamer is usually sold out and for good reason. Los Angeles-based esthetician Tracy Hudson is a fan of the steamer for its long-lasting power and wallet-friendly price point. (similar: Pure Nano Face Steamer)
Best for Masking: Nova Microdermabrasion Facial Steamer
Professional Mini Facial Steamer Satin Smooth $65.99 SHOP NOW
NYC's celebrity esthetician Vanessa Marc recently purchased Nova Microdermabrasion's facial steamer and hasn't looked back since. According to Marc, you get your best results when you incorporate a mask. "I usually lay down for 10 mins under the steamer," she says. "Once my face is steamed, I would apply organic honey as a mask after, which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to help with acne, honey eliminates dead skins, and honey helps hydrates the skin." (similar: Satin Smooth Professional Mini Facial Steamer)
2-in-1: Kingsteam Ozone Facial Steamer
2 in 1 Ozone Facial Steamer Kingsteam $69.99 SHOP NOW
"I personally recommend the Kingsteam facial steamer because it elevates the results of my products and keeps my skin hydrated in my dry apartment," NYC-based esthetician Essence Moore explains. Plus, it also comes with a hair steamer. But most importantly, "it’s affordable and has an ozone feature which is great for purifying the skin."
Nerisha Penrose Assistant Editor Nerisha is the assistant editor at ELLE.com, covering all things beauty and fashion.