Facial steaming – Is it just a load of hot air?

Hot air – a lot of people are full of it. And a lot of people are now using it to help beautify their skin (although just to set things straight – we’re talking about two different types of hot air here!). Facial steamers are being sold left, right, and centre to help people ‘open their pores’ and detoxify their skin. But does facial steaming really work? Or is all the hype actually just hot air?

To figure out what’s fact and what’s fiction, we just need to look at the science. Why don’t we take a look at what our good friend science says about hot air, or steam.

Firstly, there is scientific evidence to suggest that steaming can increase the hydration and permeability of our skin. This means that it can help to enhance the absorption of any products that we put on our skin. Lidocaine (used to numb a specific area of the body) was used in one study to monitor the effects of steam. The results showed that when skin was heated at 45 degrees celsius for 5 minutes, the effect of Lidocaine was enhanced. This is a one up for the benefits of steam!

Some studies also suggest that you can heat your body to even hotter temperatures and still reap the benefits. In fact, science has demonstrated that skin permeability can be increased up to three times the normal rate when heated to temperatures of over 100 degrees Celsius for just five seconds – that’s pretty impressive! Of course, we need to remember that if we heat our skin too high or for too long, we can burn ourselves and cause damage instead of results.

So far there is definitely some evidence to suggest that facial steaming can be beneficial to our skin. Unfortunately, there are a lot of rumours surrounding the effects of steaming that are also put to rest by science. Many people, for example, have the misconception that steaming can open your pores. The truth is that your pores are not doors and they cannot be opened and closed. In fact, you can’t actually change the size of your pores at all. When a pore looks larger, it’s only because it is dirty and filled with bacteria, dead skin, and sebum. When a pore looks small, it’s because it is a clean pore. So, while you can clean your pores to make them look smaller, there is no treatment in the world that can actually reduce pore size – so anyone who tells you that steaming can open your pores is full of hot air.

Another thing that science tells us about steam is that while it does increase skins permeability, it does so by disrupting the skins protective barrier. This isn’t a good thing. When the protective barrier of your skin is disrupted, it becomes drier and more susceptible to irritation.

Does this mean that you shouldn’t steam your face? Absolutely not. Remember that science has demonstrated that steam does in fact improve the permeability of the skin. So, when combined with healing ingredients, steam really should have some benefit. And certainly, though too much steam can irritate and dry out your skin, using it once in a while at the proper temperature and for an appropriate length of time won’t cause any damage. So, no – don’t use a steam treatment every day, but yes – do use it once a week.