Do Facial Steamers Really Work?

There has been a lot said about facial steamers. Some say that they detox your skin while others claim that they open up your facial pores. Amidst all these claims it can be hard to distinguish between what’s true and what is an unintended exaggeration.

To find out whether facial steamers actually work, we’ll turn to science. We’ll find out how effective they are, how they benefit your skin and whether there are any negative side-effects you should be aware of.

The Exaggerations

I am going to start by busting a few myths that have become all too common. The biggest one is that facial steamers open your pores.

Pores are very tiny holes on your skin. Each pore is connected to a sebaceous gland which produces oil to moisturize and protect your skin.

Facial pores tend to be more noticeable than those on other parts of the body. This is because there are more sebaceous glands on the face.

But pores don’t have muscles and hence cannot open or close. So the common claim that steam or hot water can open your pores and cold water can close them is not true.

If you’ve looked at your face and noticed you have bigger pores than your friends, it could simply be because of genetics. Some people are genetically predisposed to have larger and more noticeable pores.

You cannot shrink them but you can make them less noticeable using facial products.

Since facial steamers don’t open up your pores, it means that the claim that facial steaming helps with moisture and nutrient absorption by making pores bigger is not exactly true.

It’s true that steaming can make your moisturizer and nourishing cream more effective but not by opening up your pores.

How then do facial steamers really work?

The Truth

Facial steamers do improve the absorption of skin nourishing and moisturizing products. They also help to cleanse the skin, get rid of blackheads and whiteheads and prevent acne outbreaks.

To understand how they help with all of these, it’s important to talk a bit about the skin.

The skin is the largest organ of the body and plays a very important role in protecting you from pathogens and germs. It is also responsible for regulating body temperature and excreting body waste through sweat.

The skin’s chemical and physical characteristics can be affected by various things, one of them being heat.

When exposed to heat from hot water or steam, the skin softens.

This improves skin’s permeability. One study found that short exposure (less than a second) to heat as high as 100 degrees Celsius greatly increased skin permeability.

While I’m not recommending blasting your face with 100-degree steam, safe steaming using a facial steamer allows your facial products to penetrate deeper into the skin. Nutrients, moisture and beneficial oils are locked into the skin.

Your skin will feel softer, suppler and smoother for longer.

The softer skin also makes it easier to (gently) exfoliate your skin. Dirt, oils and accumulated layers of makeup come off more easily after you steam.

Another benefit of moderate heat exposure using steam is improved blood circulation. Improved blood flow to the face helps deliver more nutrients to your skin, take away the toxins and keep your skin looking lively.

Another sauna study found two interesting effects of moist heat on the skin.

They found that the skin was able to retain more moisture after spending a few minutes in the sauna. Additionally, skin had a greater capacity to recover any water lost through sweating.

In other words, facial steaming not only helps your skin retain moisture, it also helps it absorb more.

Another thing they found was that there was less sebum on the forehead after a session in the sauna. Sebum is the skin’s natural oil.

While this could be a problem for people with dry skin, it’s good news for those with oily skin that is prone to acne. Steam helps reduce the amount of oil on the skin, which prevents clogging in pores. Clogging is what causes breakouts as well as black and white heads.


The claim that facial steaming is beneficial to your face is very true. It helps with hydration, absorption of facial products and prevention of acne breakouts. It’s also an effective way to cleanse your face.

However, be careful about how you do it. Do not do it too often as it could damage and weaken your skin’s effectiveness as a protective barrier. Also make sure the steam is not too hot.

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